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It is me you’re abusing when you abuse fishing observers - Hawa Koomson

BY: Zadok Kwame Gyesi
Madam Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development
Madam Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) is collaborating with the Ghana Maritime Authority to ensure that human rights abuses against fishers aboard fishing vessels on Ghanaian waters are dealt with.

Additionally, all fishing vessels that have been cleared to fish on Ghanaian waters have been directed to insure their vessels and also refurbish them to ensure the safety of all crew members.

Speaking in an interview with Graphic Online on the sidelines of the 14th session of the Conference of the Ministers of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea, which ended in Accra on Friday, January 13, 2023, Madam Hawa Koomson, said nobody has the right to abuse any Ghanaian fishing observer on any vessel.

FCWC

The 14th session of the Conference of the Ministers of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea, which was done both in-person and online, was on the theme: “Supporting effective fisheries management for a sustainable blue economy.”

The conference was attended by the fisheries ministers of the six FCWC member states (Ghana, Togo, Nigeria, Liberia, Benin and Côte d'Ivoire) or their representatives.

The session’s participants deliberated on the theme, reviewed the past year’s results, and agreed on a work plan and budget for 2023/2024.

The FCWC was established in 2007 to promote and facilitate cooperation in fisheries management between the member countries.

Abuses

For Madam Hawa Koomson, abusing any fishing observer means abusing the authority that put the observer on the vessel.

“…because if you abuse the observer, it’s me, the minister, you are abusing because he is representing me on the vessel at the expedition,” she noted.

The Fisheries Minister said it is worrying for fishers or observers to be abused on fishing vessels, saying “you cannot abuse the observer.”

According to her, the Ghanaian fishing observer who got missing on a fishing vessel some years ago was still being investigated by the Marine Police.

That, Madam Hawa Koomson noted, the Ministry has not lost track of the case and that it will put more pressure on the police to expedite things.

She said the new directives on the safety of observers and fishers, as well as efforts to prevent human rights abuses on the vessels, will help to improve the welfare of all fishing crew members aboard any vessel on Ghanaian waters.

She explains that per the new arrangements with the Ghana Maritime Authority, all fishing vessels are strictly inspected under varied checklists before they are allowed to set sail.

For her, all the 19 vessels currently fishing on Ghanaian waters have good places for their crew members to sleep and cook.

Madam Hawa Koomson added that when the vessels also arrive at the ports, they are inspected and the fishing observers interrogated to find out if anyone had been abused either physically or verbally.

“When the vessels arrive, we call the observer and ask him whether any form of abuse was done to him,” she said.

She noted that formerly the observers were not given fish when they returned from sea but now they are given part of the catch.