Illegal fishing is considered globally as a fundamental driver of overfishing threatening marine ecosystems. Illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing puts food security and regional stability at risk. On a broader perspective, West Africa’s IUU accounts for approximately 40% of fish-caught.
This estimated percentage is considered the highest worldwide. With such a catastrophe hitting the coast of West Africa, some IUU vessels still fish directly off the coast. Most often, IUU fishing focuses on high-value dimensional species “Saiko” like cod, salmon, trout, lobster, and prawns among others. These high-value dimensional species are mostly subject to restrictions form fisheries management purposes.
The economic catch here is that these fish species are traded in small quantities with high demand, thereby making IUU fishing a lucrative business for IUU fishermen. IUU fishing on a fisherman perspective is deemed highly attractive because no taxes or duties are paid on the fish caught. The lucrative nature of IUU fishing is due to the absence of effective fisheries control structures.
The fisheries sector of Ghana is beset with overfishing with a dramatic depletion of fish stocks in our oceans. Illegal fishing by foreign trawlers is decimating Ghana's fish population by causing the country millions of dollars in revenue. A 2018 report by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) indicated that foreign interest is known to be extensive within Ghana's trawl fleet. This foreign interest particularly from China is harming Ghana's fish stocks and local economies. In Ghana, there are over eighty (80) industrial trawlers operating.
These trawlers are not only competing with the estimated twelve thousand (12,000) artisanal canoes supporting the livelihood of approximately three (3) million Ghanaians. Such overfishing, which is the combination of both the trawlers and artisanal canoe fishing pose a detrimental effect on marine ecosystems. With such a looming rippling effect, high-value dimensional fish species are not left to replenish for sustainable marine ecosystems.
Against this backdrop, the Center for International Maritime Affairs Ghana (CIMAG) argues that the existence of IUU in our coastal areas does not only threaten the collapse of small scale fisheries, rather affects the source of living of people engaged in small-scale fisheries.
The challenge with IUU fishing in Ghana is exacerbated because small fishing vessels load their catch onto reefers while at sea. During this transshipment, fishermen on board are also supplied with food or fuel to enable them to remain at sea for months. The transshipment of Ghana's pelagic fisheries put fish stocks under severe pressure.
Based on the aforementioned challenges of “Saiko” fishing, CIMAG asserts that combating IUU fishing is very complex and expensive. Taking a clue from affluent countries, there exist the enforcement of stringent ocean control systems by deploying large fleets of vessels and trained personnel to minimize IUU fishing to an appreciable level. The European Union (EU) enforced IUU directives since 2008 contains uniform directives for all EU ports to curb IUU fishing. The EU directives have rendered IUU vessels unable to land their catches in the EU ports. Irrespective of the EU directives on IUU fishing, research postulates that there are still ports in other EU regions where IUU fishermen land their illegally caught fish with absolutely zero repercussions.
Due to the complexities in combating IUU fishing even for the more affluent countries, putting in stringent measures does not only help minimize IUU fishing at our ports, rather it helps save the livelihood of people engaged in small-scale fisheries. To tackle IUU fishing in a less costly manner, there should be rigorous checks at our ports. However, the rigorous checks will be very effective if all ports cooperate with IUU fishing directives. Additionally, there should be inter-coastal fisheries regulatory frameworks that give guidance on protecting "Saiko” fishing in our coastal areas. Furthermore, there should be scrutiny of the ownership arrangements of all foreign industrial trawl vessels operating to ensure its compliance with set-up laws and regulations.
Finally, the closed fishing season commitment in the National Fisheries Management Plan should be enforced yearly to help minimize IUU fishing.
He holds a certificate of proficiency in customs procedures & port operations. Currently, Albert is a Director in charge of Business Development at the Logical Maritime Services Limited, a privately held global logistics company. With extensive research, policy and advocacy backgrounds’, Albert serves on numerous boards within the maritime industry. E-mail: [email protected].
BISMARK AMEYAW (Ph.D.) is the director of research and advocacy at the Centre for International Maritime Affairs (CIMAG). He is a director of international relations and research development at the African Center for Strategic Business and Entrepreneurship Development (ACSBED).
He specializes in modeling and forecasting the dynamic links in energy, economics, and the environment. He also takes a keen interest in the Ghana maritime industry and entrepreneurship development. He writes, teaches, and consults on energy and maritime-related issues. He serves as an editorial board member and a reviewer for several Zone A academic journals. E-mail: [email protected]; [email protected].