Ghana steps up the fight against illegal fishing practices. (Photo: Ghana Fisheries Enforcement Unit)
Alleged saiko canoe seizure shows Ghanaian Govt’s efforts to stop the practice
Friday, August 10, 2018, 01:30 (GMT + 9)
As part of the efforts made by the Ghanaian Government to crack down on the practice for industrial trawlers to sell fish to local canoes at sea (saiko), an alleged saiko canoe was intercepted this week.
The vessel, which was loaded with tonnes of frozen fish, was seized by the country’s Fisheries Enforcement Unit intercepted and its owner and crew have been arrested and taken in for questioning.
In this regard, the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and local NGO Hen Mpoano deem that suitably deterrent sanctions must follow, which must be imposed not only on the saiko canoe owner, but also on the operators and owners of the industrial trawl vessel that caught the fish.
“This is essential work on the part of the Ghanaian government and follows the positive steps already taken this year to stop saiko, such as placing observers on vessels” says EJF Deputy Director Max Schmid.
“(...) All trawlers are now subject to satellite monitoring, with human observers also present. Along with information from the owner and crew of the saiko canoe, it will be possible to identify the industrial vessel and to hold those responsible to account,” Schmid adds.
The NGO states that the practice puts industrial fishing vessels in direct competition with small-scale fishers for catches of species such as sardinella that are a staple food for local communities and that after having effectively ‘stolen’ fish from canoe fishers, saiko operators sell these back to the same fishing communities for profit.
EFJ stresses that images taken by the Fisheries Enforcement Unit reveal the sheer volume of fish that may be transported in a saiko canoe – an average saiko trip lands 26 tonnes of fish, the equivalent of around 400 traditional ‘artisanal’ canoe trips. The photos also show that many of the fish intercepted in yesterday’s enforcement action appear to be juveniles – often true for saiko catches – which undermines the ability of the fish stocks to recover from overfishing.
EJF and Hen Mpoano urge the authorities to be fully transparent in the conduct of this case, and to ensure that the outcome, including the sanctions imposed and the amount paid, are published on the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development website.
“Sanctions must be no less than the minimum specified in the legislation, regardless of whether the case is settled in or out of court, and should include the cancellation of licences where repeat offences are detected,” says Director of Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah. “Only then will they act as a true deterrent for potential offenders.”
According to EFJ, this case is a crucial opportunity for the government to demonstrate that engaging in illegal and destructive fishing practices in Ghana’s waters will not be tolerated.
EJF and Hen Mpoano recommend that the government issues a firm statement to this effect and that the ban on saiko is upheld during the ongoing reform of the Fisheries Act.
Official statistics show that saiko accounted for an estimated 100,000 tonnes of illegal and unreported catches in 2017, with an estimated landed value of USD 34-65 million.