A National Fisheries dialogue, aimed at creating a platform for stakeholders to make recommendation on effective ways of implementing the country’s newly approved National Marine Fisheries Management Plan, has been held in Cape Coast.
The three day event, on the theme, “Rebuilding Ghana’s Marine Fish Stocks; Challenges and the way forward”, brought together various stakeholders from academia, government, food security Organisations and various fishing associations.
It was organised by the Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), a USAID-Funded food security programme, in collaboration with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquatic Development (MOFAD) and the Fisheries Commission.
The five year plan, which began this year, would provide a strategic framework for reversing the declining trend of fish resources and establish a sound management regime to ensure that fish stocks were exploited sustainably in an enhanced environment.
One of its management interventions is the “closed season,” which places ban on fishing to decrease pressure on the stocks and allow fish to spawn during spawning season and recruit back in the marine environment.
Speaking at the official opening of the dialogue on Tuesday, Ms. Sherry Ayittey, the sector Minster, noted that a bottom-up approach, which involves the tapping of knowledge and skills of the fisher folks would contribute to a comprehensive management plan.
A multi-sectorial effort, she said, was also needed since the transport, petroleum and energy, and telecommunication sectors also contributed to the pollution of the sea, hinting that various bills including the Marine Pollution Bill, to check their activities were currently before parliament.
Ms Ayittey indicated the need to check how mining companies managed their affluence into the river bodies, since the rivers eventually flowed into the sea.
She expressed concern about how refuse, dumped indiscriminately at coastal communities, landed at the beach and into the sea after rainfall.
Scientific data disclosed at a recent meeting in Chili revealed that a lot of fishes were currently feeding on plastics, which find their way into the sea, posing serious health implications to consumers.
Ms Ayittey said the Ministry was collaborating with chief fishermen in the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, adding that the Ministry would continue imposing fines on offenders to deter others.
In addition to the closed season option, she suggested that there must also be protected marine zones as well as protected water bodies in the forest reserve, all in the bid to reverse some of the damage done.
She indicated the need for the creation of social intervention programmes in the coastal communities and capacity building initiatives so that during closed seasons, the fishermen would be engaged in other activities such as salt production and tourism.
Ms Ayittey expressed gratitude to the USAID and World Bank for the financial support towards saving the fisheries sector and urged all stakeholders to play their respective roles to preserve the ocean for posterity.
The Central Regional Minister, Mr. Aquinas Tawiah Quansah stated that efforts were being made to create more avenues for more youth to go into aquaculture and had therefore tasked the School of Aquatic Science of the University of Cape Coast, to identify suitable water bodies.
He appealed to the fisher-folk to desist from illegal methods of fishing and other activities that contributed to the decline of fish stock, and report perpetrators to appropriate authorities.
Mrs. Emelia Abakah- Aidoo, Vice President of the National Fish Processors and Traders Association, called for the elimination of political interference at all levels of fisheries related issues.
She also observed that there was lack of commitment to impose the fisheries laws at institutional and community levels.
She tasked authorities to institute watch dog committees at various fishing communities to check illegal fishing.