“Sea never dry” is one of the many popular writings on fishing vessels seen along the beaches from Keta in the Volta Region to Half Assini in the Western part of Ghana. It is said to show how impossible it is for the vast sea resources to dry up.
Yes, it’s unimaginable for the sea to dry up, but one thing is clear, the fish stock in the sea can “dry up”, reducing the sea to only transportation and hydrocarbon production.
Statistics obtained on Sardinella [Emane], Anchovies [Keta School Boys] and Mackerel from the Fisheries Commission on the status of fish stock from 1980 to 2014 paints a glooming picture.
“These species have been decreasing sharply since 2007 and have reached in 2014 about 15% of the maximum landings realized in 1996. This trend will soon lead to the collapse of the resources and the fisheries sector”. Sustainable Fisheries Management Project, SFMP observes.
“Current fishing pressure (Number of boats and fishing trips) on small pelagic fish stock in Ghana is estimated at 0.74, well above the acceptable level of fishing pressure estimated at 0.4.
There are several factors to why we are here, but the factors can be put into two groups. Fishing practices of fishermen and the politician.
The fisheries act empowers the minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to sign and issue license for trawler vessels to operate in Ghana. The law also requires that trawler vessels are owned hundred percent by Ghanaians.
However, some politicians invite Chinese trawler vessels and front for them. How can a Ghanaian owned trawler vessel have names such as Luo Huan Xi, Lu Jian Ho, Hia Jinx Tui etc?
The World Bank has in the past questioned Ghana on the continuous conflicting figures on the number of trawlers licensed to operate in Ghana.
The irony is that, it is only the minister who signs the license for the trawlers. So if there are conflicting figures to the World Bank, the minister would have to answer for that.
One of the common statements by fisheries law enforcement agencies is the “order from above” mantra. In other words, order from the politician.
Most fishermen who are caught for using unapproved methods of fishing are let go because an order was issued by a politician who owns the boat the fisherman operates.
Statistics has it that, only 9,000 fishing vessels are to be allowed from Keta to Half Assini. But, “the number of canoes doubled since 1980 and continues to increase under open access. This sector comprises 12,728 canoes contributing about 65% of the annual landings of all species in the sea estimated at 254,000 metric tons in 2014”. [Fisheries Commission-FSSD]. This statement simply implies that, there are many canoes [in excess of 3,728] fishing vessels chasing fewer and dwindling fish stock in the sea.
When fishing inputs are or any other commodity is subsidized, it encourages people to buy more. When the people are empowered to buy more, you encourage them to go after the already dwindled fish stock.
It is a pitiful sight to behold when politicians on political platforms in coastal constituencies promise more reduced prices of fishing inputs on the glaring face of the dwindling fortunes of the industry.
This complicates the fisheries management strategies the state institutions adopt to curtail the situation.
When those inputs [especially outboard motors and fuel] are not subsidized, and even made relatively scarce in selected fishing seasons,[preferably the spawning times] fishermen will resorts to the paddle and canoe fishing, this will make them go deeper, thereby allowing the sea ample time to restock.