Mr Francis Ato Cudjoe, Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) said the New Patriotic Party (NPP) in its second term of office will continue to invest in the fisheries sector to ensure that the country derives the full benefits from the sector.
Speaking at a town hall engagement organised by the Centre for Coastal Management of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) for political parties in Accra, Mr Cudjoe said there would also be constant engagements with all stakeholders to safeguard the sector, which had proven to be critical in ensuring food security.
The dialogue sought to elicit from the political parties what they would do differently to address the current challenges facing the sector.
Mr Cudjoe, who represented the NPP at the town hall engagement with political parties on Fisheries and Coastal Management challenges in Ghana, said presently, plans were far advanced to acquire a fishery research vessel to aid in the proper data gathering on the ocean and related issues, adding that would be achieved by the close of 2021.
He said already, the government had also equipped the Naval and marine police to enable them to regularly patrol the country’s waters to weed out illegal foreign vessels.
He said government had also begun the construction of 12 landing sites and two harbours and had also invested heavily in infrastructure to aid in aquaculture development.
Ms Sherry Hanny Ayittey, a former Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, who represented the National Democratic Congress (NDC) called for the review of the country’s Fisheries Act, (Act 625, 2002) to conform with contemporary fishing standards and address underlying challenges.
She said the sector had witnessed drastic change since the act was promulgated 17 years ago but needed to be reviewed to make it more effective in addressing the contemporary challenges in the sector.
Ms Ayittey said reviewing the law and ensuring strict enforcement of it, particularly, the licensing regime, would ensure that vessel owners and operators adhered to best fishing practices and promote the growth and development of the sector.
Ms Ayitey said: “If you look at the Fisheries Act, all fishing vessels must be registered and all the licensing regime must know the owners of who operate on every vessel. Every vessel has to be insured and we must also ensure that they comply with the investment code under the Ghana Investment Promotion Center (GIPC).
“But as it is now we don’t enforce the act.”
This, she said, had resulted in illegal fishing vessels trawling the coast of the country’s waters thereby, depleting the fish stock and dwindling the sector.
The former Fisheries Minister said a next NDC government would among other things, slash the current licensing fee by 50 per cent to encourage vessel owners and operators to register their vessels, adding, that would ensure easy monitoring of all vessels on the country’s territorial waters to curb the illegal fishing activities.
On his part, Mr Bernard Mornah, the Chairman of the Peoples National Convention, called for the retooling of the Agricultural Development Bank (adb), to enable it to provide soft loans at low interest rates to fisher folks.
He said that would enable local fishermen to acquire and own their own fishing vessels to enhance their capacity to compete with foreign vessels.
“A PNC government will also regulate the industry to ensure that the right fishing gears and nets are used by the fishermen to allow the right size of fishes to be caught to control the depletion of the fish stock, Mr Mornah said.
Mr Osei Kofi Acquah, the National Youth Organiser of the Convention Peoples Party (CPP) also called for a permanent solution to the galamsey menace, to protect the country’s inland waters and improve on aquatic life.
“Therefore, a CPP government will take this issue very seriously. We are going to protect our territorial waters to ensure that only local fishermen have access to it,” he added.