Addressing the challenges facing the fishing industry
The fisheries sub-sector serves as a major source of employment, livelihood and a way of life not only for the coastal sector but also the inland and aqua culture sectors. It has both forward and backward linkages to other economic activities with a plough back from the sector going in to finance other commerce.
The industry in Ghana has the industrialized, semi-industrialized and artisanal or canoe. The artisanal sector provides over 70% of the total fish requirements and consequently the bulk of the country's protein requirements.
The sector also employs over 60% women and links with other sectors in providing raw materials especially the food processing companies and the hospitality industry whilst employing the services and products of other sectors to operate.
The industry according to the Ministry of Agriculture employs estimated 10% of the country's population which stands at about 2.2mil people. A number of issues have been militating against the growth of the industry.
These issues include:
* Effective and collaborative management of fisheries resources.
* Marine biodiversity conservation
* Oil exploration and impact on fisheries
* Political influences and management of Pre-Mix fuel
EFFECTIVE AND COLLABORATIVE FISHERIES RESOURCE MANAGEMENT
In spite of attempts by the Ministry of Food and Agriculture to encourage collaborative resource management through the establishment of CBFMCs, communities are still found wanting in their participation in sustainable management of the resource and this has been contributing to the rapidly depleting resource and the current inter-conflicts within the sector. These and other factors have culminated in the impoverishment of coastal communities
A fisheries resource in Ghana particular marine resources had been erroneously deemed to be infinite and as a nation ignobly supervises the destruction of the marine ecosystem. We had had occasions to have had a very effective traditional management system that recognizes preservation of the sea and the total marine ecosystem that included plants, such as the mangroves and coconut as well as the sea bed and sea sand.
Chief fishermen wield authority and could declare at least a close season for one week to control stock harvesting.
This position was further strengthened with the introduction of the community based fisheries management committees with the Chief fisherman as the chairman. However, most MMDAs have refused to gazette the bye laws rendering the CBMFCs ineffective and politicians also clandestinely usurping and undermining the authorities of chief fishermen.
There is not a single MMDA in Ghana situated in an area that has its traditional economy anchored on fisheries with a sub-committee of the executive committee on fisheries and this is a worrying phenomena.
Putting all these and the near neglect of the industry together, it cannot be gainsaid that the industry has been neglected.
MARINE BIODIVERSITY CONSERVATION
The issue of marine biodiversity conservation remains a very challenging issue for the management of the sector due largely to both institutional and systematic failure in appreciating the enormous challenge in waste management and marine ecosystem conservation.
Various legislations and policies have attempted to ensure proper conservation programmes for the marine ecosystem but these has not been the panacea principally due to inadequate enforcement regime.
The forestry Act prohibits development of any kind within fifty (50) metres of any natural water body, however in Ghana water bodies including lagoons are reclaimed for structural development. We live in a country where no waste is treated both liquid and solid and all drains are directed through natural running water bodies and end up in the sea. In the Greater Accra Region, mention can be made of the Korle lagoon Accra, Kpeshi Lagoon in La, Chemu Lagoon in Tema, and Gao in Kpone inter alia which have over the period served as sinks for both domestic and industrial waste. Beyond producing fish as brackish water, the lagoons are also breeding grounds for some fish species. The mangroves are very importantly provide cover for the water body and slow evaporation thus preserving the water well as habitat for some species especially also for shrimp production.
Sea turtle is one of the endangered species and it is not allowed to be harvested, but in Ghana it is still a delicacy and some illegally fishermen engaged in turtle harvesting.
The fisheries Act 625 mandate the Minister responsible for the sector to declare close and open season in order to conserve marine species. It is however a sad commentary that as if there has not been a need for it no Minister since the coming into force the Act in may 2002, ever declared a season closed even for a particular fishery as the case has been for even grasscutters.
The International Conversion on Atlantic Tuna (ICAT) which Ghana is a member allows a quota system and basically that is the only quota system we have in Ghana for a fishery that abounds in Ghana to the extent ICAT permitted Ghana to exceed her 5000 metric tonnes quota by 2500 metric tonnes. We do not have any scientific basis for measuring what quantities of which fish species we harvest; neither do we have any reliable seasonal baseline data or information on particular fishery in Ghana.
Ghana I believe is one of the few countries that operate an open access marine regime and have trawlers drawing their trawl board 24/7 without being regulated and dumping bye catches to further pollute our marine environment.
Sand wining along the coast of Ghana has remained elusive to the authorities despite its harmful impact especially on crustaceans and baby turtles. It also destroys the beautiful beaches and the green vegetative cover along the beaches.
The use of light aggregating device in fishing, pair trawling, use of chemicals such as DDT and carbides as well as dynamites and other explosives for the purpose of rendering fish easily caught are enigma successive governments have found difficult to elucidate.
Pair trawling especially was a major campaign subject in 2008 and saw some of us moving onto the streets with red bands demanding the powers that be to take measures to have the system completely obliterated. The situation though has improved still remains an issue yet to be resolved especially with wooden semi industrialized vessels also getting involved in the practice.
The case of the light aggregating devise for fishing has become an almost a lost case. The practice was largely undertaken with some levels of apprehension until fishermen were made to believe that there is no regulation prohibiting the practice in the Ghanaian Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ). Today, fishermen with impunity display their equipments with blatant disregard to the harm they are the very resource bequeathed them and on which their livelihood and those of their descendents will depend on. The practice must be stopped and now.
OIL EXPLORATION AND IMPACT ON FISHERIES
The announcement that Ghana has discovered oil in commercial quantities seem to have rendered all other activities very irrelevant and in all workshops I have attended save for the ones we organized or that of our partners Friends of the Nation, the subject had been oil revenue. The oil will not employ even 5% of the country's population and it s certainly not an infinite resource. It is therefore very sad to watch as everything is happening in the oil industry except for real and genuine measures to protect the fishery and livelihood that had depended on the industry.
