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19.04.2004 General News

Fishermen accuse Minister for incitement

By Chronicle
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Tension is mounting among fishermen at Tema over the method being used in fishing at sea. The canoe and inshore fishermen, now at each other's throats, have taken entrenched positions in the impasse.

The Fisheries Minister, Eddie Akita, who has been caught in the 'crossfire' had a very terrible experience when the executive of the Ghana Inshore Fisheries Association (GIFA) walked out as he was addressing a seminar organized to maintain peace at sea.

The canoe fishermen, on their own, decided to visit punishment on their counterparts for showing gross disrespect to the Minister and for two consecutive days, peace at the Fishing Harbour was threatened. Police moved in to smother the flame, which was lit by the canoe fishermen but were unsuccessful. At least ten crates of fish landed by the inshore group and which were being carried on trucks were set ablaze at the canoe beach by the fishermen.

The following day, over 100 crates of fish valued at over ¢20 million were again destroyed by the uncontrollable fishermen, also at the beach.

Members of the canoe group then set up check points between the Fishing Harbour and Tema New Town to prevent fish landed by their rivals from moving out of the harbour to the town.

By the close of day, at least 300 crates of fish valued about ¢70 million which could not be transported outside the port for fear of being intercepted by the irate fishermen went bad.

The “Chronicle newspaper” finding is that a few years back, the inshore fishermen were introduced to using lighting system to attract fish at sea for a bumper catch. When the system took full flight and catches reached appreciable levels, the canoe fishermen noticed that, on the contrary, they were not getting good catch, and this generated friction among them.

Government immediately intervened and threatened a ban on the system being used by the inshore fishermen with 1,500 registered vessels.

From Sekondi/Takoradi, the Western Regional Minister, Joseph Boahen Aidoo personally got himself involved to halt the system by seizing generators used for lighting from vessels preparing to go on fishing expeditions.

The GIFA, in a dialogue with the sector ministry, reportedly agreed to abolish the method by the 29th of February, this year.

Somewhere along the line, a Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), Corporate Social Responsibility Movement (CSRM), based at Tema, organised a two-day seminar on the use of the lighting system in fishing and also maintain industrial harmony at sea.

At that seminar, the sector Minister, Eddie Akita, reportedly attacked the integrity of the president of the National Fisheries Association of Ghana, Flt. Lt. (rtd) M. Tackie, who was absent.

In solidarity with their leader, who was being battered, the inshore fishermen walked out, thus infuriating the canoe fishermen who vowed to punish their colleagues for treating the Minister with contempt, hence their action since then.

Flt. Lt. Tackie, when contacted, said that the fishing industry very urgently needed a commission where their grievances were going to be addressed. He wanted government to de-link partisan politics from issues affecting the fishing industry.

According to him, the ban on the lighting system in fishing which was announced by the Minister that day could not be effected because the law itself was yet to be promulgated. He went on to say that the Minister must stop inciting canoe fishermen against the inshore group.

The president of GIFA, Joseph Nii Armah Quaye, on why they walked out, said dialogue would have been better than the Minister attacking the personality of Flt. Lt. Tackie, who was their leader.

According to him, for reasons best known to the authorities, the canoe fishermen were favoured. Her could not tell whether it was due to their number.

Nii Armah called on the Fisheries department to deploy personnel on their vessels to check if they were using the lighting system, which had been banned.

The Minister, Eddie Akita, stated that a round-table discussion was needed to solve the problem with the inshore fishermen and he thought that the seminar could have offered a very good platform for the solution. He was therefore not expecting the walkout.

According to him, Ghana last year spent $150 million on importing 200,000 metric tonnes of fish to supplement the expected national catch of 400,000 metric tonnes, which could not be achieved.

The nation, he said, needed 800,000 metric tonnes of fish for consumption yearly and a depletion of our sea of juvenile fish through unaccepted methods would not be healthy for posterity.

He went on to say that government was ordering vessel-monitoring equipment and a patrol boat for naval maneuvers.