The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Mr Moses Anim, has cautioned that the Ministry will not take it lightly with any civil society organisation (CSOs) that will publish a report on the sector without taking the inputs of the Ministry or its agencies.
According to him, it was unlawful for anyone to conduct a research on the fisheries sector without consulting or taking the inputs of the Ministry and the Fisheries Commission (FC).
He said some CSOs had been publishing reports on the sector which oftentimes did not reflect the true picture of the sector or the efforts of the Ministry and its agencies to the international community.
Sustainable Oceans Project launch
Mr Anim, who was speaking at a launch of a three-year project by four CSOs in Accra last Tuesday, February 7, 2023, said many of the reports by the CSOs had painted a gloomy picture of the Ghanaian fisheries sector to the international community, hence contributing to the country being flagged with a yellow card by the European Union (EU).
The project, dubbed: “Sustainable Oceans Project” and being funded by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation (NORAD), will be implemented by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Hen Mpoano, Friends of the Nation, and Central and Western Fishmongers Improvement Association (CEWEFIA).
The overall goal of the project is to build grassroots capacity for a sustainable ocean economy in Ghana through inclusive, strong and effective capacity building, planning and management of coastal ecosystems.
The launch brought the various interest groups in the fisheries sector, including officials from the Fisheries Commission, Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), Ghana Inshore Trawlers Association (GITA), Ghana National Canoe Fishermen’s Council-W/R (GNCFC), Ghana’s National Fish Processors & Traders Association, and government appointees from the Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Assemblies in some of the four coastal regions.
The Deputy Fisheries Minister said even though the Ministry was ever ready to work with any CSOs to help improve the country’s fisheries sector, it would not tolerate any CSOs whose intensions was to tarnish the image of the country’s fisheries sector.
“I am not happy, extremely not happy because some actions of the CSOs is trying to decimate the efforts some of us have made in bringing CSOs, the FC and the Ministry together to facilitate and collaborate,” he fumed.
He said “the fact is that hitherto, there had been some antagonism, misunderstanding in collaborating; suspicions and all…we’ve taken a lot of pain and efforts to ensure that the environment that they’re working should be so-cooperative and understanding.”
For Mr Anim, who is also the Member of Parliament (MP) for the Trobu Constituency in the Greater Accra region, Ghana is a sovereign country and therefore would not allow any CSOs to undermine the country without their invalidated reports.
“…Apart from the international laws that we all feed into, there is a country called Ghana, a sovereign country, an independent country. Therefore you cannot have a protocol that supersedes the laws of this country; you cannot. Whatever your protocols in reporting are, must emanate from the national laws and regulations of this country; you cannot have your own protocols and think that you can do anything so that our laws of this country become subservient to your protocol; it shouldn’t happen,” he indicated.
He explained that “Regulation 1968 Section 22 subsection 3 is very categorical that you cannot do anything and report on your own without the Fisheries Commission’s inputs and consultations.”
He added, “It is a criminal offence and there is a punitive action to it in the law; when you read subsection 6. We will begin to invoke this law, we will use this law because we have done everything possible to collaborate and make sure that whatever we take out to the international community is validated within before it gets out.”
Mr Anim said the Ministry was doing everything possible to ensure that it clamped down on illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing (IUU) practices in the country.
The Project Coordinator of EJF, Mr. Theophilus Boachie-Yiadom, said one of the key objectives of the project was to reduce fishery declines, build sustainability and secure fishers access to sustainable fisheries resources through governance reforms to address overcapacity (more fleets than expected) and illegal fishing, and enhance participatory co-management.
Additionally, he noted, the project was intended to improve income resilience of fishing communities to climate and human-induced threats through enhanced opportunities for value addition along fisheries supply chains and enterprise development.
For Mr. Boachie-Yiadom, the Sustainable Oceans Project would help to strengthen climate change adaptation and mitigation capacities in coastal areas through improved spatial and land use planning and community-led management of wetlands and mangrove ecosystems.
He explained that in the next three years of the project’s life-cycle, the project would engage small-scale fishers, clam collectors, processors and traders in the value chain across all the four coastal regions in the country.
He said over 5,000 artisanal fishers would be trained in fisheries management issues and also, over 600 processors would be engaged on value addition, hygienic handling of fish products and access to credit.
In addition, Mr. Boachie-Yiadom said, the project would build the capacity of over 50 officials from the Navy, Marine Police, prosecutors and judges with technical input from national legal experts to support effective enforcement of fisheries laws and good governance.
“The project will target land use planners at the Metropolitan, Municipals and District Assemblies (MMDAs) to incorporate mangrove protection into land-use plans; to build mangrove conservation into action plans including building the capacities of 160 traditional authorities and landowners,” he noted.
The Deputy Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, Kyrre Holm, said the launch of the project will provide valuable complementary activities to the already existing cooperation between “our countries and can advance efforts in Ghana towards participatory management of marine resources.”
For him, the goal of having a resilient and sustainable ocean economy in Ghana through inclusive, strong, and effective capacity, planning and management of coastal ecosystems was one that the government of Norway fully support.
He said Norway as an ocean nation was interested in assisting other coastal nations such as Ghana to address some of its challenges in the marine fisheries sector.
“So as coastal countries we have a responsibility to use the ocean’s resources in a sustainable and responsible manner, so that we and coming generations can benefit from it in the years to come,” Mr Holm noted.
For him, building grassroots capacity for sustainable ocean economy in Ghana is a crucial step towards ensuring that the benefits of the ocean economy are shared by all and that sustainable ocean practice are promoted.
The Chairperson for the occasion, Osabarimba Kwesi Atta II, the Paramount Chief of the Oguaa Traditional Area, urged all stakeholders in the fisheries sector to contribute their quota towards protecting the country’s fisheries economy.
“We are not taking proper care of the sea”, a situation he observed, existed due to the apathy in the management efforts of the marines and coastal resources in the country.