Allowing the fishstock to regenerate (Closed Season), clamping down on illegal transhipment (saiko) and other Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing, are positive steps towards sustainable fishing in Ghana and the wider sub-region. This is the overaching goal of the Improving Fisheries Governance in Ghana and the Wider Sub Region  project, supported by Oak Foundation and Oceans 5. Read our position on the Ghana’s 2021 Fishing Closed Season below.

Improving Fisheries Governance in Ghana and the Wider sub-region (IFG Project)
Good morning ladies and gentlemen of the press, distinguished representatives of fisher associations, we thank you for honouring our invitation to this press engagement. Please note that this press conference is under the auspices of the Improving Fisheries Governance
in Ghana and the wider sub-region Project (IFG Project) that is being implemented by a consortium of partners namely, Hen Mpoano, Friends of the Nation, Environmental Justice Foundation, Trygg
Mat Tracking and Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea.

The implementing partners of the Improving Fisheries Governance project, wish to commend the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission for adhering to one of the recommendations by the fisheries Scientific and Technical Working Group (STWG) of Ghana to implement the closed season concurrently for all fleets, except tuna. The ministry’s approach of directly engaging key fisher associations in deciding the dates for this year’s closure, in line with scientific recommendations, is commendable. The closed season policy under section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625), is intended to reduce effort and over-exploitation and fish stock replenishment in Ghana’s marine waters. This measure is a major step towards rebuilding the marine fish stock that sustain the livelihood of over 2.7 million Ghanaians.

Our stance and Recommendations on the closed season
As partners on the IFG project, we believe that the closed season which is aimed at rebuilding the dwindling fish stocks must be supported by other management measures such as controlling overcapacity, limiting the number of boats on the sea to sustainable levels, and stopping all forms
of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.

As recommended in the 2020 STWG report, the closed season should be implemented in combination with effective enforcement of existing laws including but not limited to mesh size control, and strict enforcement of the law on light, dynamite, and chemicals for this and future closures to be biologically beneficial. Of note, replenishing the depleted marine will not happen or cannot be achieved if ‘saiko’ fishing continues unchecked. This illegality, together with other forms of IUU fishing undermines the
needed enabling environment for juvenile fish to grow.
Reports have shown that in 2017 alone, saiko trade took from the sea about 100,000 tonnes of fish, worth over US$50 million when sold at the landing site. These fishes were predominantly juveniles.

Reports from both CSOs and Academia has shown that juvenile fish constitute over 90% of saiko landings. We note that while the closed season will allow the fishes to ‘lay eggs’, Saiko fishing will significantly undermining the closed season. It is therefore important for the MoFAD and the Fisheries Commission to ensure that industrial trawl vessels land all their catches at the two designated ports in Tema and Takoradi to allow inspection of their catches.

We wish to commend the FC for its work in successfully undertaking a gear audit of the trawl vessels. As revealed in the report, industrial vessels have modified their gear to improve their efficiency in landing small pelagic fish. We, therefore, urge the Commission to immediately implement the recommendations in the gear audit report and ensure industrial trawlers play by the rules. It is also important to carry out routine inspections of fishing gears and catches of industrial trawlers to ensure they are only targeting demersal fish, or species of the type and size dictated by their license.

Effective implementation of the recommendation of this report will help sustain the gains of the closed season. We also recommend that MOFAD/FC use the period of the closed season to review the observer programme, to ensure that observers are trained and equipped with the requisite knowledge and provided the logistics to safely monitor and accurately document and report activities on fishing
vessels at sea.

Improving regulations and monitoring, and enhancing transparency in fisheries management, are the best weapons Ghana can use to stem illegal fishing that is driving its fish stocks to extinction. Many of the transparency measures, including publishing details of fishing licence conditions, vessel ownership and sanctions for IUU fishing, are cheap and simple, and can be implemented immediately.
We would like to remind artisanal fishers who have embraced this year’s closed season, to equally play their roles and support the rebuilding effort. They must do away with light, dynamite, chemical and other forms of illegal methods of fishing.
In order not to have wasted a whole month without fishing, we appeal and encourage artisanal fishers to engage in responsible fishing along the beaches. Civil Society Organisation’s (CSOs) in the fisheries sector are ready to support the government and fishers on the journey of rebuilding and sustainably managing Ghana’s fish stocks for posterity. Knowing also that Ghana shares some of the fish stocks with adjoining coastal states and these stocks require to be given adequate protection simultaneously wherever they are to provide far reaching benefits to the fishing industry, we encourage neighboring countries working under the regional Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) to support the
announcement of the 2021 closed season in Ghana with actions taken at their national level.

Many thanks for your attention.

About the IFG Project
Hen Mpoano (Lead) and Friends of the Nation, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Trygg Mat Tracking (TMT) and the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC) partnership.
The partners are implementing a three-year project dubbed Improving Fisheries Governance in Ghana and the wider-sub region with funding from Oak Foundation and Ocean 5.

The partners are working together to strengthen government and industry commitment to improve fisheries governance in the key policy areas of enhanced transparency, law enforcement, collaborative management, and capacity building of key stakeholders in Ghana and the West African region.

Interventions at the national (Ghana) level will provide a learning platform for the sub-region for fisheries governance improvements and cooperation in the region. This will be done through the following means:

• Gathering information on illegal activities through remote monitoring, land and sea investigations, monitoring of landings, and training of local fishers to capture evidence.

•Evaluating cases of IUU fishing, highlighting gaps in prosecutions and making
recommendations to the FC/MoFAD and Regional bodies
• Strengthening the fisheries prosecutorial chain to enhance the fight against IUU fishing
• Organising radio and TV discussions, and community film screenings to raise awareness
among fishing communities and the wider public and build support to enforce fisheries
• Supporting cross regional cooperation, information exchange and sharing of best practice.

For further information, contact
Mr. Kyei Kwadwo Yamoah
Programs Manager
Friends of the Nation
Tel: 024 481 7020