Ministry rolls out campaign against illegal fishing

BY: Emelia Ennin Abbey
 Mrs Hawa Koomson — Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development
Mrs Hawa Koomson — Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) has rolled out a national campaign to combat illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing (IUU) and other fishing illegalities in Ghana’s marine space.

The campaign, which targets the arrest and prosecution of persons behind IUU and other fishing crimes, is aimed at ending the overexploitation of Ghana’s fish resources to ensure recovery of the fish stock.

The sector minister, Mrs Mavis Hawa Koomson, made this known via Zoom at the National Fisheries Dialogue yesterday on the UN Food Systems Summit.

The national dialogue was dubbed: “Challenges and Future of Ghana’s Food Systems in the Fisheries Sector”.

Currently, she said, Ghana’s “fisheries resources are overexploited and MOFAD is pursuing long-term measures to protect fisheries resources, ensure recovery of the overexploited fish stocks and accelerate growth in the aquaculture subsector”.

IUU

A fishing vessel is presumed to be engaged in IUU fishing activities if it carries out fishing activities without a valid licence, in a closed area, beyond a closed depth or during a closed season, or by using prohibited gear.

A fishing vessel that fails to fulfil reporting obligations, falsifies its identity or obstructs the work of inspectors is also deemed to be engaged in IUU.

Following a recent scourge of IUU on Ghana’s marine, the European Commission, which is leading the fight against IUU fishing worldwide, issued a yellow card warning to Ghana in June this year, indicating that the country risked being banned from trading in fish on the European market.

Measures

Among various actions, she said work was ongoing for the drafting of a new Fisheries Act to replace the existing one, Act 625, in order to impose punitive sanctions for infractions.

She said a new National Fisheries Management Plan had also been developed to replace the previous plan that expired in 2019, while the Fisheries Commission and its partners had instituted electronic monitoring of industrial fishing fleet since June.

The ministry, she said, had also initiated measures to procure patrol vessels for law enforcement at sea.

She said the national campaign against IUU fishing practices would include combating transshipment, popularly known as Saiko.

Mrs Koomson said the fisheries sector provided more than 60 per cent of the animal protein consumed by the population.

Public health

The Director General of the National Development Planning Commission (NDPC), Dr Kojo Mensah Abrampa, underscored the important role the fisheries sector played in the public health and sustainable development of the country, particularly in food nutrition.

He said in the agricultural sector, Fisheries recorded the highest growth of 10 per cent last year amid COVID-19, describing it as a saviour.