Fishermen and fish mongers in the Central Region have described Transshipment in the fishing industry as catastrophe. Small-scale fisherfolks in the Region emphasized that, transshipment of fish which is popularly known as Saite according to the Japanese trawler crew is a blow and misfortune to their business. This they describe it as threat. They also have the view tha Ghana’s fishery will continue to decline if the situation is not arrested. In May this year, the Environmental Justice Foundation had organized an ”eye openning” workshop for journalist from selected media houses in the Central, Greater Accra and the Volta Region to aid effective reportage in the fishing industry.
The workshop brought together small-scale fishermen, artisanal and fishmongers on the same platform with the journalist to present to them issues emerging from a consultation work conducted around the coastal communities towards a legal framework and to create opportunity for the most affected persons to validate the findings.
The participants have pointed accusing fingers on the fisheries Ministry for not proactive in responding to their call to fight saiko business, an act that distroy the fish stock. Stop saiko and extension of the fishing close season for a six month period for the industrial trawlers has taken the central point in the discussion. According to the fishermen, responsiveness on the part of the Government to curb the menance would not only replenish the fishery stock but will also improve sustainable livelihood of the local fisherfolks.
Professor Denis Worlanyo Aheto is with University of Cape Coast/UCC Department of fisheries and Aquatic Science. He helped this reporter to have a fair knowledge on saiko based Conservative estimates (initial findings) on Saiko fishery, a research by the USAID/UCC Fisheries and Coastal Management Capacity Building Project of Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences in May 2018. He said, Saiko also known as fish transhipment is illegal under Ghana’s fisheries laws (Fisheries Act 625, 2002). An average Saiko canoe owner lands about 30,000 slabs (300 tons) of Saiko fish from trawlers in a day at sea. There are an estimated 60 Saiko canoe engaged in the Saiko fishery in Elmina. Saiko fishing is very profitable in terms of net returns per month estimated at GHC 90, 000 per canoe However very destructive fishery because it compromises food security and livelihoods by depleting the fish stocks. Destroys marine habitats, distorts competition, puts honest fishers at unfair disadvantage and weakens coastal communities. Transhipment of fish dates back to the 70s. Japanese industrial trawlers discarded their by-catch which they considered useless into the sea to make way for storage space in exchange for food, fruits, livestock and others. The Japanese word “saite” and “saiko” were used to distinguish between bad/rubbish and good fish respectively. Inadvertently saite fish that were meant to be thrown away became saiko (good) fish for Ghanaian fishers who could not achieve any meaningful catch at sea. He said. On the world’s first awareness day for illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, a new film by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Hen Mpoano reveals the true extent of the crisis in Ghana’s fisheries. In particular, the illegal practice of ‘saiko’ – where industrial trawlers sell fish to local canoes at sea – is driving the collapse of Ghana’s inshore fishery, on which millions of Ghanaians rely for food security and income. Ghana’s fish stocks are in steep decline, with landings of key species for local consumption at their lowest recorded level since 1980. Traditional fishing communities have been hit hardest, with average annual income per canoe dropping by as much as 40% in the last 10 to 15 years. The European Union and German Federal Ministry for Economic Coorperation and Development are supporting Environmental Justice Foundation and Hen Mpoano to protect the Environment and to defend human rights whiles Hen Mpoano stands for inclusive and integrated management of Ghana’s coastal and marine ecosystems to generate long-term socio-economic and ecological benefits. The three year project is dubed Far Dwuma Nkɔdo which-securing sustainable fisheries. The project team after investigating to find out the effect of saiko trawlers in the industry, they blew the hustle through a press release. Below is the statement issued in Accra. Ghana’s fishing industry has been plagued by illegal activities in recent years. Destructive fishing practices and over-exploitation by industrial trawlers have driven local fishers facing plummeting incomes to turn to illegal fishing with light, dynamite, and chemicals. These are quick fixes for fishers in a desperate situation that are causing irreparable damage to remaining fish stocks and, in some cases, risking human health. One practice, referred to locally as saiko, is precipitating an ecological and human catastrophe. Originally an informal trading system, where unwanted industrial bycatch would be exchanged at sea for fruit and livestock brought by canoes, it is increasingly a part of targeted fishing for the trawlers. This puts industrial fishing vessels in direct competition with small-scale fishers for catches of species such as sardinella that are a staple food for local communities. Having effectively ‘stolen’ fish from canoe fishers, saiko operators sell these back to the same fishing communities for profit.
Saiko is a highly organised and lucrative practice, accounting for an estimated 100,000 tonnes of illegal and unreported catches in 2017, with an estimated landed value of US$34-65 million. The statistics reveal the stark inequality of this trade: an average saiko canoe can return with as much 400 times the amount of fish as a canoe fishing trip. Enviromental Justice Foundation Executive Director, Steve Trent, says: “The implications of the imminent collapse of Ghana’s small pelagic fishery cannot be overstated. Over 2 million people in Ghana rely on fisheries for their livelihoods, with limited alternative sources of income or employment. Should the resource disappear, mass migration and social upheaval can be considered a very real prospect.”It is not too late to save Ghana’s fisheries. Saiko remains illegal in the country, and robust enforcement of this law could effect real change. Director of Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah, says: “Transshipments of fish at sea are notoriously difficult to monitor, even with the most advanced systems in place. Instead, all catches should be landed in authorized ports and recorded in official statistics to inform sustainable management. This would also ensure that restrictions on fishing gear that prevent the capture of non-target species are complied with.”Nana Solomon from the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, who was also a panellist, says “The voices of small-scale fishers and fishmongers must be heard when it comes to designing Ghana’s fisheries management, to help create policies that are fair and sustainable.”
Saiko is illegal under Ghanaian law attracting a fine of between US$100,000 and US$2 million (Section 33(2), Fisheries Regulations 2010 LI 1968 and Section 132, Fisheries Act 2002, Act 625), or at least US$1 million where catches involve juvenile fish or the use of prohibited fishing gears (Fisheries (Amendment) Act 2014, Act 880). There are currently around 70 industrial trawlers licensed to fish in Ghana’s waters for bottom dwelling species such as groupers, snappers, octopus and cuttlefish. According to the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities are responsible for the loss of 11 to 26 million tonnes of fish each year, which is estimated to have an economic value of US$10 to US$23 billion. Rates of IUU fishing in West Africa are amongst the highest in the world, accounting for 37% of catches.
Credit : EJF,Hen Mpoano, UCC, FOA Joynews