You judged wrongly - Fisheries Commission disputes claims that majority of trawlers are Chinese-owned
Nine out of every 10 fishing trawlers operating in the country are beneficially owned by Chinese corporations, a research into Ghana’s marine resources has claimed.
Although the country’s laws prohibit such arrangements of foreign companies owning or controlling trawlers that fly Ghana’s flags, the situation has persisted, reports Graphic Online.
The study also found that the foreign owners usually operate through local front companies using opaque corporate structures to import their vessels, which they registered and with which they obtain the licenses to operate.
An estimated $14.4 million and $23.7 million is believed to be lost annually in the trawl sector due to low license fees.
Also, the lack of enforcement of revenue for fisheries-related infringements has contributed to such loses, the report stated.
Meanwhile, the Fisheries Commission has disputed the findings of the study conducted by a non-governmental organization based in the UK, called the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), describing it as “unfortunate.”
Also, the Commission has said that the claims that an estimated 90 per cent of trawlers operating in the country have Chinese owners behind them are not accurate.
According to the graphic.com.gh report, the EJF, an organization that supports countries in sustainable fishing and marine activities, presented its findings during a roundtable discussion in Accra, titled: “At what cost? How Ghana is losing out in fishing arrangements with China’s distant water fleet”.
The meeting was attended by key players in the industry including representatives of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA), the National Fisheries Association of Ghana, the Economic and Organised Crimes Office (EOCO) and Transparency International.
Findings from the report showed that eight Chinese companies beneficially owned industrial trawlers operating under the Ghana flag, accounting for 75% of the trawlers that were licensed to operate as fishing trawlers on Ghana’s seas.
Socrates Segbor, the Fisheries Programmes Manager of the EJF, who presented the findings, said two companies were found to be particularly dominant in the sector, accounting for 44 per cent of licensed vessels as of the end of 2019.
The report added that each of them had a fleet of about 20 bottom trawlers operating under the Ghana flag.
But the Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission, Mr Michael Arthur-Dadzie, has disagreed, insisting that Ghana’s waters have no foreign vessels fishing in them.
“Licensing is not owned by foreigners,” he said, adding that one could therefore not say vessels fishing in the country’s waters were foreign vessels.
Besides, he said, many Ghanaians do not have the means to buy vessels outright and, therefore, there was the need for them to go into hire purchase agreement with some foreigners to bring in the vessels, perhaps explaining the situation.
“Under the trawl sector, Ghanaians are the holders of the licenses. It will be unfortunate to say foreign vessels are in Ghana’s waters,” he explained.