A Communications specialist at the West African Fisheries Programme (WAFP), Mr Bright Yeboah, has called on all stakeholders in the fisheries industry to ensure strict compliance with the proposed closed season for fishing activities.
The enforcement of the temporary team begins from August next year.
He explained that enforcing the closed season period by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) would help increase the yearly fish landings from the 19,608 tons recorded last year to about 90,000 tonnes each year by 2030 with an estimated value of GH¢270 million annually.
Mr Yeboah, whose organisation is focused on improving the sustainable management of fish and aquatic resources in West Africa, was speaking in an interview with the GRAPHIC BUSINESS on measures needed to save the fisheries industry from total collapse.
In the absence of the ban, Mr Yeboah said when fishes came together to spawn in August, fishermen encircle and catch the entire shoal breeding, often killing pregnant mother fishes with a single potential of dropping over 25,000 eggs.
The capture of such fishes, he said threatened the economic growth of the fisheries industry and also threatened the source of livelihoods for up to 500,000 people directly involved in the industry.
Meanwhile, with the current fishing conditions in place, the country is likely to run out of small pelagic fishes that form about 80 per cent of the total fish stock by 2020.
Research by the Science and Technical Working Group (STWG) at the MoFAD, last year, revealed that the industry could completely collapse by 2020 if all year fishing continues.
“The small pelagic resources, particularly sardinella are on the verge of extinct. Annual landings have been on the decline for more than a decade as fishing efforts have increased.”
“This drastic decline in landings is due primarily to overfishing and overcapacity of the fishing fleet. Fishing pressure is driven largely by the artisanal fleet operating under open access rules, using bigger and more efficient fishing gear and technologies,” the report said.
Already, total landings of edible pelagic fishes, also known as “the people’s fish” on the country’s shores have decreased by 86 per cent from 138,955 tonnes in 1996 to 19,608 tonnes in 2017.
Pelagic fishes such as salmon, tuna and herrings live in the pelagic zone of the ocean, being neither close to the bottom nor near the shore in contrast with demersal fish which do live on or near the bottom, and reef fish which are associated with coral reefs.
Pelagic fish make up to 80 per cent of the total marine fish caught and landed in Ghana and directly employs 150,000 canoe fishers, 30,000 fish processors and an estimated 2.7 million people across the value chain.
Beyond sustaining the local fisheries industry, studies have shown that the nutrients and minerals in fish, and particularly the omega-3 fatty acids found in pelagic fishes are heart-friendly and can make improvements in brain development and reproduction. This has highlighted the role for fish in the functionality of the human body.