‘Tuna industry on the verge of collapse’

The Ghana Tuna Association has bemoaned challenges of the fisheries sector that could collapse the entire industry in no time.

The challenges include the high cost of doing business caused by exorbitant licensing fees, piracy threats, and high labour costs.

In addition, the poor regulation of the artisanal and semi-industrial sector, coupled with the ineffectiveness of the Fisheries Commission in research and trawl gear audit, has become a challenge to sustainable fishing practices in the country.

The sector, consisting of industrial, semi-industrial and artisanal categories, is also faced with human activities of inland water fish resources that hamper production.

These challenges, the association said, led to a substantial decline in participation in industrial fishing and a threat to the industry’s survival.

Speaking on Eye on Port, the Secretary of the Association, Richster Nii Amarh Amarfio, explained that the exorbitant licensing fees, in particular, have resulted in the gradual extinction of the pole and line operations in the country.

Richster Nii Amarh Amarfio, Secretary of the Ghana Tuna Association

According to him, only six were functional of the 20 pole and line vessels in the country because they could not meet the high cost of licence fees.

Most tuna vessels are operated on a joint-venture basis, with Ghanaian owners having at least 50% of the shares. Therefore, the lack of these vessels hampered the operations of businesses in the sector.

Mr Amarfio explained, “This is what is reflecting in the low export figures. We have major challenges when it comes to the cost of fishing in Ghana.”

“We need about 14,000 canoes, but we have about 9,000. That means we need 5000 extra canoes per the statistics of the Fisheries Commission.

“Therefore, if you have an average of 10 persons per canoe, that translates to 50,000 extra hands in the fishing industry. They would have to apply every means to survive since the fish stock is declining,” he explained.

Amid a threat by the European Commission to ban fish from Ghana due to illegal fishing activities, he called for the adoption of a national cross-sector approach to tackle the issues confronting the local industry.

The European Commission issued a yellow card to Ghana.

This is a flag, port, coastal or market state that indicates a risk of attracting sanctions.

This was in relation to the country’s inability to deal with illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing.

Mr Amarfio also called for a tight regulatory regime that would assign fish specific species to be harvested by artisanal, semi-industrial and industrial groups.

The regulatory framework, he said, should include the introduction of a pension scheme to cushion fishers when they retire and put young people in fishing communities in school.

The secretary pointed out that for the local producers of tuna to remain viable in the local market and reduce importation, the downstream supply value chain needed adequate development.

He also called for increased inclusion of fishers in ongoing dialogues between Ghana and the EU.

He also proposed for the participation of the Ministry of Trade as well as the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Regional Integration.

READ ALSO: Illegal Fishing By Foreign Trawlers Costs Ghana $50m Every Year – Research

Last year, they appealed to the government to reduce fees on tuna vessels, noting that the COVID-19 pandemic had compounded the economic hardship that businesses in the sector were facing.

The fees, which were adjusted from $35 to $135 per gross registered tonnage (GRT), affected the production of tuna, leading to redundancy.

President of the Tuna Association, John Davidson, claimed that an agreement reached among stakeholders on February 14, 2020, for reduction of the fees had not been adhered to.

He stated that there had been an agreement to adjust the rate from $35 per GRT to $65, but the authorities had insisted on the $135 per GRT.

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