Chief fishermen growl for powers to fight illegal fishing

Fishermen along the country’s coastal zones have called on government to restore their authority to enable them fight illegalities in the fishing industry. Fisher folks in Shama, Sekondi, Axim, Elmina, Bortianor, Ada and Keta-Abutiakofe say the impunity in the industry can best be handled if law enforcement is entrusted to them. Ghana’s annual fish harvest has reportedly reduced from the historical annual maximum of 130,000 tonnes to below 20,000 tonnes in the last decade. Reports indicate that the challenging decline in marine fisheries resources, for instance, has led to job losses and minifying livelihood for millions of Ghanaians who depend directly or indirectly on the fisheries sector. Those who are still in the fishing industry say they are unable to break even on their investments. These teething challenges, according to the fisher folks, can be linked to widespread illegal, unreported, unprotected and unregulated fishing practices and over-fishing. Their sources of fishing have been depleted by the illegal fishing practices, especially the light fishing boats, which have invaded both north, south and western zones of our waters,” a fisherman at Keta-Abutiakope, George Sodzi Defor, lamented. Others blamed these on weak governance and ineffective enforcement of the fisheries laws, Act 625 of 1968. “Do we have Parliament in this country and what are they doing to ensure the laws are working. All the illegal fishing boats and canoes are owned by the rich, the educated and the affluent people in the society. There is no doubt about that and they are those violating the laws and destroying every life in the sea,” Nana Kobbina Gyan, a fisherman at Elmina, fumed.

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The Chief Fisherman for Axim, Nana Kofi Benson, was emphatic reversing the status quo and giving them the power of control and authority has the wands to fighting all forms of illegalities in the sector. “We the chief fishermen are now without authority. We need to be empowered to stamp authority over the illegalities in the fishing industry. When the people know they would be punished appropriately for going against the laws on fishing, then the impunity would stop. The only way out of the present predicament is to reverse the authority to us, the chief fishermen, with strong backing to regulate the industry,” the chief fisherman at Axim, Nana Kofi Benson, bemoaned. His stance dominated response from the other chief fishermen and fisher folks at Shama, Sekondi, Elmina, Bortianor, Ada and Keta-Abutiakofe. The Chief Fisherman of Bortianor, Nii Adamah Tettey, disagreed with the proposed formation of taskforce for the fisheries sector. According to him, the Chief Fishermen have the teams that can effectively handle all matters in the fisheries sector, adding that what they needed is the legal backing. The media team were on a fisheries and coastal management capacity building support project organized by the Centre for Coastal Management, University of Cape Coast with funding from the USAID. By Peter Quao Adattor||Ghana ]]>