The Cabinet has decided to postpone the onemonth ban on fishing activities in the country, scheduled to start on August 7, 2018 to next year.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ms Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, made this known at a meeting with stakeholders in the fisheries industry in Accra yesterday.
The ban, which would have taken effect from August 7 to September 4, 2018 will now be implemented in 2019, the minister said. Ms Quaye is said to have urged operators in the sector to prepare and be ready to comply with the ban in August 2019.
She added that the government decided to postpone the ban following concerns expressed by players in the industry.
Although August has been touted as the bumper season, the same period has been described as the perfect time for high food production for fish.
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An estimated 13,000 artisanal canoes, 80 Ghanaian flagged trawlers and 300 semiindustrial boats are said to be on Ghana’s waters. Although fishing is very high, the catch has been extremely low.
Before the postponement of the ban, fishermen in some coastal communities of four regions had expressed diverse views regarding the government’s decision to introduce a onemonth ban on fishing in the country every year.
While some fishermen welcomed the decision, saying it would allow regeneration of the dwindling fishing stock in the sea, others were of the opinion that the ban was wrongly timed.
In separate interviews with the Daily Graphic, the fishing communities in the Greater Accra, Volta, Central and Western regions admitted that the decision would affect their living conditions.
Ghana’s fish catch had dwindled in the last 10 years.
According to a report by United States Agency for International Development (USAID), the country’s peak fish catch had dwindled from 120,000 metric tonnes to 30,000 tonnes within ten years.
The report described the situation as a “true crisis” and indicated the need for unsustainable fishing practices to be halted immediately to save the industry from collapse.
Following the report, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission began to put in place measures to address the situation.
One of the measures was the introduction of an annual closed season with the aim of ensuring that fish spawned to replenish the country’s fast depleting marine fish stock.
This year’s closed season was, therefore, expected to start from August 7 and end on September 4.
As part of measures to ensure its full compliance, the National Premix Committee Board had said it would cut supply of the product to fishermen at various landing beaches in fishing communities that were unwilling to comply with the ban.
However, the timing of the ban was opposed by some artisanal fishermen in the coastal regions because the month of August is regarded as the “cocoa season” for marine fishermen.
In Accra, fishermen along the coastal areas in Accra, particularly James Town and Chorkor, expressed divergent opinions on the ban on fishing, writes Dominic Moses Awiah.
They said although the fish stock had dwindled, the moves being implemented would affect them.
“I agree with the government, but I must be honest to tell you that this will take a negative toll on all of us,” Nii Ayee, a fisherman at James Town, said.
According to him, he had begun looking for other alternatives to provide for his family until the end of the closed season.
“I do not know what I will do yet, but I have to find a means of survival,” Nii Ayee added.
Another fisherman, Mr Moses Aglashie, said he and his colleagues would still go for fishing because that was the only way they could provide for their families.
“What should we do now, wait for a month and do what? Unless they will come and tell us where to find money to maintain our homes, we will go,” he said.
A number of fishermen in the Central Region also expressed divergent views about the government’s decision, Shirley Asiedu-Addo reports from Cape Coast.
While some were of the view that the timing was wrong, others called on the government to provide workable alternative means of livelihood for them during the period.
The Vice-President of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, Nana Joojo Solomon, said the closed season was a tool for the sustainable management of marine resources.
He, however, noted that the mode of implementation of the closed season left much to be desired.
“We all have seen the need for a sustainable approach, but the mode of implementation is wrong. We are all for the closed season, but you can be doing the right thing at the wrong time and that is what the fishermen are saying”, Nana Solomon said.
For his part, the Chief Fisherman of Moree Etuei, Nana Mensah Bonsu, was also of the view that it would have been better if the closed season was postponed to next year for the fishermen to be given more education on the ban.
From Ho, Kofi Atsivor reports that members of the Volta Region Chapter of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council also called on the government to defer the implementation of the closed fishing season policy.
