The European Union (EU) has issued a ‘yellow card’ – a formal warning that could lead to a seafood export ban to the EU – to the country.
The warning follows the failure by the government to tackle illegal fishing in its waters by enforcing its laws and ensuring transparency across the industry that will expose illegal operators and reward those who abide by the law.
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Ghana was first issued with a yellow card by the EU in 2013, and this was lifted in 2015 as a result of new legislation and a clear fisheries management plan.
However, while these policies are well constructed, they have not been implemented or enforced, allowing the situation to deteriorate and leading the EU to re-issue a yellow card warning.
“Ghana is the second country ever to have been re-carded in this way and must now urgently work to eradicate illegal fishing by vessels flying its flag and operating in its waters,” said a press release by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
According to the EJF, Ghana’s waters have been plagued by illegal fishing for decades. In particular, Saiko which is a severely destructive form of illegal fishing, where industrial trawlers illegally target the staple catch of small-scale canoe fishers and transfer it to specially adapted boats at sea for sale at local markets.
It said the practice is having a severe impact on Ghana’s ‘small pelagic’ fish populations, adding that sardinella is already on the brink of collapse, with landings having crashed by 80% over the past twenty years.
The EFJ said the key to safeguarding Ghana’s fisheries and the livelihoods of 2.7 million Ghanaians that rely on them, is drastically improving transparency of the fleet which has worked to alert the government of illegal fishing since 2017.
CEO and founder of the Environmental Justice Foundation Steve Trent said, “Now is 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. Ghana has the means to end saiko, and it is important that it takes steps to do so immediately.”
He said transparency is a low-cost, highly effective means to tackle illegal fishing, improve accountability and support meaningful participation in decision-making.
“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. The Honourable Minister Hawa Koomson now has an opportunity to work with the EU to introduce robust transparency measures and fully implement Ghana’s laws. His Excellency President Nana Akufo-Addo should look to secure a legacy that will safeguard Ghanaian jobs and food security,” he added.