IUU fishing is rife in Ghana, damaging livelihoods and the economy Photo: EJFIUU fishing is rife in Ghana, damaging livelihoods and the economy Photo: EJF

The Ghanaian government’s failure to tackle illegal fishing has resulted in a second yellow card – a formal warning that could lead to a seafood export ban to the EU.

Ghana’s waters have been plagued by illegal fishing for decades. In particular, saiko is a severely destructive form of illegal fishing, where industrial trawlers target the staple catch of small-scale canoe fishers.

Chief executive and founder of Environmental Justice Foundation, Steve Trent, said that now was the time to eradicate illegal fishing in Ghana once and for all. “Saiko is precipitating a human and ecological crisis, with fish stocks on the brink of collapse and livelihoods and food security on the line,” he said.

Ghana was first issued with a yellow card by the EU in 2013, but this was lifted in 2015 as a result of new legislation and a clear fisheries management plan. However, these policies have not been implemented or enforced, resulting in the European Commission reissuing a yellow card.

The key to safeguarding Ghana’s fisheries is drastically improving transparency, says EJF whose investigations have shown that around 90% of Ghana’s industrial fishing trawlers are owned by Chinese corporations despite foreign ownership being illegal. This lack of transparency allows these operators to set up opaque corporate structures and work through Ghanaian ‘front’ companies to obtain licences to fish.

The problem is exacerbated by low licensing fees and fines which are too small to be a deterrent.

“Simple measures that Ghana can take today include publishing fishing licence lists and punishments for illegal fishing – where the true ‘beneficial’ owners are clear in both cases,” said Steve Trent.

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