Director of the Environment for Development Initiative in Ghana (EfD-Ghana), Prof Wisdom Akpalu, has lamented the depleting nature of Ghana’s fish stock.
According to him, issues concerning the ocean in the country are quite many. He revealed that one of the major cause of the depleted fish in the sea has to do with overcapacity – where there are too many vessels out there catching fish.
Additionally, Prof Akpalu stated that coupled with this, are foreign vessels with some branded as Ghanaian vessels that are also catching fish that locals are supposed to be catching. This, he explained, results in reduction of the stock and for that matter, reducing income levels of fishermen that have fallen about 40% from 2006 to the current.
“… When you look at the catches that we’ve been getting from our ocean over the years, you realize that the catches have been going down. In fact, catch per vessel which has been declining rapidly. A canoe for example, would have caught about 35 tonnes a year, but now catches about 15 tonnes. So, you can see that catch levels have gone down…”Prof Wisdom Akpalu
Prof Akpalu iterated that fisherfolks are overfishing because there is overcapacity and too many vessels, numbering about 12,000 canoes hovering on the sea. Ordinarily, he revealed that there are supposed to be some 8,000 to 9,000 of these canoes to be able to generate the highest benefit from the fisheries.
“… In addition to that, we have these trawlers that have done a lot of harm over the years. A few things have changed recently but they’ve done a lot of harm targeting fishes that are normally caught by the small-scale fishers and thereby worsening the situation overtime.”Prof Wisdom Akpalu
Impact of overfishing in the country
Commenting on why there’s overfishing in the country, Prof Akpalu explained that there is the misperception of biophysical dynamics of the stocks. In this instance, he elaborated that because one cannot observe fish in the ocean, there’s this misperception that the sea can never dry.
“So, those who live by the sea, although they see the trend going down they always want to attribute it to something else than themselves… From the point of view of politicians, fishermen constitute a big political capital and you don’t want to lose that.”Prof Wisdom Akpalu
Furthermore, Prof Akpalu highlighted that in terms of regulations, although there are measures to check these occurrences, there are certain factors inhibiting its successful implementation. He explained that due to political interference, individuals don’t want to comply to implement some of these regulations that will have short term consequences.
“… It is very difficult on the part of regulators to implement some of those policies. So, there’s some reluctance for fear of losing political capital… There’s also the political interest where people make money, our politicians get to make money directly and illegally from some of these activities, so they don’t want to change things. So, these have been the trend over the year and we’ve seen some positive changes occurring recently but then we still need to do a lot more if we have to bring the situation under control.”Prof Wisdom Akpalu
Moreover, Prof Akpalu revealed that sector players including fishermen are partly the cause of overcapacity because the industry is an open access resource. By this, he noted that if one fisherman refuse to reel in the fishes, another will.
“So, when you have a resource that is managed as an open access that resource can easily be depleted. So, the nature of the management of these resources becomes part of the problem. In addition to that, plays in this political interest where politicians who are supposed to regulate the resource are afraid that if they do so, they may suffer some consequences…”Prof Wisdom Akpalu