Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners Association of Ghana had described the Fisheries Ministry’s decision to suspend supply of premix fuel to four fishing communities in the Central Region as selective enforcement of laws on illegal fishing.
It said such an enforcement approach was unsustainable and would not help efforts to solve the problems in the sector and called for a more comprehensive approach to address the issues in the fisheries sector.
The National Premix Fuel Secretariat issued a statement indicating the suspension of premix fuel to British Komenda, Dago, Abandze, and Moree for their engagement in light fishing and other illegal fishing practices.
In the directives to the Chief Executives of the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abirem (KEEA), Abura-Asebu-Kwamankese, Mfantsiman, and the Gomoa West Municipal/District Assemblies, the secretariat explained that: “Light fishing and other illegal fishing activities perpetrated by fishermen.
“This is seriously viewed by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MOFAD) and its agencies, because of its negative impacts on marine stock and industry growth.
“The National Premix Fuel Secretariat and, indeed, MOFAD is aware that premix fuel, which is subsidised by the government, is regrettably used to fuel generators for the illicit practice of light fishing.”, the statement added.
However, reacting to the decision by the Ministry, Chairman of the Canoe and Fishing Gear Owners Association of Ghana, Nana Kweigya said the fight against illegal fishing was haphazardly being implemented, stressing that other illegalities including the use of monofilament nets and undersized nets were going on in many other communities.
“The Ministry during the closed season said all IUU will be stopped and they specified the use of monofilament newts, use of undersized nets, the use of explosives, and light fishing. These were the four key forms of IUU that were mentioned at length”.
“When fishing resumed, fishermen using monofilament nets are allowed to fish, those using undersized nets are also allowed to fish and now the attention is on only those using light fishing”.
“So clearly, selective enforcement is being displaced. And once you do selective enforcement, it will not be successful”, he added.
Nana Kweigya expressed the conviction that the Ministry was only using smaller, less agitative communities as scapegoats while the major culprit communities were being spared.
According to him, there were notable communities where light fishing went on unabated but had not been suspended and reiterated the point that the affected communities were being victimized.
“There is no fishing community in Ghana where there is no illegality. In every fishing community, there is one form of illegality or the other. For what reason are these communities selected as culprits,” he queried.
Nana Kweigya expressed the willingness of the fishermen to support efforts to rebuild the fishery stocks but stated that it was important for the Ministry to meet with all stakeholders to seek general compliance.
“We believe that looking at the nature of our fisheries and the issue of livelihoods and the fact that there is unhealthy competition in the industry that is driving artisanal fishers out of business”.
“There is the need for us to sit down and have a comprehensive plan and strategy that will not focus only on enforcement but rather on compliance, because to us, enforcement is expensive and unsustainable”, he stated.