The closed season for artisanal fishing in the country commences today.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Mrs Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, joined stakeholders in the fisheries sector, including fishermen and fishmongers from coastal areas, in a ceremony in Winneba in the Central Region yesterday to mark the 2019 official closure on artisanal fishing.
Apart from the one-month closure for canoe and inshore fishers, industrial trawlers will also take a break from fishing activities from August 1 to September 30, 2019.
The move is aimed at ending the over-exploitation of marine resources, especially fish stock, which has been on the decline over the years.
A fish stock assessment report by the Fisheries Commission, an agency of MoFAD, shows continuous decline in fish stock levels and sizes of fish due to over-exploitation of the sea through illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing activities.
For instance, in 2018, the sector suffered a decline of 14.5 per cent in total marine fish production from 342,427 tonnes in 2017 to 293,294 tonnes.
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It is, however, expected that if closed season fishing is observed effectively, landings of small pelagic fish by artisanal fishers will increase from as low as 15,000 tonnes in 2017 to 90,000 MT in 2025.
Last year, when the MoFAD attempted to close the season between August 7 and September 4, it was opposed by some fisher folks due to the lack of extensive engagement with all stakeholders.
According to Mrs Quaye, the implementation of the closed season fishing was in accordance with Section 84 of the Fisheries Act 2000 (Act 625), aimed at gradually replenishing fish stock levels over a period of time.
She said part of the management strategy for the closed season was to reduce fishing pressure on marine habitats and replenish the dwindling fish stock levels.
The minister, therefore, appealed to fishers to comply with the fishing regulation and desist from fishing during the period, as offenders would be arrested and prosecuted.
To ensure compliance, Mrs Quaye said, mandated enforcement authorities would conduct field surveillance and enforcement activities throughout the closed season period.
“The closed season has come to stay with us. We will continue with the implementation in subsequent years to make a meaningful impact towards sustainable fisheries management.
“The ministry will also conduct fish stock assessment and share the findings with all stakeholders to evaluate the impact of the intervention,” she added.
The Paramount Chief of Elmina, Nana Kojo Conduah VI, welcomed the decision because “returning from fishing with little or no catch is a clear indication that we need to adopt strategies to sustain the industry”.