The European Union(EU) says it is poised to giving the required support to the fisheries sector in a bid to contribute to food security, nutrition and improvement in the livelihoods of fishing communities in Ghana.
To this end, the EU has rolled out certain mechanisms to combat all forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in the country under its Far Ban Bo (Protecting Fisheries Livelihoods) Project.
The Project is being implemented by a consortium of Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) namely Care International, Friends of the Nation (FoN) and OXFAM, with funding from the EU.
Mr Roberto Schiliro, the Head of Sector Infrastructure and Sustainable Development of the EU, said this during a durbar of fishers, fishmongers, fisheries enforcement units, NGOs and traditional rulers at Dixcove and Anomabo in the Western and Central regions respectively.
The durbar, which formed part of a three-day verification visit to the two regions, coincided with the World Fisheries Day celebration at Dixcove, under the theme: "Combating Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing - The Role of Stakeholders.”
Mr Schiliro said the importance of the fisheries sector to the Ghanaian economy could not be over-emphasised with the benefits including food security, nutrition, employment, income, foreign exchange and support to families.
He, however, said the fisheries sector was undergoing some challenges, which were contributing to the gradual decline of the sector resulting in low landings thereby increasing poverty of coastal fishing communities.
He noted with grave concern that; "Too many fishing vessels with unrestricted access, weak governance among others, are some factors which account for the decline".
Mr Schiliro said concerns have been raised over weak enforcement of fisheries laws and low compliance, fishers’ use of unsustainable and harmful fishing methods contributing to overfishing and degradation of critical coastal fisheries habitats.
He reminded government that although the European Commission had revoked the "yellow card" showed Ghana in 2013 as a result of her commitment to addressing the issue of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities, more needed to be done to ensure sound management and good governance practices to rebuild the declining marine fish stocks.
The Programmes Manager of FoN, Mr Kojo Kyei Yamoah, disclosed that it was the intention of the consortium under the EU Four-year funded project to document and secure landing sites for fishing communities in the country.
He said land for fishing activities were being encroached upon hence the need to assist the communities to go through the land title registration process to make their projects sustainable.
Mr Yamoah used the occasion to entreat fishing communities to allow the fingerlings in the sea to grow to increase the fish stock to boost the local economy.
He condemned illegal fishing activities such as light fishing, small fishing nets, pair trawling, usage of dynamite and huge vessels and stressed the need for co-management and local compliance to stem the tide.
Mr Yamoah charged chief fishermen to ensure that all forms of illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities in their areas of jurisdiction were nibbed in the bud.
He appealed to the EU to partner the Government to fashion out modalities for a successful closed season in 2019.
Obrempong Hema Denkyi XIV, the Paramount Chief of Upper Dixcove, thanked the EU and the consortium of NGOs for protecting the livelihoods of fisherfolks.
He noted that illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities (IUU) had become a global threat to fisheries leading to the massive decline of fish stock in Ghana, thereby affecting the more than three million Ghanaians whose livelihoods depend on fishing.
Obrempong Denkyi used the occasion to remind all stakeholders in sustainable fishing to build their synergies to effectively address the challenges in the fisheries sector.
He urged the IUU and Community Monitoring Groups to support the fisheries enforcement units with evidence gathering of infractions to ensure successful prosecution of offenders.
Nana Denkyi encouraged the EU and the project partners to continue to involve the traditional authorities in addressing challenges confronting the fisheries sector.
The Chief Fisherman of Upper Dixcove, Nana Kwaku Dadzie, tasked the Fisheries Commission and chief fishermen in the country to redouble their efforts to stem the tide in the depletion of the fish stock.
The Paramount Chief of Lower Dixcove, Nana Akwasi Agyeman IX,
underscored the need for a common platform for the Government to engage fishing communities early enough to tackle the closed season for next year.