Ghana is losing out big time on it fishing sector worth $2.2 billion annually.
Over the years the contribution of the fisheries sector to Ghana’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) has plummeted and currently the sector is unable to contribute a quarter of its annual worth ($2.2 bn) due to the decline fish stock.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries, Mr. Francis Ato Cudjoe made this worrying revelation on the first day of a two-day workshop and launch of the Fisheries Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC)-PESCAO Project under the theme, “Improved Fisheries Governance in West Africa.”
“In Ghana fish represents about 60 per cent of our protein diet and the fisheries sector employs almost 10 per cent of our population. Over the years, the contribution of fisheries to our GDP has gone down,” he said.
He admitted his amazement about how little attention is rendered the fisheries sector in the West Africa Sub Region and the disunity among West African countries with regards to having a common position on the fishing industry.
“I have attended conferences where the region whether West Africa or Africa, we are unable to present a common position at the global level. We are unable to properly organise in terms of management of our fisheries here.”
“This is as a result of lack of proper regional coordination to develop common policies for the management of our fishery resources to control activities of fishing vessels within our common Economic Zone (EZ).”
Initiatives to remedy the situation
According to the deputy minister, Ghana has taken a number of initiatives to improve the fishing defect the country is struggling with currently;
–The fisheries and Aquaculture Ministry has initiated Ghana’s first Closed Season which would reduce excessive pressure and the over exploitation of fish stocks.
-Ghana is currently contributing data to the vessel monitoring system.
– Ghana is taking initiative to review legislation to bring together the various international projects the country has signed on to for better management of fisheries resources.
These initiatives with the support of the FCWC-PESCAO project and the EU will go a long way to help the sub region shapen positions and policies to better manage and police fishing activities within the sub region.
Expectation from the FCWC-PESCAO Project
The programme is expected to achieve 3 main targets
-A West African Fisheries and Aquaculture Policy, to develop and to ensure that regional stakeholders’ activities are improved.
– Prevention of and responsive to fishing is strengthened through improved management at the national and regional levels.
-To better manage marine resources at the regional level and to improve marine and coastal ecosystems.
Mr Cudjoe noted that his quest to learn more about the economic value of fisheries has taking him on several “educational tours” in many countries with burgeoning fisheries sectors. However, comparing those countries to the sub region shows the region is lagging behind in terms of unlocking the economic potential of the fisheries industry.
“So I believe that through this project we can begin to realise the good value fish has given to some of this economies because fisheries and the blue ocean is the future of the world and we cannot be left behind,” he said.
“Fish is a migrating resource and there is the need for a common close season within the sub region so that we are collectively managing the resources that we have,” he suggested.
The challenging state of the fisheries sector in West Africa Sub Region and the need for one voice.
Delivering his opening remarks, the Secretary General of the Fisheries Committee of the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), Seraphin Dedi highlighted numerous challenges affecting the fisheries industry in the region which included high incident of illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing and its associated trade in illicit drugs.
He noted that; “Foreign vessels are not only poaching our fish but also using our waters as transit routes for their trade in hard drugs.”
He further explained that countries of the region tried individually to stop the problem by establishing national Vessel Monitoring System (VMS).
Ghana according to him, started a VMS in 2005 but has been unsuccessful due to technical and financial problems. The initial VMS was solely financed by the government of Ghana at the cost of £3million.
Recently Cote d’ ivoire established a VMS system with around $600 000 (US) while Nigeria is also planning to do so with similar budget.
Seraphin Dedi however, admitted that the VMS programme is princely and difficult to handle and suggested a regional approach which will be cost effective.
The PESCAO project with a four year implementation work plan (2018-2022) hopes to reinforce the regional approach in bettering the sector.
The project is expected to combat illegal fishing at the end of the implementation period.
Last month, Ghana’s fishing sector recorded its highest contraction in years in the first quarter of 2018 as a consequence of the controversial “Closed Season” ban according to the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS).
By Pamela Ofori-Boateng/Business World Ghana