According to the fishermen, the move would impact negatively on their livelihoods as they were unprepared for its immediate enforcement.
At a press conference at Adina in the Ketu South municipality, the Volta Regional Chairman of the Canoe Fishermen Council, Mr Seth Abotsi, said the policy in itself was a laudable initiative to help revamp the dwindling fortunes of the marine fishing sector, but its implementation this year was impromptu.
According to him, they would incur huge losses should the month-long ban be imposed this year, as they had already contracted loans for the fishing season.
“Our only challenge for this year is the timing which is too limited, because we have already procured loans and made advance payments to our canoe operators for the August peak season, and imposing a ban will be very disastrous for our business, Mr Abotsi said.
The postponement, he said, would also enable them to adequately sensitise their workforce to the subsequent closed season for them to save towards it; while the government also used the opportunity to identify and severely sanction those engaged in illegal methods of fishing.
Some chief fishermen who spoke to the Daily Graphic indicated that they would violate the ban should the authorities turn a deaf ear to their plea for postponement, as they could not afford to lose their daily bread and default in the repayment of their loans.
From Tema, some fishermen at the Tema Fishing Harbour expressed their displeasure about the government’s decision regarding the ban, Benjamin Xornam Glover reports. According to them, the government should have engaged the fishermen on the implementation of the policy for at least six months or one year and sensitise them to the importance of such an action to enable them to prepare and save enough money instead of the abrupt curtailment of their fishing business.
The Chief Fisherman at the Tema Awudum Landing Beach, Nii Odametey, said the decision of the closed fishing season in August was going to negatively affect their business since most fishermen had no alternative sources of livelihood. “Most of us depend on the sea to fend for our families. A lot of us have gone in for loans from the banks to reservice our fishing gears. Some of us have also entered into replacement plans and agreements with our bankers only to be told that we cannot go fishing; it is very worrying. How are we going to raise money to pay back the loans?” he asked.
Nii Odametey said the government should have taken measures to sensitise the fisherfolk on the implementation of the policy at least six months before its implementation to allow them to save some money to sustain their families during the period.
“We cannot fight the government. We voted for the government, so if the government is imposing something on us, it should have at least engaged us in some negotiations. We are not opposed to the closed season concept per se, but we feel it should be postponed to next year for the government to sensitise the fishing communities before the implementation of the policy,” he said.
He, however, expressed the view that if the government insisted on implementing the closed season, then its enforcement should be extended to trawlers and tuna vessels.
Meanwhile some fishermen at the Prampram Landing Beach hailed the government policy for the 2018 closed season with the aim to save the industry from total collapse.
At a press conference at Prampram, the stakeholders in the fishing industry, including canoe owners, fishmongers, assembly members and unit committee members, appealed to the government to, as a matter of urgency, enforce the fisheries laws and regulations on illegal, unreported and unregulated practices before, during and after the closed season in order to yield maximum benefits from the ban.
The Assembly Member for West Lower Prampram, Mr Solomon Djangmah, on behalf of the fishers, said despite the decreasing fish landings, the number of marine canoes and boat fishing in Prampram alone, which was about 60 canoes in the year 2000, had increased to more than 300.
Dotsey Koblah Aklorbortu, reports from Sekondi that fishermen at the various coastal areas shared similar sentiments.
While some fishermen supported the ban, others claimed the directive by the sector ministry could lead to incalculable losses to them.
A fisherman at Sekondi, Egya N. Kojo, said the only job he had was fishing and that the directive by the government was terrible and would affect his family.
At Axim in the Nzema East municipality, Egya Kwesi Abotare said although he did not support the ban, there was little he could do since the decision was made by the government.
When contacted, the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, Western Region branch, said it was ready for the ban.
The Chairman of the council, Nana Kojo Kondua, said: “We have reached out to all members along the coasts and agreed to the closed season.
“I must say that the only challenge is that the government was late in communicating its decision to close the season to us,” he said.