With the European Parliament’s Committee on Fisheries’ voting in favour of a new European Union (EU) law to prohibit the import of fisheries products linked with forced labour, the country risks being punished for such violations.
The new law, which was passed July 19, 2023, is meant to effectively address systemic forced labour in the global fisheries value chain, particularly in developing countries.
The law reflects a similar ‘carding system’ that features in the EU’s Illegal, Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing Regulation, and uses formal dialogues and ‘yellow’ and ‘red cards’ to facilitate compliance of third countries with international obligations on fisheries.
The EU says it has made an important step closer to concrete legislation to defend the rights of workers across the globe. Critically, the Committee voted to give the new law an important tool in the right against forced labour – a ‘carding system’ for imports into the EU.
Data from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD indicate that the country earns an average of US$200million per annum from fish exports.
Last year, Ghana earned about US$254million from exports of fish and fishery products, according to the MoFAD.
The largest found and exported fish species in Ghana include anchovy, chub mackerel as well as flat sardinella among others.
Ghana’s open access to fisheries has also been increasing the incidence of over-exploiting the fish stocks and exploitation of children.
Incidents of child labour and forced labour-related tendencies continue to confront the sector in various ways.
Data from MoFAD state that over 1.23 million children (14.2 percent of the children’s population in the country) are in hazardous child labour and child-trafficking situations; and over 50,000 of these children are involved in fishing, with thousands trafficked from as early as age four.
However, MoFAD and its stakeholders currently implement a Policy on Anti-Child Labour and Trafficking in Fisheries as a solution to the menace.
Reaction of the Environmental Justice Foundation to the new law
CEO of the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Steve Trent, on hearing the new law announcement of the said, “Unscrupulous operators for too long have gotten away with the egregious exploitation of their workers without consequences”.
He said a ‘carding system’ used in the context of forced labour will be a game-changer in the fight against systemic forced labour – incentivising countries across the world to act to protect vulnerable workers trapped in modern-day slavery.
“The Fisheries Committee has taken a crucial step with their vote today to progress a new forced labour regulation, and we commend the inclusion of a carding scheme that EJF has seen first-hand succeed in the fight against illegal fishing,” Mr. Trent noted.
By the International Labour Organisation’s (ILO) latest estimates, almost 28 million people globally are trapped in forced labour. This figure indicates a rise of approximately 2.7 million since the previous estimate in 2016.
Fishing is an important economic activity in Ghana, and it accounts for five percent of agricultural Gross Domestic Product (GDP). The sector also accounts for 60 percent of animal protein consumed in Ghana, and an estimated three million Ghanaians are directly involved in fishing – representing a little over 10 percent of the workforce.