Illegal fishing linked to human rights violations in Ghana
Emmanuel Essien has been missing since July 2019.
Essien, a 28-year-old Ghanaian fishery observer, was working aboard the Chinese trawler Meng Xin 15 when he captured video of the crew doing saiko, a practice in which a catch is transferred from a trawler to a large canoe. The illegal catch is then sold to local communities for profit, but authorities are unable to trace the origin of the fish.
Two weeks after Essien took the video and reported to local authorities, he disappeared from his cabin on Meng Xin 15. According to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), a police report found no signs. of criminal act related to the disappearance of Essien.
But his family do not expect to see him again.
âThere were days when he came back and said he was worried,â his brother, Bernard Essien, told EJF. âThe job of an observer is to make sure they obey the laws. There were times when the ship’s officials got mad at him for doing this. They told him not to do it. He told me it was difficult. He wasn’t comfortable. He said it was dangerous work.
Flagrantly breaking the law
It’s no secret that illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing is rampant in Ghana and the Gulf of Guinea and that China – the world’s worst IUU offender, according to the Global Crime Initiative transnational organized – is the main culprit in West Africa. .
Foreign ownership of trawlers is illegal in Ghana, but Chinese trawlers use Ghanaian front companies to allow them to fish. According to EJF, Chinese companies finance around 90% of industrial trawlers in Ghana.
IUU fishing is so prevalent in Ghana that this year the country received a second yellow card from the European Union (EU), which determined that the country’s level of development and engagement against IUU fishing was insufficient.
With the saiko, foreign trawlers usually fish illegally in no-go areas and use illegal double-net systems to catch huge amounts of small fish. IUU fishing threatens the livelihoods of more than 2.7 million Ghanaians, according to the EJF, and populations of small pelagic fish, like sardinella, have fallen by 80% in the past two decades.
Analysts say there may soon be no more fish to catch. One species, the sardinella aurita, is already completely collapsed and without government intervention, “the complete collapse of the fishery is likely in less than a decade,” Max Schmid, EJF’s director of operations, told ADF in a report. email.
Since the EU’s yellow card was issued, Schmid has suggested that Ghana fully enforce its laws and introduce strong transparency measures to prevent vessels from registering and fishing illegally.
âTransparency is an inexpensive and very effective way to fight illegal fishing, improve accountability and support meaningful participation in decision-making,â said Schmid. âSimple steps Ghana can take today include the regular publication of lists of fishing licenses and penalties for illegal fishing – where the true ‘beneficiary’ owners are clear in either case. “
Human rights violations abound
Essien’s disappearance underscores the harsh reality of the dangers faced by Ghanaians who risk their lives for the brutal work and meager wages of foreign trawlers.
Fishing is one of the most dangerous occupations in the world, but Ghanaian workers anonymously told EJF that they commonly suffer from physical violence, lack of clean water, occasional 24-hour workdays and lack of medical treatment on board.
The EJF says it is imperative that fisheries-based businesses, including seafood importers in the EU and other markets, examine their supply chains to root out abuse and illegal fishing.
The EJF and the National Union of Seamen, Ports and Allied Workers have alerted the Ghana Fisheries Commission to human rights violations aboard foreign trawlers and are working to ensure fair labor contracts.
The Ghanaian government should take a ârights-based approachâ to fisheries management by prioritizing the needs of small-scale fishing communities who are often âmarginalized in decisions about their livelihoods,â Schmid said. This includes improving the sector by reducing fleet capacities, reforming subsidies, adopting key international treaties and developing alternative employment opportunities for people working in the fishing industry.
âEach of these steps would not only deal with IUU and sustainable fishing, but would also help prevent human rights violations,â Schmid said.
Written by Africa Defense Forum and republished with permission. The original article can be found here.