EJF praises Department of Fisheries for gear directive; calls for more reforms in the fisheries sector
The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has issued a guideline for industrial trawlers to ensure that they use only appropriate fishing gear. The department’s decision was welcomed by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
They say the directive, if incorporated into the Fisheries Act and its regulations, will mean that trawlers using nets that catch disproportionate amounts of juvenile fish and “small pelagics” will be penalized.
According to them, it is vital to rigorously enforce these requirements and apply punitive sanctions if they are breached and since small pelagic fishing is the mainstay of artisanal fishers, with an estimated 2.7 million Ghanaians depending on it for their livelihoods. income and food security.
The ministry’s announcement was informed by a 2019 fishing gear report, which found that a commonly used trawler net, with a vertical opening of almost 40m, catches large quantities of pelagic and semi -pelagic.
The targeting of these species is in direct violation of license conditions set for industrial trawlers and has played a role in the rapid decline of these fish populations, threatening the food security and livelihoods of coastal communities.
According to the report, “each tow brought in a wide range of fish species, but the majority caught during the audit were pelagic and semi-pelagic fish.”
Although there is an allowance for bycatch (estimated at 10-15%), trawlers are not allowed to target these fish.
According to the EJF, this raises urgent questions about why such quantities of non-target species are landed at the port and what checks, if any, are carried out to ensure that the permitted proportion of bycatch is respected. .
For them, it also casts doubt on the effectiveness of the current observer system, given that it is happening in the context of widespread alleged illegal fishing.
Along with this, the report also noted a lack of knowledge in key institutions, citing the fact that few Fisheries Commission staff were able to tell the difference between the different types of nets. It also revealed that many key documents on the vessels were not in English, creating a major impediment to enforcement of the Fisheries Act 2002, as officers from the Fisheries Commission and the Fisheries Unit Fisheries application will not be able to determine if the information is “True, Complete and Correct”.
The report also raises concerns about the true “beneficial” ownership of the vessels in the fleet – those reporting the profits – particularly in light of the fact that EJF surveys found that at least 90% of the vessels of the fleet belong to Chinese. companies.
CEO and Founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation, Steve Trent, said: “We support these reforms through the ministry and encourage their rigorous implementation, as well as deterrent penalties for those who break the law, with crimes and punishments made public. Further reforms are also needed to address deep-rooted and systemic issues within the Ghanaian trawler fleet that continue to undermine efforts to improve the sustainability of Ghanaian waters.
He said, firstly, that Ghana urgently needs to increase transparency in the sector – publishing details of actual ownership of trawlers, details of fishing licenses and any history of illegality. This, he says, will mean that all stakeholders will be able to see who is following the rules and support them, while weeding out those who continue to commit crimes and abuse the system.
“Capacity building of the Fisheries Commission, Ports and Ports Authority and the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Division is also needed to ensure effective inspections of fishing gear and catches, and dissuasive sanctions against those who break the rules”.