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» 15.12.2009 - Invest in agriculture - Professor Offei
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» 17.07.2009 - Ghana could meet its MDG target of halving poverty, IMF
» 03.12.2004 - Overfishing behind Ghana's wildlife decline

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Economy - Development | Environment - Nature

Ghana's local fishermen pay the price of overfishing

afrol News / IRIN, 14 February - While their men were out fishing, the women of the Ghanaian village of Prampram used to carefully clean, smoke, preserve and then sell the fish. But now the men are coming home with less and less fish, and women say they can no longer make ends meet. Industrial fishing is blamed for dwindling fish stocks.

"The fishing industry along the whole coast is collapsing," said Christina Sackey, secretary of the fishmongers association in Prampram, a fishing community about 45 minutes east of the capital, Accra.

Ms Sackey said the shortfall has been especially acute in the last five years. She hopes her children will not go into fishing but she is also finding it hard to pay for their schooling.

Fish is still one of Ghana's most important sources of protein, and a traditional mainstay of people's diets. But, despite 550 kilometres of coastline and an abundance of lakes and streams, more than 30 percent of the fish that Ghanaians eat is imported from other countries, according to government statistics.

"I have been a fisherman my whole life," said Joshua Quaye, 29, as he drags his brightly painted wooden canoe up the beach in Prampram, after an unsuccessful day on the ocean. "How will I live? How will I raise my children? No one seems concerned about us."

The Ghanaian Ministry of Fisheries estimates there are about 500,000 fishermen and fishmongers in Ghana, the vast majority of whom are struggling, like Ms Sackey and Mr Quaye, to make ends meet. The number of workers in the fish industry jumps to 2 million, or about 10 percent of Ghana's population when peripheral jobs are included, such as canoe building.

Depletion of Ghana's fish stocks is not a new problem. In 1998, European researchers said that nearly 75 percent of Ghana's wild animals killed and sold since 1970 were related to the problem of dwindling fish stocks.

David Eli, chairman of FoodSPAN, a network of 50 non-governmental organisations in Ghana working on food security, blames the dwindling fish stocks on industrial fishing which uses nets dragged along the sea bottom, a practice known as "bottom trawling".

"Policies need to change in favour of artisanal fishermen because they cannot compete with large trawlers," Mr Eli said.

Ghana's Ministry of Fisheries has tightened regulations on the number of licences it issues the types of nets that trawlers can use.

But according to Ghana's national statistics, artisanal fishing accounts for about 75 percent of the country's whole national production caught for consumption, dwarfing the output of the industrial fleets.

But also other solutions are sought. The Ministry of Fisheries is working to increase the number of fish farming so that eventually they will account for 20 percent of local fish production.

It is providing technical advice and workshops to entrepreneurs. Currently 1,040 fish farmers have registered 2,800 ponds in the country. "More and more people are expressing interest in the business," said Lionel Awity, head of aquaculture for the Ministry of Fisheries.

"There is a huge local market that is not being satisfied," said David Sackey, 36, a fish farmer whose farm produced 1.6 tonnes of fish last year. "It is a lucrative business." But fish farming requires access to land and capital which are in short supply and even if the industry grows it is not going to help coastal fishing communities any time soon.

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