Fishing vessels at Cape Coast, Ghana. (Photo: Erik Kristensen)
Progress made towards sustainable fisheries through fair tenure rights
Thursday, April 12, 2018, 00:30 (GMT + 9)
After wide-ranging discussions, important progress has been made to implement the global guidelines on tenure rights in Ghana to save the country’s declining fishing industry and safeguard national food security.
The deal was reached at a meeting – co-organized by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), Hen Mpoano, and the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), with the support of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development – attended by traditional authorities, fisher and fish processor associations, representatives from local and national government, spatial planners, civil society organisations, legal experts and academics.
Ghana’s Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Francis Kingsley Ato Cudjoe, welcomed the opportunity to discuss how the guidelines could be applied for the benefit of a more equitable and sustainable fishing industry.
“We hope this meeting will represent a first step towards developing an institutional framework for implementing the guidelines in Ghana, and look forward to working with others in government as we embark on this process,” the minister stated.
The discussion session ended with a firm recognition by stakeholders and decision-makers that core principles of the Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure (VGGT) and the Voluntary Guidelines for Securing Sustainable Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF Guidelines) should be implemented to secure the rights of small-scale fishers and safeguard food security.
EFJ points out that Ghana’s fisheries 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 per cent in the last 10 to 15 years.
The entity further explains that small-scale fishers face loss of access to landing sites as a result of coastal development, and encroachment by offshore oil development into traditional fishing grounds. Infringements upon tenure rights also arise from the illegal and destructive practices of industrial fishing vessels.
In this regard, Chairman of Ghana’s National Canoe Fishermen Council, Nana Jojo Solomon, stressed that recent years have seen an escalation of conflicts between industrial fishing vessels and local canoes, resulting in collisions and the destruction of fishing gear, in some cases within the inshore zone reserved for canoe fishers.
“Fishers are rarely able to obtain compensation for their losses, due to difficulties in identifying the offending vessel, and the burden of making a claim,” Solomon added.
For his part, Director of Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah, explained that the guidelines reflect a global consensus on responsible tenure governance and securing sustainable small-scale fisheries, and have been subject to extensive consultations worldwide.
“Bringing decision-making into line with the guidelines can help to secure the support of those affected by fisheries laws, and ensure that laws are complied with. Crucially the VGGT can provide invaluable guidance as Ghana comes to implement its policy on fisheries co-management, currently in the process of adoption,” Mpoano stressed.
The Ghanaian government has already requested that the FAO analyse its existing laws through the lens of the VGGT and SSF Guidelines, to identify areas for improvement and strengths to be built on. The analysis, launched at last week’s roundtable, comes at a crucial moment, as Ghana undertakes a revision of its fisheries law framework that has been in place for the past 15 years.