Ministry installs video cameras on industrial vessels
The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has launched the installation of an Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) on industrial vessels as part of measures to check illegal fishing activities and conserve Ghana's fisheries resources.
The EMS includes the installation of video cameras, the use of remote sensors and a Global Positioning System (GPS) on industrial trawlers and tuna vessels licensed to fish in Ghana.
The $250,000 pilot project, which is funded by the USAID under the Ghana Fisheries Recovery Activity with technical support from The Nature Conservancy, a global conservation organisation, will focus on three industrial trawlers until December 2023, after which it will be rolled out in January 2024.
The move is to complement measures such as closed fishing season, the regulation of fishing gear, port inspections and the observer programme aimed at managing Ghana's fisheries resources.
Already the ministry and the Fisheries Commission had been implementing a Vessel Monitoring System and Automatic Identification System to facilitate the monitoring of fishing activities of vessels at sea.
However, the EMS would provide real-time evidence of activities on board fishing vessels at sea.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mavis Hawa Koomson, speaking ahead of the deployment of the electronic monitoring system on the three vessels on Wednesday, April 19, 2023, said the intervention was in fulfilment of a commitment made by the government at the eighth edition of the Our Ocean Conference held in Panama City, Panama on March 3, 2023.
During the Conference, she said Ghana made a commitment to ensure 100 per cent deployment of EMS on industrial trawlers and tuna vessels licensed to fish in Ghana’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) by 2025.
She said after the six months pilot phase of the project, the results would be used to scale up to cover all licensed industrial trawlers and tuna vessels operating in Ghana’s EEZ by December 2025.
Other activities to be undertaken during the pilot phase, she said, included the establishment of the monitoring and control centre, training of Fisheries Commission officers in handling, deployment of EMS equipment and analysis of EMS data.
There would also be stakeholder engagements and training of all industrial trawlers and tuna vessel owners, data collection and analysis of the pilot programme.
She said since the EMS uses onboard video cameras, GPS and sensors to automatically track and verify fishing activities on board fishing vessels data and information collected from it could be used to monitor and enhance compliance regarding gear deployment, transhipment at sea, verification of catch and bycatch, including endangered species.
"The cameras record videos 24 hours a day and will record, among others, the dumping of fish at sea by trawlers.
we can now monitor activities at sea in real-time. It will also improve transparency and provide better oversight for Ghana to discharge her flag-state responsibility," she said.
Currently, she said Ghana's marine fisheries resources were overexploited and some fish species were depleted due to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing practices.
The common forms of IUU fishing practices include transhipment at sea between industrial trawlers and artisanal canoes, illegally modified fishing gears used by industrial trawlers to illegally catch small pelagic fish and juvenile fishes as bycatch and dumping of fish at sea by industrial trawlers.
The illegal fishing practices, Mrs Koomson said, directly affect the artisanal fishermen and consequently affect the fishing communities, resulting in poverty in fishing communities.
Also, she said the IUU fishing activities had brought negative international pressure on Ghana, resulting in a second yellow card being issued by the European Union (EU).
Mrs Koomson commended the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA) offering three vessels for the pilot project.
There are 74 registered industrial trawlers but 30 of them are currently operating on Ghan’s sea.
The President of the GITA, Stephen Adjokatcher, said the installation of the EMS would boost the operations of industrial trawler operators.
On behalf of the members of GITA, he expressed appreciation to the ministry and the USAID sponsors of the Ghana fisheries recovery activity for supporting the deployment of the EMS project aimed at sustainable management of fisheries resources.
“With the EMS, vessels owners will know what happens on their vessels, they will know species of fish and also track the movement of their vessels,” he said.
The GITA president appealed to the ministry to collaborate and cooperate with members who had offered their vessels for the pilot project and also ensure transparent information sharing.
He also suggested that the EMS would alert the Ghana Navy of impending pirate attacks on vessels that had faster-running vessels.