The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MOFAD) and the Fisheries Commission (FC) in consultation with key industry stakeholders have declared the period from 15th May to 15th June 2019 as fishing closed season for artisanal and inshore fleets. The closed season is in accordance with sections 76(3) and 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625) with the objective of reducing the excessive pressure and over-exploitation of fish stocks in Ghana’s marine waters.
This measure is a major step towards replenishing the depleted marine fish stock and it also keys to the Fisheries Management Plan of Ghana. It will allow fish to reproduce and create an enabling environment for the juvenile fishes to grow. Ultimately, it is to safeguard the fish reproduction process and allow fish to spawn and multiply.
The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Hon. Elizabeth Afoley-Quaye stated that “the marine and freshwater bodies of Ghana are well endowed with fishery resources and if properly managed shall provide sustainable economic opportunities for the country. The fishery resources have been the economic backbone of the many fishing communities for centuries, especially artisanal fishermen, fish processors and it is expected to remain so provided the resources are sustainably managed“.
The Minister, who doubles as the Member of Parliament for the Krowor Constituency further said “the importance of Ghana’s fisheries sector as a subsector of the agricultural sector in the socio-economic development and attainment of national food security which cannot be underestimated is its major role in achieving sustainable livelihoods and poverty reduction especially in fishing communities. Many of our citizens have been depending on fishing for their livelihoods for several generations. Several businesses have also evolved around fisheries from fishing to marketing of fish and fishery products attracting investments from many foreign countries“.
Notwithstanding the contribution of the sector to national development, fish catch especially marine catch has experienced a considerable decline over the last few years due to overfishing and overexploitation. This has led to decline in profits resulting in some operators resorting to Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities such as Light fishing, Use of unauthorized nets and net meshes, Transshipment at sea, Use of dynamite and poisons contrary to Regulations (10-21) of the Fisheries Regulations, 2010 (L.I.1968). These activities have had immense negative effects on the environment as well as on the returns on fishing accruing to fishers. Many coastal communities, therefore, remain poor and vulnerable to all manner of social vices including child labour, illegal migration among others.
Globally, seasonal closures are widely used as an effective management measure particularly in the control of fishing effort as it allows fish to reproduce during breeding seasons. In many fisheries management jurisdictions, seasonal closures are the first management strategy employed and subsequently supplemented with more effective measures. It will also mean that the water conditions will be safer for anyone wishing to use inflatable fishing boats to access the water, as well as carrying out their fishing. Not only will the closed season be safer for the fish, but also for the people who are on the water. Closed seasons are adaptive management strategies which can result in immediate returns by increasing biological and economic benefits.