Local and international experts have cautioned that Ghana's fishing sector will collapse if drastic measures are not taken.
In July 2018, the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Scientific and Technical Working Group for Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) warned that the spate of depletion of Ghana's fish stock would defeat the goals towards food security, economic growth and poverty reduction, especially in fishing communities.
This caution has been reiterated by the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, who has given an assurance that her ministry will do all it can to reverse this trend. Therefore, the ministry, among other measures, instituted the closed season strategy in fishing about a year ago to help replenish the fish stock and save the industry.
The latest measure is the development of the Canoe Identification Card (CIC) initiative launched at Keta in the Volta Region recently for the easy identification of all operational canoes in the fisheries sector. The launch was on the theme: “Towards Profitable and Sustainable Management of Ghana's fisheries Resources”.
The aim of the card which has unique response codes readable with a mobile phone application is to restrict and regulate access to the country's fishery resources and also manage the sector as a whole.
The card, which bears the name of the canoe, owner, canoe number, length and gear type, will also ensure the Fisheries Commission and fishers, thus the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, work hand in hand to ensure sustainability and profitability of the sector.
Madam Quaye was happy that apart from legitimising canoe owners, government would have better data to facilitate adequate planning and distribution of resources and incentives to improve the sector.
Besides, she was elated that the challenges with the distribution of pre-mix fuel to fishers would be curtailed, stressing that “in pursuit of transparency and following the distribution of the card to all registered canoes, the Landing Beach Committee must ensure that distribution is made only to operators who possess the card.”
Soon the digitisation of the distribution and sale of pre-mix fuel would also be employed to further improve the sector, she added.
Explaining the genealogy of the new CIC system, Madam Matilda Quist, Head of Marine Fisheries Management Division at the Fisheries Commission, explained that it had taken six years for it to become a reality.
It initially began in 2013 when a web-based vessel registry system was developed with the support of the World Bank under the West Africa Regional Fisheries Programme (WARFP). This was followed by canoe registration and embossment which later faced some challenges.
The USAID through the SFMP intervened and they were able to conceptualise CIC in 2017. Owing to double registration, registration of inactive canoes and registration of non-existing canoes, a clean-up of the register was done in 2018 to reduce the canoe population from 15,000 to 13,600.
The Agricultural Team Leader at USAID-Ghana, Amber Lily Kenny, commended the ministry for the bold steps taken to improve the sector which are key in supporting lives, providing employment and driving socioeconomic development, especially of fishing communities.
Nana JoJo Solomon, Member of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), assured of his organisation's unflinching support to make the initiative successful.