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01.10.2008 Feature Article

Fishermen in water bodies are being over-exploited

Gone were the days when man depended solely on traditional occupations like farming, hunting and fishing, this time it is very different, owing to the emergence of white-collar jobs and modern technology. However, in spite of the drastic change, the link between traditional occupation and modern technology is not totally missing, since the development of white-collar jobs and modern technology, in most cases, depend on traditional occupation. What's more even if the link is missing, mankind still depends on the products of these traditional occupations for survival. Nevertheless, if one may ask, are society and the nation, as a whole, still concerned with the activities of traditional occupations? Farming has always being a priority to the nation, since it is important to feed the people, hunting is still in progress, but in an advanced way, there are now many abattoirs in the country, catering for livestock for consumption.


The development of the fishing industry has not being very favourable, with citizens every now and then complaining of the frequent increases in the price of fish on the market. Not long ago the Deputy Chief Fisherman of Elmina, Opanyin Kobina Badu, alleged that fishing inputs meant for fishermen, were being diverted, and called on the government to take the appropriate action. Moreover the fishermen in Munford have over the years, been appealing for the building of a fishing harbour in the town, to boost the fishing industry, but to no avail. Though the issue is not being deeply delved into, the issue of the Deputy Chief Fisherman is enough proof of the decline in fishing activities in the country.

Importance of fish to the human body

Fish is a very important nutrient in our everyday diet. has indicated that fish oil has been shown to have positive effects on the heart, brain, joints, skin and even pregnancy. It can used to prevent coronary heart diseases and stroke, essential fatty acid deficiency in infancy (retinal and brain development), Diabetes, Autoimmune disorders (e.g. Lupus and nephropathy), mild hypertension and other associated diseases. Fish oil deficiencies have also been tied to many conditions like diabetes, depression, weight gain, heart disease, allergies, arthritis, violence, memory problems, cancer, eczema and inflammatory diseases.

Protein is important for the growth and development of the body, and repairing of worn out tissues and the production of enzymes and hormones required for many body processes. Vitamin A from fish is more readily available to the body than from plant food. It is required for normal vision and for bone growth. Mortality is reduced in children less than 5 years. Vitamin C is important for healing of wounds, normal health of body tissue, and aids in the absorption of iron in the body. Iron deficiency is associated with anemia, impaired brain function, and in infants, is associated with poor learning ability and poor behaviours.

Problem in the fishing industry

Ghana's marine resources are an important source of food and economic activity. In Ghana, fishing is very common in all the coastal towns and cities. According to Wikey Inter Science, inadequate trade policies, globalisation of the fishing industry, dominance of Europe's distant water fleets, declarations of exclusive economic zones (EEZs) by neighbouring West African nations, over-fishing and a lack of good governance, contributed to the decline of Ghana as a regional fishing nation, a position it had held since the 18th Century. The prohibitive cost of access arrangements limits Ghana's access to distant waters. The country's marine environments have been impacted by overexploitation of stocks, and the use of destructive methods.

Subsistence fishing has become the sole means of survival for many fishers. The decline of the fishing sector has limited the country's ability to meet domestic demand, and threatened the economic and food security of many Ghanaians. The early history of Ghana's fisheries, their gradual decline during the last four decades, outlines recommendations for policy changes to address the situation, and steer the nation on a course towards sustainable fisheries.

In a research, conducted by Friends of the Nation (FoN), it was discovered that there are inadequate official conservation mechanisms in place to conserve the marine fish stock; there appears to be no formal conservation strategy, employed by the state or its agencies in charge of fisheries, to conserve to preserve marine fish stock. There are no artificial breeding of fish to replenish the marine stock, and most of the lagoons, which serve as breeding grounds for some species of fish, are so polluted that they cannot support fish breeding.

Moreover fish stock is exploited without regards to any official conservation mechanism; there is uncontrolled harvesting of fish, and there is neither a fish harvesting policy, regulating the maximum sustainable harvest of fish, nor a policy regulating the quota of fish harvested per annum. The only conservation practice has been the traditional system of conservation, which is practiced by the artisanal fishermen. The traditional systems are taboo days, either Tuesday or Wednesdays, full moon, or on special traditional occasions, during which at artisanal fishermen do not fish.

Fishermen and poverty

Fishermen nationwide, are reporting of low harvests, and at some periods even no harvest, due to the depletion of fisheries resources. In the face of this, our artisanal fishermen have to compete with highly sophisticated, industrialised fishing vessels in an era where the fishing industry requires high financial inputs. This has deepened the poverty level of fisher folks and their dependants, resulting in school dropouts, promiscuity and teenage parenthood, and other social vices in the communities.

In a Recognizance survey and field visit by FoN, to coastal communities in all the four coastal regions in Ghana, it was revealed that there were high poverty levels in the coastal communities, due to the combination of factors.

This includes the depletion of marine fish stocks - the depletion is evidence by the reduction in quantity of fish landed by fishermen, and this could be due to over-exploitation of the fisheries resources, inadequate conservation mechanisms, weak monitoring controls and surveillance activities, and lack of effective collaboration between fisheries managements within the sub region, etc.

Over-exploitation of the fisheries resources is due to the fact that there are now too many fishing vessels/canoes fishing in the waters (over capacity), due to the practice of open the access regime (a regime where anybody can carry a canoe to do fishing). Fishing in Ghanaian waters without regards to conservation mechanisms, has resulted in over-fishing, and this has lead to the depletion of the marine fish stock. The use of bad fishing methods being employed by some fishermen, in their quest to increase fish catches, and the continual harvesting of juvenile fish, are gradually depleting the fish stock.


FoN recommended that there should be the promotion of sustainable fisheries management, to control the depletion of the fisheries resources. In view of this, the Minister of Fisheries must, as a matter of urgency, must ban with immediate effect the practice of pair-trawling in Ghanaian waters. This must be followed by an effective enforcement of the ban, to ensure that no illegal pair-trawling goes on. After this, necessary measures can be put in place to bring about responsible fishing, to control fishing with light aggregation methods, small net sizes, dynamiting and others, to stop the depletion of the fisheries resources.

Moreover, there should be strengthened Monitoring Control and Surveillance (MCS) activities. To strengthen the MCS, there should be a proper legal support, such as a legislative instrument, to back the fisheries law, to provide the proper legal atmosphere for MCS activities.

There should also be re-establishment and institutionalisation of community-based fisheries management committee structures at the community, district, regional and national levels. To do this, there is the urgent need for the district/metropolitan assemblies to fast-track the gazetting of the Community-Based Fisheries Management Committees (CBFMCs) bye laws, and must be supported by the state to function fully.

To effectively meet the objective of fish stock conservation, and promote fishery livelihood, and thereby reduce vulnerability to poverty, there should be an official close season for fishing, certain periods where there is no fishing, to allow rejuvenation of the fish stock.


It will be in the interest of the nation, and not fishermen only, if fishing reserves are well protected. One must bear in mind that as much as one gets income from the occupation, one also, as a result, gets good health, since the nutrient found in fish is an immune booster. It is our duty to protect our land of good reserves, for our children's children.

The Chronicle
The Chronicle, © 2008

This author has authored 68 publications on Modern Ghana. Author column: TheChronicle

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