Section 93 of the Act 625 states clearly the need to present to the fisheries commission, a Fisheries Impact Assessment (FIA) before any activity other than fishing takes place in the our water bodies. This law at the time it was being promulgated in 2002 had the EPA act in place and appropriately make reference to the EPA Act in the sub-section. The FIA and the EIA are therefore mutually exclusive as such it should be incumbent on the actors in the oil industry to prepare a comprehensive FIA.
There are however a number of challenges that makes it excusable for now why the FIA might have been incorporated in the EIA.
* Inadequate legal provisions; apart from the mention in the section 93 of the Act 625, there is no legislative instrument or regulation defining processes for the development of the FIA.
* Inadequate Capacity: the supervising authority, the Fisheries Commission had admitted they do not have the requisite capacity to handle the very technical document and have made it a policy to work closely with the EPA, Ghana Maritime Authority and other institution most of which have representatives on the commission.
* Lack of precedence: the commission has never been directly involved in the development of an FIA and would certainly need time to develop the requisite infrastructure and capacity to supervise the process.
It is however very necessary that the commission start by building a comprehensive legislation on the development, preparation and presenting of FIA. Beyond that as a country, for a major investment with serious environmental, social and economic cost, we need to develop the requisite systems to have a strategic impact assessment (SIA).
There is this question that still remain very much unanswered, that is what becomes of the ballast water. For the purposes of those who might not know what it is, it is just water loaded into the vessel to ensure it maintains its balance and it is dislodged at the loading point for the vessel (in our case the tanker) to be loaded. The water that might be coming from a foreign country may have different salinity level and if the water is not properly managed, may affect the marine aquatic environment. Beyond that it may carry with it some harmful or diseased species that may affect our marine species or even could transfer diseases. Till now there is no law on the management of the ballast water and this remain a major concern requiring immediate measures.
Since I am discussing the fishing industry, I must raise concerns about how fishermen are going to manage to coexist without interrupting with a floating, production, storage and offloading (FPSO) vessel the size of three (3) standard football fields. I believe before the facility finally land in Ghana, the policy makers should also be thinking of ways of not just warding fishermen off the facility but also how to protect fish from moving very close to it. Fishermen will go where the fish is and since there will be lights, left over fish dropped in the water and other activities that will attract all species of fish, the fishermen will be there.
POLITICAL INFLUENCES AND MANAGEMENT OF PRE-MIX FUEL
The issue of premix fuel and political influences are almost now intertwined. Until recently politicians care the least about what happens in the fishing industry, especially the local sector. In Elmina, at a point the then Regional Minister, Nana Ato Arthur never saw eye to eye with Nana Joojo Solomon, Maanuma and others. There was a whole publication on Premix by Mr. Mbre and it was fought fiercely on all campaign platforms. Premix which is a mixture of 29 parts normal super petrol and one part marine gasoline is 50% subsided with the Ghanaian tax payers money. It was introduced by the Flt. Lt Rawlings government to help reduce the cost of embarking on fishing expedition, and its sales were made a sole responsibility of fishermen. Under the NPP government, individuals were allowed to be part of the premix sales and that led to flooding the market with the products, and when supply exceeds demand, this time, prices did not fall, opportunity for diversion became rife.
The NDC II decided once again to flush out he individuals and set up what may be considered one of the most inclusive committees to manage premix. As laudable as the five (5) member committee initiative seem, there were limitations that has militated against an almost perfect system.
* Chief Executive who has had nothing to do with fishing suddenly was deciding who should be on the premix committee, usurping the roles of chief fishermen and from the comfort of their offices signing list for Accra.
* The nomination of ordinary fisherman by the representative of the Ministry o Food and Agriculture was heavily abused and created an opening for nomination of party people most of whom never got near any landing beach.
* Deliberate attempts to sideline chief fishermen by party people and in some cases forceful distoolment of others because of premix.
The arrangements for the establishment of the LBC would have been perfect if all this political interferences had not been there and if the policy had been spelt out in law. It is not too late the Hon. Minister can still make the requisite adjustment to allow those for whom the tax payer finances 50% of the premix to get it at the Right Place, Right Price and Right Time.
It will serve the best interest of the generality of the Ghanaian populace if immediate steps are taken by the very relevant stakeholders to ensure the following SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES ISSUES
The foregoing are 9 key issues for Ghana
1. enhancing livelihoods;
2. promoting the needs of the poor;
3. ensuring stable and sustainable supplies;
4. improving utilization;
5. reducing negative environmental impact;
6. mitigating impacts of oil exploration on fisheries
7. regulating international trade;
8. improving food security; and
9. Promoting institutional support
It is also worthy of note to consider in conclusion taking a decisive look at all these major issues:
o Collaborative fisheries resource management is pursued, through the establishment of a well resourced Community Based Fisheries Management Committees, have it written in law and their bye-laws duly gazetted
o The need to have a sub-committees on fisheries at the various MMDAs where fishing is a major economic activity
o Utilization of fisheries development fund especially in developing the artisanal sector
o primary obligations should be imposed on coastal communities to
+ adopt proper management and conservation measures to ensure that living resources in the EEZs are maintained and not endangered by over exploitation.
+ determine total allowable catch of living resources in their landing beaches.
+ conservation and management measures of coastal communities must consider effects on non-target species by ensuring that their population is maintained or restore above the level at which their production may become seriously threatened.
+ Coastal communities are also required to use the best scientific data available to determine conservation and management measures.