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Register canoes biometrically before end of 2020: Parliament to MoFAD

By: Maclean Kwofi

All canoes fishing within the country's territorial waters must be registered biometrically before the end of the year, the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food and Agriculture, has said.

As a result, the committee tasked the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) to ensure the completion of its biometric canoe identification exercise within the 2020 fiscal year.

The exercise, the committee said when completed, would help provide data on the number of canoes on the country's seas and the amount of premix fuel that would be needed for their operations.

"It will also help in tracking diversion of premix fuel in the country," the committee said that when the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development appeared before it to justify its 2019 budget estimates.

Dwindling fish stock

Scientific experts and international stakeholders such as the European Union (EU) and Friends of the Nation have warned that Ghana’s fishing sector will collapse if drastic measures are not taken to salvage the situation.

In 2018, the Scientific and Technical Working Group for Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) warned that the spate of depletion of Ghana’s fish stock would defeat the goals towards food security, economic growth and poverty reduction, especially in fishing communities.

Friends of the Nation, in collaboration with CARE and Oxfam in Ghana, is the implementer of Far Ban Bo, a fisheries governance project funded by the European Union.

It is designed to help address the challenges of overfishing and unsustainable fishing practices, including illegal, unreported and unprotected fishing, low compliance and weak capacity for law enforcement within the sector.

This caution has been reiterated by the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mrs Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, who has given an assurance that her ministry will do all it can to reverse the trend.

As a result, the ministry, among other measures, instituted the closed season strategy in fishing about a year ago to help replenish the fish stock and save the industry.

The new measure is the development of the canoe identification card initiative.

The aim of the card, which has unique response codes readable with a mobile phone application, is to restrict and regulate access to the country’s fishery resources and also manage the sector as a whole.

The card, which bears the name of the canoe, owner, canoe number, length and gear type, will also ensure the Fisheries Commission and fishers, thus the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, to work hand-in-hand to ensure sustainability and profitability of the sector.

Illegal exploitation

The committee observed that the canoe biometric registration would help stop illegal exploitation of Ghana’s fish stock.

“To enhance and recover Ghana’s marine stocks, a biometric canoe identification registration has been launched. The registration is expected to enhance the distribution of premix fuel in the fishing communities.

“The committee lauds the ministry for the initiative since it will provide data on the number of canoes on our seas and the amount of premix fuel that will be needed for their operations,” the committee said.

The committee, therefore, appealed to canoe owners to comply with the exercise to enable the country to develop a comprehensive data on the number of canoes on its seas.