Civil society organizations, unions, and associations working to secure safe, sustainable, and equitable fisheries in Ghana have written to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development seeking clarity on the potential authorization of two industrial trawlers in Ghanaian waters.
The move follows the circulation of a letter purportedly detailing a request by DUMA FARMS AND FISHERIES LTD. that the vessels SHUN FENG 906 and SHUN FENG 907 have been granted licenses pending approval by the Fisheries Minister and the Ghana Maritime Authority.
The organisations say they are gravely concerned at the prospect of additional capacity being added to the trawl sector, given that populations of several vital species in Ghana’s waters are already on the brink of collapse.
These include small pelagics such as sardinella and chub mackerel, which are the lifeblood of coastal communities across the country – providing vital food and livelihood security to millions nationwide.
They aver that the worsening ecological and humanitarian crises across Ghana’s coastline are inextricably linked to the presence of poorly regulated foreign industrial trawlers, who have frequently been recorded capturing non-target species, making incursions into fishing zones reserved for canoes, and using illegal gears to reduce the selectivity of catch.
The letter by the CSOs states that to grant two additional licenses would be in direct contradiction to the approved draft of the Marine Fisheries Management Plan 2022-2026 (MFMP), in which a three-year moratorium on new entrants to the trawl sector has been proposed in recognition of the overfishing crisis that currently characterizes the fishery.
They contend that as a group of stakeholders, many of whom have participated tirelessly in the process of drafting this plan, they wish to make clear that a breach of the proposed moratorium would strike a considerable blow to the trust that is so vital in the design and implementation of effective fisheries governance.
Furthermore, they intimate that it is their understanding that due to issues with documentation, the two vessels have been temporarily refused access to the port of Tema.
“We urge the Minister if she has not done so already, to undertake a thorough due diligence process – including on issues of ownership, flagging behaviours, and previous license acquisitions. It is our belief that the nationality of the beneficial owners may fall outside of Ghana, which would constitute a breach of Section 47(1) of the Ghanaian Fisheries Act, 2002. For the avoidance of doubt, Section 47(1) stipulates that: “a local industrial or semi-industrial fishing vessel is a fishing vessel
(a) Owned or controlled by a citizen, the Government, or owned or controlled by a company or partnership registered by law in the Republic which has its principal place of business in the Republic and the share of which is beneficially owned wholly by the Government, a citizen, a public corporation established by law in the Republic or a combination of any of them”.
They implored the minister and her colleagues to abide by pledges made in the MFMP to prevent the continued exploitation of Ghana’s precious natural resources, thereby showing their determination in the fight to protect marine ecosystems and the coastal communities who rely so heavily on them.
The CEO of Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Steve Trent; Fisheries Programme Manager, CERATH Development Organisation, Derek Adabie; Executive Director, Friends of the Nation (FoN), Donkris Mevuta; Centre Manager, DAA Fisheries Training Centre, Emelia Edwina Nortey; General Secretary, National Union of Seamen, Ports and Allied Workers (NUSPAW), Isaac Impraim and the National Coordinator, KASA Initiative Ghana, Jonathan Gokah.
The rest are the Executive Director, Hen Mpoano (HM), Kofi Agbogah; Executive Director, Development Action Association (DAA), Lydia Sasu; National President, Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners Association of Ghana (CaFGOAG), Nana Kweigyah, and the Project Manager, CEWEFIA Nicholas Smith.