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Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal “saiko” practices and declining stocks

In a practice known locally as “saiko”, trawlers illegally target catches by fishermen and re-sell to the communities

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Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks
A fisherman casts his net in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, outside Jamestown, the oldest fishing community in Accra. (Photo by Natalija Gormalova / AFP)

Fish vendor Mercy Allotey waits at the beachfront in Ghana’s capital Accra for customers to buy the freshest catch brought in by the brightly-coloured dugout canoes plying the coast.

But she complains the local fishermen are now netting less and less as a combination of illegal techniques and unscrupulous trawlers have devastated stocks.

“It is spoiling our fishing,” she told reporters.

“Many times when they go, they don’t get the fish.”

The fishing sector is crucially important to Ghana.

It provides support for more than two million people, up to 10 per cent of the population, and the produce it generates accounts for about 60 per cent of the protein in the diet of Ghanaians.

READ: How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy

But the figures are startling. United Nations data shows that production fell from almost 420,000 tonnes in 1999 to 202,000 tonnes in 2014.

To blame are both the mainly Chinese-operated boats trawling offshore and the damaging practices employed by artisanal fishermen as they scramble to make up for losses.

Last month, a report from Ghanaian NGO, Hen Mpoano and the European Environmental Justice Foundation said the trawlers cost the country’s economy some $50 million a year.

In a practice known locally as “saiko”, they illegally target the staple catch of local fishermen —  including sardinella and mackerel — and sell it to the communities onshore via middlemen.

Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks

The report estimated some 100,000 tonnes of fish were scooped out of the water in this way in 2017, drastically reducing employment opportunities for Ghanaians reliant on fishing. 

Fishing bans –

Ghana is looking to crack down on “saiko” as well as illegal practices employed by local fishermen including using bright lights to attract fish, poisoning them with chemicals or even tossing dynamite into the water.

READ: Sierra Leone tackles overfishing but gets small fry

In a bid to replenish stocks, the government banned artisanal fishing for a month from May to June and will forbid trawlers in August and September.

But even those in charge admit a lot more needs to be done to rectify the situation.

“The big challenge is a complete understanding of the system by policymakers and everybody down the line, down to the fisherman,” said Emmanuel Kwafo, who is in charge of fisheries law enforcement at Ghana’s Navy.

He said there needed to be a more fundamental shift in Ghana from a mindset where illegal methods are seen as permissible to make ends meet.

“When we do the right thing, we rather enhance our chances of survival,” he said.

Kwafo was part of a major maritime conference held last week in Accra that brought together naval chiefs from around West Africa and abroad to discuss tackling issues including illegal fishing and the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. 

READ: Sierra Leone bans industrial fishing for a month

Illegal fishing has a devastating cost on the region — the UN estimates that nearly 40 per cent of all fish caught in West Africa are done so illegally, resulting in a loss of $2.3 billion.

‘Survival of Ghana’ –

Kamal-Deen Ali, Director of the Accra-based Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, does not hold back when talking about the need to fix the fishing sector. 

“Fisheries (are) linked to food security, the national security and the survival of Ghana as a country,” he told reporters.

Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks

He insists the first scourge to focus on are the “saiko” trawlers.

But he said existing laws also need to be enforced for the local fishermen — with politicians often pandering to their communities and turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. 

Few know the threats better than Nii Quaye, a former fisherman who now works as a spokesman for the local trade in the Accra district of James Town.  

Among his duties is checking the catches coming in to ensure they have not been caught using chemicals or dynamite. 

He said that fishermen had not seen an increase in stocks following the artisanal suspension, and that success will come with law enforcement.

“When you arrest a person using chemicals or illegal fishing, if they go to jail maybe for three to six months, when they arrest five people I think everything will be stopped,” he said. 

But he fears that if nothing major is done, then in a few years there may not be any fish left to catch.

“Everybody in James Town will be hungry because there is no fish,” he said.

“We are begging, so (that) they stop it.”

