Closed season alone is not a panacea to Ghana’s fisheries challenges
The Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association, Richster Nii Armah Amarfio, has called for a more extensive and holistic approach to Ghana’s fisheries management to conserve the declining stock.
In an interaction with the public on the Eye on Port program, Mr. Amarfio said while the closed season practice is necessary, it will not by itself achieve the objective of conserving the country’s rapidly declining fish stock.
He said the Ghana Fisheries sector suffers from a myriad of challenges including overfishing, illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, pollution of marine and inland water bodies, climate change among others, and closed season alone is not the absolute remedy.
“Close season only deals with only one issue and tries to ameliorate the issues that come with recruitment overfishing and growth overfishing,” Mr. Amarfio articulated.
The Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association averred that, Ghana’s fisheries management should be science-driven and as such a lot of investment into research should be done.
He called for research and investment into mariculture, which is the cultivation, management, and harvesting of marine organisms in their natural environment.
The fisheries expert said mariculture has become even more necessary due to the fact that Ghana’s demand far outweighs local production despite the reality of overfishing.
“Ghana is highest consuming when it comes to Africa and one of the highest in the world,” he stated.
According to Mr. Amarfio, “we have basically destroyed all our inland water contributions to fisheries because we have destroyed their habitats making us solely dependent on marine fisheries and the sea is also getting dried.”
He said one function of an effective maritime culture in Ghana will be the establishment of closed areas or marine protected areas where those areas will be designated for cultivation of fish.
He continued saying that a proper mariculture will identify and protect resting zones for fish species during migration which serve as favorable areas for spawning.
He said fisheries observers should be empowered in training and remuneration to be able to perform the research function of their jobs.
“In certain jurisdictions their fisheries observers are scientists as well and they have an appreciation of geographical information system (GIS) and geographical positioning system (GPS). You will find out that when they are on the trawl vessels, and they identify that a catch has too many juveniles in there, they are able communicate this development and the area is mapped out and closed for a period for observation.”
The Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association said it is crucial for government to acquire research vessels to support a science-driven fisheries management regime for Ghana.
He said this would also aid accurate findings that reflect marine dynamics and fish stock behaviors in the aftermath of initiatives such as closed season.
“If you do not rely on vessels, it is difficult. We have 70plus trawl vessels, about 15,000 canoes, some tuna and in-shore vessels, so if you pick your samples after they have been harvested, you would not be able the ascertain what you’re looking for. To do a proper stock assessment you should be able to assess a population of fish within a community. For instance, if a canoe from Tema goes to fish in Ada and lands its fish in Tema, picking that as a sample from Tema will not be representative of where the fish was harvested,” he explained.
To Richster Nii Armah Amarfio, it is far less expensive now to acquire these vessels that would be used by the state fisheries agencies and universities than pay the cost of ineffective fisheries management in future.
The Secretary for the Ghana Tuna Association also called for the institution of deliberate policies that would lead to a sustainable retirement plan for aging fishermen.
He also called for a deliberate educational plan that would put the youth in fishing communities in schools and offer alternative vocations for them.
According to Mr. Amarfio, these two interventions will in the long term deal with the problem of overcapacity of the human resource in Ghana’s fisheries sector.
He said fish is key to livelihoods, dietary, pharmaceutical, and ecological needs of coastal states, including Ghana, and therefore should be treated with the utmost attention.
The Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association said while the creation of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development is a step in the right direction, there remains much more work to be done for Ghana Fisheries.