EU warns Ghana against illegal fishing
The European Union (EU) has warned that it will issue Ghana a “yellow card” if the country consistently fails to tackle the threat of illegal fishing. The “yellow card” is an official warning issued by the EU to its trading partners who do not tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.
The yellow card, which is a formal warning, is the precursor to a red card – meaning a total ban on seafood exports to the EU.
Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister Mavis Hawa Koomson – who leaked the EU opinion, said her ministry was determined to end the threat by sanctioning illegal fishermen in the country’s waters for put an end to the decline of the country’s fish stocks.
She said, however, that her personal desire to end the canker was given extra motivation thanks to the warning given by the EU, as those found guilty by the ministry will be prosecuted.
The Environmental Justice Foundation, a non-governmental organization promoting sustainable fisheries as part of its functions, said more than 90 percent of Ghana’s industrial trawler fleet is linked to Chinese owners – who depend on the companies’ front Ghanaian authorities to circumvent national laws prohibiting operations.
The Foundation estimates that illegal fishing by foreign trawlers and indigenous Ghanaians costs the nation more than $ 50 million per year.
The EJF claims that the “saiko” fishery – in which trawlers target the basic catches of the country’s canoe fishermen and sell them back to fishing communities at a profit – landed around 100,000 tonnes of fish in 2017; worth US $ 50 million when sold at sea and up to US $ 81 million when sold in ports.
The challenge, experts say, could persist for a long time despite the government’s determination to tackle the canker, as Ghana has yet to acquire an improved fisheries research vessel to tackle illegal activity and for other purposes, including surveillance.
Ghana currently imports over 60 percent of its annual fish consumption of over 950,000 tonnes. In 2016, US $ 135 million worth of fish was imported into the country; with a sharp increase to reach US $ 311 million in 2018 according to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).
Illegal fishing includes fishing activities carried out by foreign vessels without authorization in waters under the jurisdiction of another state, or which contravene its fishing laws and regulations in some other way – by disregarding fishing hours. or the existence of a state’s protected areas.
Ghana first received a yellow card from the EU in 2013, and this was lifted in 2015 following new legislation and a clear fisheries management plan. However, although these policies are well constructed, they were not implemented or enforced, which allowed the situation to deteriorate and led the European Commission to reissue a yellow card warning. Ghana is the second country to be re-carded in this way and must now work urgently to eradicate illegal fishing by vessels flying its flag and operating in its waters.