READ: Libyan Navy seizes Italian fishing boat in Misrata port

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Zimbabweans lament after price of bread rises by 60% overnight

Bakers said they were forced to hike their prices due to rising production costs

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Zimbabweans lament after price of bread rises by 60% overnight

The price of bread shot up 60 per cent overnight in Zimbabwe, in the latest blow for a population already struggling with spiralling living costs.

Zimbabweans can barely keep pace with the price rises that have rekindled fears of hyperinflation which reached 500 billion per cent a decade ago and forced the country to trash its own currency.

Already, many families live on one meal a day, with the country in the grip of a major downturn that has provoked biting shortages of basics such as fuel and medicine.

Bakers said they were forced to hike their prices due to rising production costs.

Electricity prices have “gone up significantly, the price of fuel has also been going up weekly, the prices of raw materials have also gone up including the cost of importing wheat,” said Dennis Wala, the president of the National Bakers’ Association.

Electricity is only available for around six hours a day, forcing many bakers to use generators to run their ovens.

“The bread manufacturer is at the end of the value chain and we have to factor in all these costs, but we don’t prescribe prices to our members,” Wala told reporters.

The price of a loaf of bread soared to 15 Zimbabwe dollars (around US$1) on Wednesday from nine dollars the previous day, according to a correspondent.

Bread is the second most important staple in the country after a thick cornmeal porridge known in the local Shona language as “sadza”.

After decades of mismanagement under former President Robert Mugabe, Zimbabwe reached absurd levels of hyperinflation in 2008-2009 when the central bank started printing money.

Mugabe’s successor, Emmerson Mnangagwa has failed to stop the latest inflation surge, last week begging for patience to bring the economy back from the “dead”.

But the economy is near breaking point.

Hundreds of thousands of government workers said this week they could no longer afford to report for duty as their wages had been rendered almost worthless.

Last week, the authorities quadrupled the price of electricity — which is already in short supply after a 400 per cent hike in August.

Earlier this month, the price of fuel rose more than 25 per cent, the latest in series of regular increases.

The official inflation rate was 290 per cent last month, but economists estimate it is at least double that figure.

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Nigeria to sign military cooperation deal with Russia

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari is due to meet Putin on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in Sochi

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Nigeria to sign military cooperation deal with Russia

Nigerian President, Muhammadu Buhari hopes to sign a military-technical cooperation deal with Russia at talks with President Vladimir Putin this month that will help it fight Boko Haram militants.

The Nigerian leader is due to meet Putin on the sidelines of a Russia-Africa summit in the Black Sea city of Sochi amid a push by Moscow to expand its influence in Africa.

“We’re sure that with Russian help we’ll manage to crush Boko Haram, given Russia’s experience combating Islamic State in Syria,” Nigerian envoy, Steve Ugbah said in an interview with Russia’s RIA news agency, adding that Nigeria was interested in purchasing Russian helicopters, planes, tanks and other military equipment.

Ugbah says a military-technical cooperation deal between Russia and Nigeria had already been drafted and that it is awaiting finalisation. 

“We hope President Buhari can take the talks to their logical end. The agreement will open new possibilities in such areas as the supply of military equipment and training for specialists,” he adds.

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Nigeria, Cameroon to plan Cocoa price cartel

The plan suggested by Nigeria is part of a trend by cocoa growers in West Africa and Latin America

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Nigeria, Cameroon to plan Cocoa price cartel

Nigeria aims to team up with Cameroon to agree on a premium for its cocoa with buyers, after the world’s top growers, Ivory Coast and Ghana set a price floor for the crop.

The plan suggested by Nigeria, the world’s fourth-largest cocoa producer, is part of a trend which has seen growers in West Africa and Latin America seek to influence prices in the global market.

The move follows Ghana and Ivory Coast’s union in July, which set the price for a ton of cocoa from their countries at $2,600 plus a $400 premium described as “living income differential”.

READ: Cocoa industry stakeholders accept Ghana, Ivory Coast price

Both countries produced 60 per cent of the world’s cocoa in 2018.

Vice President of the World Cocoa Producers Organisation, Sayina Riman says discussions will be held with the private sector and the Nigerian Government before formal talks are held with Cameroon.  

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