The Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission, Michael Arthur-Dadzie, says it is currently impossible for Ghana to implement the fishing closed season for all fleets at the same time.
He said the different periods of closed seasons for the various vessels would have to be accepted over a long time due to the nature of fishing seasons.
Mr. Arthur-Dadzie said this at the opening of a five-day workshop on fisheries management for journalists, which was held at Gomoa Okyereko, near Winneba in the Central Region.
It was organised by the Centre for Coastal Management (CCM) and University of Cape Coast (UCC), in collaboration with Nature Today Ghana, a non-profit organisation focused on the effective use of natural resources.
The USAID in 2015 agreed to fund the CCM-UCC to build capacities of key stakeholders, including the training of fisheries scientists, to help manage the dwindling fisheries resources, especially the small pelagic and the sardinellas.
The Scientific and Technical Working Group of the USAID – Sustainable Fisheries Management Project – had earlier called for the closed season to be made mandatory at the same time for all fishing fleets operating in Ghana’s waters.
However, Mr. Arthur-Dadzie explained that that was not feasible because the trawler industry, which was mainly for the harvesting of tuna, was governed and regulated by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT), established in 1969.
It was responsible for the conservation of tunas and tuna-like species in the Atlantic Ocean and its adjacent seas.
The ICCAT had designated January and February as the closed season for tuna because of their migratory nature and also based on their spawning period.
“Tuna is regulated differently. So we cannot shift the closed season for tuna from January-February”.
He said the 2019, closed season for artisanal fishermen was observed in May-June based on a demand-driven approach where the fisher-folks were allowed to decide which month they deemed was best to close the season due to earlier agitation on the announcements of the close season by the regulators.
“Of course when the season was over some were looking at whether there is bumper harvest but we were looking at the sustainable nature of it… going forward… was it the right time, how do we engage them to make the necessary adjustment… .”
Mr. Arthur-Dadzie said during the season, some scientists were asked to collect data, which the Ministry intended to present to the fishers and “let them know that we did not get the maximum results because the timing was not correct and we can readjust the timing together with them”.
Over the past two decades, Ghana’s fisheries sector had seen a massive decline with experts attributing the situation to weak sector governance.
An estimated 14,000 artisanal canoes, 80 Ghanaian flagged trawlers and 300 semi-industrial boats are said to be on Ghana’s waters and although fishing is very high, the catch had been extremely low.
Authorities said the fishing closed season is expected to reverse the trend and revamp the fishing sector.
Mr. Arthur-Dadzie said managing the fisheries sector demanded a collective responsibility to ensuring that “our resources are protected not only for our generation but for the future generations as well.”
He, therefore, urged the media to keep following up on the issues and informing stakeholders, including fishermen, fish processors/traders and boat owners on best fishing practices to save the sector from collapsing.