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Closed sea implementation: Nets catch more fishes, stakeholders want unconditional cash transfers

Stakeholders in the fisheries sub sector have expressed optimism that the annual fishing closed season strategy will spur the achievement of the desired long-term objective of replenishing marine fish stock.

According to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), the country’s fish stock has been depleted by up to 60 per cent in recent years, threatening the livelihoods of thousands of fishermen and fishmongers

They explained that the benefits of the closed season would be reaped after years of effective implementation.

However, the fishing community is calling for more alternative livelihood support, including unconditional cash transfers to affected fishers.

They also want data collection on fishers’ dependence on fisheries and adequate consultation to promote ownership.

Voluntary Compliance

They also advocate alternative and supplementary livelihood activities to make artisanal fishers earn income on part-time basis during the fishing closed season.

Survey

An assessment after the 2022 closed season showed an improvement in fish catch.

Data gathered as part of a study in 2022 showed that prior to the closed season, catch of round sardinella moved from an average 239.9 kilogramme per trip to 287.2kg per trip.

An average catch for anchovy also moved from 269.3kg per trip, before the season, to 400.3kg per trip, after the season.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) and the Fisheries Commission had been implementing the fishing closed season since 2016.

The fishing closed season is observed annually between July 1 and July 31 for canoe and inshore fishers, and July 1 and August 31 for industrial trawlers.

During this period, the ministry in collaboration with the Fisheries Commission ensures that fishers stop fishing activities as part of stringent mechanisms to reduce overexploitation of fish resources. During the period, fishing vessels and gear are idle, and fishers engage in alternative livelihoods or maintenance activities.

The measure which is in line with Section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2022 (Act 625) is also expected to help replenish fish stock in the country’s marine waters.

Need for closed season
The closed fishing season, also known as the biological rest period, is when fishing activities are restricted or prohibited to allow fish populations to replenish for sustainable fishing.

The conservation measure imposed during the spawning period of fishes when they are most productive aims to prevent overfishing, protect marine ecosystems and ensure the long-term health of fish stock.

Scientific advice
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), Mavis Hawa Koomson, told the Daily Graphic that the approved dates were based on scientific advice, and in consultation with various fishery associations such as the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, the National Fisheries Association of Ghana, the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association and the Ghana In-shore.

The measure which is in line with Section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2022 (Act 625) is also expected to help replenish fish stock in the country’s marine waters.

Need for closed season
The closed fishing season, also known as the biological rest period, is when fishing activities are restricted or prohibited to allow fish populations to replenish for sustainable fishing.

The conservation measure imposed during the spawning period of fishes when they are most productive aims to prevent overfishing, protect marine ecosystems and ensure the long-term health of fish stock.

Fishers Association.
The measure had also become imperative because of illegal and unreported fishing, which she said, cost the economy over $50 million annually.

She stressed that MoFAD was determined to collaborate with fishery associations to end illegalities and ensure the sustainability of the country’s marine and fishery resources.

“The fisheries sector supports the livelihood of about three million Ghanaians along the fisheries and aquaculture value chain, but faces challenges such as overfishing, illegal activities, and declining fish stocks,” she said.

“Effective enforcement of the closed season and combating illegal fishing activities are crucial for the sector’s long-term sustainability and benefit to Ghanaian families,” Mrs Koomson added.

Support items
While the short-term economic impact on fishers and processors is acknowledged, the government has promised the supply of relief items and alternative livelihood programmes for fisher folk in all fishing communities in the four main fishing regions across the country.

The Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission, Fred Kwasi Antwi-Boadu, encouraged fishers to adhere to the closed season, warning that violators would be prosecuted.

2024 Closed season
The official ceremony to commence this year’s close fishing season is scheduled to take place at Dixcove in the Ahanta West Municipality in the Western Region on Monday, July 1, 2024.

Stakeholders have pledged their commitment to abide by the rules for the closed season but called for strict adherence by all along the value chain, as some have expressed concerns about its effectiveness.

FLASHBACK: Mavis Hawa Koomson, Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture, with the ‘closed season key’
A number of the stakeholders believe the fishing close season presents an opportunity for the sector to reset and rebuild on a sustainable footing, with others saying more needed to be done to address deeper issues such as illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and promoting local ownership and control.

A fishmonger at the Tema Fishing Harbour, Akua Mensah, pointed out that during the close season thousands of fishermen and fishmongers were forced to abandon their main livelihoods and sought for alternative sources of income.

“This closed season always brings our business to a standstill,” she lamented

“We understand the need to replenish fish stocks, but the government must also consider the livelihoods of those dependent on this industry,” Ms Mensah said.

President of the Ghana National First Traders and Processors Association, Regina Solomon, suggested that for the fishing close season to be effective, enforcement mechanisms to combat illegal unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing needed to be strengthened.

She also calls for the promotion of local ownership and control of fishing vessels, improvement in market access for small-scale fishermen and increased international cooperation to address transboundary fishing issues.

President of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), Nana Jojo Solomon, said the fishing close season directive was necessary to help save the fisheries sector from decline.

He, however, acknowledged the financial implications of the close season on fishers, saying relief items from the ministry “may not be enough for venturing into other alternative means of livelihood to sustain them throughout the one-month period.”

The President of the Canoe and Fishing Gears Owners Association, Nana Kweigyah, expressed concern over the close fishing season, citing the need for inclusive decision-making and compensation for fishers.

“Adequate consultation with fishers and all stakeholders will promote ownership of the implementation process, engender voluntary compliance and support enforcement of laws and regulations,” he stated.

Nana Kweigyah said conservation had become necessary to achieve sustainable fisheries and close season is one of such measures, adding however that, “conservation is not for just the sake of it, but for the people who depend on the resource.”

While acknowledging the importance of conservation, he noted that the current approach had minimal biological impact on marine fish and neglected the economic and social needs of artisanal fishers.

He argued that the closure period coincided with the peak-fishing season around July-September and deprived fishers of their most active period.

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