Deadly! Fishermen resort to illegal fishing methods just as their Chinese counterparts

Some fisher folks in Western Region have vowed not to give up light fishing and the use of dynamite and other illegal fishing practices.

They insist fishing is their livelihood and whoever wants sanity in the industry must first stop foreigners, who they claim invaded their “terrain” with the illegal fishing practices.

The fishermen were interacting with a group of journalist on a USAID-UCC-aided training in effective reportage in fisheries and environmental issues.

The fishing industry in Ghana is based on resources from the marine, freshwater and coastal lagoons.

It is estimated that over 250,000 artisanal fishers depend on these resources with over 29,300 fishing vessels.

Production from marine fisheries has been declining since 1999, from almost 420,000 tonnes to 202,000 tonnes in 2014.

This is attributed largely to the over exploitation using varying illegal fishing methods, which are alien to the practice.

The wrong use of dangerous chemicals and fishing gears, such as the use of light, dynamite, carbide and prohibited fishing nets not only destroy the aquatic world but also serve as sources of diseases and pre-mature deaths.

Yet all attempts at discouraging the bad fishing practices were not working because the fisher folks have remained indifferent.

They blame their insistence of doing the wrong thing on illegal strategies adopted by foreign fishing vessels and trawlers.

The crude methods being employed by these so-called foreign vessels ended up destroying all manner of fish species.

These practices, the fisher folks say, deny them their normal catch hence the decision to join the bad practice.

Another form of illegal practice is poisoning the fish and when consumed by humans could cause cancer.

“We know this practice is not acceptable, but that is what is sustaining us in this business.”

The Chinese are all over the sea engaging in saiko fishing and selling them right on the sea.

“The authorities must stop ‘saiko’ fishing, the use of dynamite, monofilament nets and meshes, carbide, light fishing and the rest of the unauthorized practices in our waters especially by the foreigners.

“When that happens, we will reverse to the normal practice,” chairman of the Ghana Inshore Fishing Association, Francis Kwesi Eshun, fumed.

Francis Eshun was speaking to journalist during a training tour of the Albert Bosomtwi-Sam Fishing Harbour in Sekondi to assess at first hand the issues affecting fishing in the country.

The three-day tour was organised by University of Cape Coast’s Centre for Coastal Management under a five-year funding support from USAID.

Francis Kwesi Eshun expressed disgust at the rate of dilation of Ghana’s fish stock and wondered why the authorities continue to pay lip service to the issues.

Others wondered why the fishing laws and regulations are not being implemented to help stop the negative fishing practices.

Chief Fisherman at the Sekondi Fishing Habour, Nana Prah, blamed the authorities for not engaging and involving them in decision making.

He said inadequate information to the fisher folks and ignorance about the fish culture as well as best practices left them without options.

On his part, the Secretary to the Ghana Inshore Fishermen Association, Emmanuel Nii Botchwey, suggested the use of sniffer dogs by the Marine Police to detect some of the chemicals on the vessels and boats in a consistent and mandatory boat inspection regime.

He alleged that most of the young men in the area have been diagnosed with lung cancer and other chronic diseases, which he linked to the consumption the chemical-induced fishes.

The director for the Centre for Coastal Management at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Denis Worlanyo Ahetor, noted that the coastal areas serve as sources of income for many people in other parts of the world in terms of the fish harvest and eco-tourism potentials.

He said Ghana stands one of the best chances but lack of promotion, ignorance and failure to implement laws continue to deny the coastal dwellers and the country at large, off these benefits.

The project, he added, is basically to build the capacity of researchers and professionals to engage in policy decisions on coastal management to ensure that the right policies are designed to govern the coastal zones.

He is hopeful the process will help revamp the coastal zones and influence policies.

Dr Denis Worlanyo Aheto, therefore, urged the media to help champion the issues affecting the fishing industry and the coastal belt to help improve the system.

By Peter Quao Adattor||Sekondi, Ghana

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