The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development is to develop an aquatic animal health policy to address challenges in the sector to ensure safe fish farming in the country.
The policy will include the prosecution of operators in the industry who engage in illegal activities such as the importation and growing of unapproved fish species.
A draft on the policy is currently before the cabinet.
The Minister of Fisheries, Mrs Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, who stated this during the inauguration of a 14-member national committee on aquaculture, added that; "The policy will serve as a direction on how to handle aquaculture in Ghana. Currently, there is no policy and prosecution of offenders.”
Terms of reference
The terms of reference for the committee includes the provision of relevant policy options to the ministry to accelerate aquaculture development in the country while minimising its negative effects on the environment.
It is also to help streamline and possibly harmonise procedures and processes for the acquisition of permits from aquaculture regulatory agencies and explore ways of providing affordable capital for investment along the aquaculture value chain.
Additionally, they are also to help develop a new medium-term plan to replace the Ghana national aquaculture development plan.
They are further expected to provide practical solutions for the implementation of zonation for aquaculture on the Volta Lake under a West Africa Regional Fisheries Project.
The committee members have a two-year term, which is renewable for not more than two times.
Members of the committee include Dr Joyce Dontwi of the Ministry of Food and Agriculture, Dr Berchie Aseidu of the University of Energy and Natural Resource and Dr Adwasi Ampofo-Yeboah of the University for Development Studies.
Others are Dr Nelson Winston Agbo, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology; Dr Samuel Addo, University of Ghana; Dr Noble Asare, University of Cape Coast and Mrs Sheilla Ashong of the Environmental Protection Agency.
The rest are Miss Esi Biney, Water Resources Commission; Mr Jonathan Hagan, Volta River Authority; Mrs Jennifer Sodji, Mr Angelo Habib, Dr Peter Ziddah, Mr Emmanuel Aryee and Mr David Aidoo.
The minister listed some of the challenges in the sector to include incidence of diseases on the Volta Lake where most fish farmers were clustered, high rate of fish mortality and the suspected introduction of exotic strains of tilapia by some farmers, leading to unfair advantage on the market.
She urged the committee to work on shortening the rather long time required to acquire permits from various regulatory agencies with its attendant high permit fees.
They must also help bring finality to the debate on whether or not to introduce genetically improved farm tilapia into the country.