Fishermen from the Central Region have expressed their displeasure at the collapse of the country’s fishing industry blaming the John Mahama-led government.
They said the worsening economic conditions, rising cost of living, and the blatant flouting of fishing laws in the country under the watch of the President Mahama in the last seven years have contributed significantly to the collapse
The fishermen said this when they met with the New Patriotic Party presidential candidate, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo at Elmina on Monday.
Mr. Kobina Baidoo, one of the leaders of the fishermen who laid their concerns before Nana Akufo-Addo, noted that fishermen in the last seven years, have been unable to keep up with the prices of inputs needed for the smooth running of their operations.
“When President Rawlings left office, the price of an outboard motor was GH¢1,600, and by the time President Kufuor left office the price was GH¢2,950. Under President Mahama, the price of an outboard is now GH¢12,000,” he said.
He added that “a gallon of premix fuel under President Rawlings sold for GH¢0.40p and increased to GH¢1.80 when President Kufuor left office. The price under President Mahama is now GH¢7.30 a gallon.”
Even at this “exorbitant price”, Kobina Baidoo noted, that fishermen are unable to get premix fuel to buy because, according to him, “the Mahama government only distributes it to cronies, NDC constituency executives and NDC members”.
In the quest for power, the fisherman from Elmina recollected how then candidate Mills told fisherfolk that, because President Kufuor did not hail from the coastal belt, he did not have sympathy for people from the coast.
“However, upon winning power in 2008, they are the ones who have destroyed the fishing industry. As we speak, we have over 500 pair trawling vessels operating on our seas, and leaving us with no stocks.
“We can’t even, on our own, purchase outboard motors. This is the reason why the Mahama government is sharing outboard motors in an election year, all because of politics. If we could purchase the outboard motors by ourselves, why would there be any need for government to bring us outboard motors at subsidised prices? It is because the fishing industry has collapsed, that’s why we cannot buy these inputs ourselves,” he concluded.
Hardship, collapse of social interventions
The Chief fisherman of Aboadze, Nana Adams bemoaned the suffering and hunger currently prevailing along the coastal areas of the country, attributing it to the dramatic upsurge in illegal fishing activities, the collapse of social intervention policies introduced by the NPP, corruption and thievery in high places of government.
He indicated that the Kufuor-led NPP government, of which Nana Akufo-Addo was an integral part, put in place measures that cushioned fishermen from every part of the country. Those measures, he stated, had collapsed under President Mahama.
“The wives of fishermen were given free maternal care whenever they got pregnant. In fact, they delivered for free. The NPP introduced the school feeding programme, introduced the National Health Insurance Scheme, amongst other social intervention programmes. All these measures brought relief to fishermen and our families. All these measures have collapsed,” he added.
Agya Adams also blamed the rise in “illegal fishing methods” as a major contributory factor to the collapse of the industry, stressing that the laws governing fishing are being flouted with impunity under the Mahama government.
“The issue of pair trawlers is destroying the industry. I am reliably told that officialdom own most of these trawlers. Indeed, I can say for a fact that the Vice President is importing 20 trawlers into the country. Whilst we are struggling to rid our seas of pair trawlers; the Vice President is bringing in more. Over-fishing is what is destroying our seas and our fishing stocks,” the Aboadze Chief fisherman alleged
He continued, “because the industry has collapsed, we don’t even have a cold store in Elmina. We don’t even get fish let alone send them to cold stores for storage. This government has deliberately collapsed the fishing industry, so we have no choice but to give it to another person, and that person is Nana Akufo-Addo.”
Together with Chief fishermen from the major fishing communities in the region, they indicated their resolve work to work in ensuring that “Nana Akufo-Addo wins the election to save the fishing industry.”
In return, the fishermen want Nana Akufo-Addo to construct a warehouse for them to house their inputs, and also serve as a retail store for the entire fishing belt; the establishment of a special bank for fisherman to aid in the acquisition loans and credit facilities for their operations; and ensure direct linkage between the Ministry of Fisheries and fishermen.
Nana Akufo-Addo who shared in their concerns was not happy about how expensive fishing inputs have become, particularly premix fuel, outboard motors and fishing nets.
He urged the fishermen to work hard to get the NPP back to power to restore sanity into the industry, noting his government would implement sound policies that will boost the industry to ensure an improvement in their lives.
By Kwame Kakraba|Onua 95.1FM|3news.com