The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Hawa Koomson says her outfit is pushing for an amendment of the Fisheries Act to offer at least 3-months mandatory imprisonment term for illegal fishing culprits instead of fines to serve as a deterrent to fishermen engaging in such activities.
The Fisheries Minister who said this explained that the measure has become necessary since the unreported illegality is still ongoing.
“We observed the close season for artisanal fishermen for one month, which was from 1st July to 1st of August 2022. We can all attest to the fact that we are gradually recovering the depleted fish that we’ve lost in our seas. Most of the fisher folks are talking about bumper harvest after the close season. We still have issues with them. They are still doing Illegal unreported fishing activities, and we think it is not good. Even today, I’m told that, in one of the fishing communities, they are using dynamite to blast the fish. What do we gain from this? I want to use this opportunity to plead with them that they should stop those activities because we will not hesitate to arrest them and prosecute them as well.”
“We would have discussions and make sure it is also going to be part of our laws that when you are found engaging in illegal fishing and arrested you have to be imprisoned at least for three months or 6-months maximum, and that may serve as a deterrent for others. That is some of the measures we are taking,” she said.
Hawa Koomson speaking in an interview with Citi News in Takoradi during the distribution of fishing close-season relief items to fishermen in the Western Region said if the illegal fishing practices continue, the Ministry will also withdraw all close-season relief support.
“We have deep freezers, wire mesh and basins for fishermen for the close season. In fact, this is what we gave to all the four regions, but this one was delayed because I had to travel to India for other issues, so I’m now giving theirs to them. So they are also benefiting from the deep freezers, the wire mesh and the basins since they already benefited from the rice distribution.”
“The deep freezers are more than 200, 1,700 basins and 570 pieces of wire mesh…I also told them that if they continue doing the illegal fishing, then we can not also come out to support them with the relief items that we’ve been giving them all these years. You can see the kind of items we are having here, so if government will spend money to get you all these items, and then at the end of the day you still go back and do your own things, things that are not healthy for the sea, then why do we continue to support you? We will have to stop it“, she added.
The Acting President of the National Canoe Fisherman Association, Joe Duncan, while appreciating the Ministry’s support for fishermen, called for fishermen to be responsible in their trade.
“It’s about time fishermen lived up to their word. We are always saying no to bad fishing, we promise that this time around we will fish responsibly, but what happens? Right now most of the landing beaches are engaging in light fishing which the law clearly frowns on, and it’s the minister’s frustration. So we are appealing to fishers that they should report cases of illegalities and report premix smuggling.”
Ghana’s Fisheries Ministry says it has already had fruitful discussions with its counterpart Ministry in Ivory Coast to join Ghana to have a synchronized fishing closed season in the near future for a wider fisheries stock replenishment.