The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MOFAD) and the Fisheries Commission (FC) will, from Tuesday August 7 to Tuesday September 4, close the season for fishing to help reduce the excessive pressure and over-exploitation of fish stocks in Ghana’s marine waters.
The move forms part of measures to regenerate Ghana's fast depleting fish stocks and will affect all fleets, including artisanal fishing (except tuna fleets).
According to scientific research, one fish can lay over 25,000 eggs during the spawning seasons.
This is the second closed season of the year. The first was implemented by the Fisheries Commission in January 2018 for only trawlers.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ms Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, announced this last Friday at a press conference and said it was in August that fish consumed food rapidly, grew quickly and spawned.
“Each year we catch many of the pregnant fish during the so-called bumper season and when we do that we are reducing the spawning potential for the next year.”
''This is what we have been doing to our pelagic fish stock over the years using mainly illegal forms of fishing, '' she stated.
The press conference was attended by the Minister of Information, Dr Mustapha Adbdul-Hamid; the Greater Accra Regional Minister, Mr Ishmael Ashitey, and the Deputy Minister of Defence, Mr Derick Oduro.
Ms Afoley Quaye said the closed season was stipulated in accordance with sections 76(3) and 84 of the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625), with an objective to help reduce the excessive pressure and over-exploitation of fish stocks.
Sanctions for engaging in fishing
According to the minister, anyone caught fishing during the closed season that had been announced committed an offence and was liable on summary conviction to a fine of not less than $500,000 and not more than $2 million in respect of a local industrial or semi industrial vessel, or 100 penalty units and not more than 500 penalty units in any other case. In addition, any catch, fishing gear or vessel or combination of them used in the commission of the offence may be forfeited to the state.
Threats to livelihoods
Ms Quaye noted that the massive decline of fish was threatening the livelihoods, traditions, cultures, survival of communities, national security and food security.
She explained that the fisheries sector had long been a pillar of Ghana's economy and generated over US$ 1 billion in revenue each year and also accounted for at least 4.5 per cent of the country's Gross Domestic Product (GDP).
Additionally, she said fish was a major source of animal protein and livelihood for an estimated 2.9 million people who were employed directly or indirectly, including their dependents.
"In spite of the significance of the sector, over-exploitation continues to threaten the productivity and sustainability of the country's fisheries. Meanwhile scientific studies indicate the likely collapse of our fisheries sector in the next few years if drastic steps were not taken,’’the minister stated.
Ms Quaye said the Fisheries Commission, academia, universities, civil society organisations and fishers association were to monitor the social, economic and biological impact of the closed season to inform future actions.
She added that she would report back to Parliament, the Cabinet and the people of Ghana, the impact of the closed season and prepare the country towards another closed season next year until stocks were recovered subsequently.
She said if the closed season policy was continued with good fisheries management and enforcement practices against illegal fishing, it was expected that landings of the small pelagic fish by artisanal fishermen would increase from a low 15000M in 2017 to an expected high of 90,000 metric tonnes in 2025, which is the end goal of the policy.
According to a directive from the MOFAD, the security and enforcement agencies are to be on standby to ensure an incident-free closed season. In that regard, all sectors and fishermen are expected to comply.
The minister said despite the decreasing fish landings, the number of boats in the system continued to rise with over 13,000 artisanal canoes in the country’s waters currently, when in the year 2000, there were only about 6,000 canoes .
Ms Quaye indicated that one of the reasons we got into this crisis stage was poor and weak governance of the fisheries sector.
"Our fisheries governance mechanism have not been able to match and stamp out the multi-faced illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing practices across the sector,''she said.
Some of the illegal fishing activities include the use of high intensity light to fish, dynamite fishing, use of obnoxious chemicals to harvest fish, widespread use of small mesh sized nets, pervasive use of monofilament nets in the marine sector, trawler fishing in near shore zones reserved for artisanal fishers and ”Saiko” fishing trawlers on the high seas, involving sale and transshipment of fish on the high seas between trawlers and canoes.
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