The illegal trade of Saiko continues unabated specifically at Elmina, with an average of eleven boat landings a week, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), an international Non-Governmental Organisation (NGO) has observed.
This, it said was despite efforts by the government and the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA) in November last year to crack down on the menace.
Saiko is a severely destructive form of illegal fishing where industrial trawlers target the staple catch of small-scale canoe fishers and transfer it to specially adapted boats at sea for sale at local markets.
In mid-November 2019, the government of Ghana announced in its 2020 budget that it would stop Saiko as part of efforts to save the fishing industry from collapse.
This was followed by an assurance letter from GITA to the sector Minister that they were suspending the trade reiterating that, Saiko trans-shipment was illegal on Ghanaian waters.
However, despite such assurances to small scale canoe fishers who were experiencing the first-hand effects of the destructive practice, the EJF noted with regrets that saiko continued unchecked in the country.
The EJF in a statement copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) in Cape Coast explained that in-person monitoring at Elmina port showed that averagely, eleven boats land saiko fish every week, with as many as 13 landings in a single day.
“Footage taken by EJF has shown that the saiko boats are unloaded in broad daylight and plain sight of any passer-by, suggesting that perpetrators do not fear any repercussions”, it said.
“All industrial vessels have observers onboard to monitor and report on illegal fishing. Yet, every time a saiko boat makes port, it means an industrial vessel has illegally transferred fish at sea. This is a stark warning that the government's observer programme is not effective”, the statement added
In 2017 alone the saiko, trade took around 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth over US$ 50 million when sold at the landing site, 80 percent of which was landed at Elmina, the Central Region hot spot for saiko activities.
Nana Jojo Solomon, Executive Member of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC) said important management measures such as the closed season and others were being undermined by saiko, adding that it would destroy the fisheries if it was allowed to continue.
He said it was about time the President turned his attention to the issue and intensify enforcement action to halt the illegal activity, which was destroying the livelihoods of local fishers in the country.
“The government said it will end saiko over seven months ago, but the saiko boats continue to stream into port – loaded down with fish that should have been caught by the small-scale canoe fishers”, said Mr Steve Trent, Executive Director of EJF,
He appealed to President Nana Akufo-Addo to take personal control and act to protect his people. Ghana's laws are well designed and can tackle the problem, but only if they are properly enforced.
“Ghana's fisheries are on the brink of collapse, with the country now forced to import half its fish. The time for empty statements is over. Now is the time for leadership and action”, he said.