NEWS COMMENTARY ON THE LIFTING OF THE BAN ON FISHING
At long last the month-long ban or closed season for artisanal fishing is over and our in-shore fisherman have begun plying their trade. This will positively affect all workers in the fishing industry including fish mongers and women who smoke fish for sale. The ban was placed to help save some species of fish such as mackerel, anchovies and sardinellas which are threatened by extinction due to poor fishing practices. The closed season was initially scheduled to take effect in 2018 but was postponed to 2019 following concerns expressed by players in the industry. Unlike the previous year, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development engaged stakeholders and consulted widely before imposing the ban. The closed season is practiced in many fisheries’ management jurisdiction as one of the measures to improve fishery resources and ensure the regeneration of the country’s fast depleting fish stock. With the enforcement of the closed season, Ghana has joined the host of countries including Thailand and Philippines which at a particular time imposes a ban on fishing. These countries attest to the fact that it helps to improve the fishery resources and reduces excessive pressure on the fish stock while allowing gravid fish to spawn in the peak season.
The fishery industry contributes significantly to the national economy employing about 10 percent of the country’s population. Ghana is among high consumers of fish globally accounting for close to 25 kilograms of fish per person annually. It contributes about one billion dollars each year representing about one-point one percent of the country’s GDP. Fish is a major source of animal protein and is livelihood to about two point nine million people employed directly or indirectly. This, makes it imperative for the country to safeguard the industry. It is early days yet to assess the impact of the closed season on the industry but if reports from areas like Winneba, some parts of Accra and Sekondi-Takoradi about bumper harvest of fish is anything to go by, then, we must commend the sector Ministry for a pragmatic decision. However, the toil and suffering that the fishers and fishmongers went through during the period of closure, must signal the authorities to find an alternative source of livelihood for the fishers before placing the ban next year. It would not be out of place to secure loans for these vulnerable groups of people to fend for themselves in anticipation of them paying back when the ban is lifted, after all that period will be a harvesting period for them. The Artisanal fishermen must learn lessons from the difficulties they went through to save money in anticipation of the closed season. With the lifting of the ban on fishing, government must ensure regular supply of premix fuel and fishing gears to the fishermen so they can make meaning out of the closed season. Fishermen must desist from illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing. Through that, they can be assured of fish all year round.
Sustainable management of the country’s fishery resources is the way to go else we live to regret. It is good government has embarked on projects to establish landing beaches at most shores. These must be expedited to win the trust of the fishermen. During the period of the ban, people patronise what had been preserved in cold stores. This makes it imperative for the establishment of more of these stores to help store some of the fish in the time of bumper harvest. Biblically we are told God used six days for creation and rested on the seventh day. As human as we are, we also need some time off to rest and hope the closed season served that purpose for fishers. Let us sustain the closed season concept to allow the fish stock to replenish. Our fishermen deserve tons of commendation for cooperating with the Ministry of Fisheries and Aqua Cultural Development to ensure the success of the ban. There should not be any turning back on the path to ensuring sustenance of our fishing environment.
BY: JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST.