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Ghanaian artisanal fishermen.

Improving transparency in fishing industry is essential to eradicate illegal activities

  (GHANA, 1/19/2019)

A new report from the Far Dwuma Nkɔdo project urges the Ghana government to improve transparency to eradicate illegal fishing and prevent the collapse of the sector.

The report mentions key measures that can be implemented immediately, and highlights that transparency is the most effective means to tackle these issues. On this regard,  it explains that it provides much-needed accountability in a sector facing unprecedented challenges, as fish stocks plunge to their lowest recorded levels.

The report, published by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Hen Mpoano under the EU-funded Far Dwuma Nkɔdo project, shows that the Ghanaian fishing industry suffers from a shocking lack of transparency. This allows illegal operators to disguise the identity, ownership and history of fishing vessels, avoiding detection and sanctions. As a result, illegal fishing is rife and vast over-capacity in the fishing fleet continues to decimate fish stocks.

Despite Ghana’s laws clearly forbidding any foreign ownership or control of industrial trawl vessels flying its flag, Chinese companies operate extensively through Ghanaian ‘front’ companies. In this context, using opaque corporate structures, they import their vessels, register and obtain a licence to fish.

EJF highlights that these activities, designed to circumvent laws and facilitate illegal operations, are enabled by a complete lack of transparency including disguising who is responsible for illegal actions and who controls and benefits from Ghana’s industrial trawl fleet.

In 2015, 90 percent of industrial trawl vessels licensed in Ghana were built in China, and 95 percent were captained by Chinese nationals.



The lack of transparency in the fisheries sector can also foster corruption and significant loss of state revenue. According to the report, fines for illegal fishing are often negotiated to a fraction of the USD 1 million minimum set out in the law.

“Transparency in Ghana’s fishing industry is vital to thousands of people’s livelihoods, and the food security of the entire nation,” says EJF Executive Director Steve Trent. “It is a low-cost, highly effective means to tackle illegal fishing, improve accountability and support meaningful participation in decision-making,”he added.

The report also highlights the importance of improving transparency, which would play a crucial part in eradicating the illegal fishing that is driving the country’s fish stocks to extinction and impoverishing local communities. Many of the measures, such as publishing details of fishing licences and their conditions, are cheap, simple, and can be implemented immediately.

To bring about meaningful change, the report recommends that the Ghanaian government should:

• Allow for external scrutiny of progress towards achieving targets for sustainable fisheries management.
• Invest the revenue from licence fees and fines in the sustainable development of the sector and publish the details.
• Identify the true beneficiaries and perpetrators of large-scale and organized illegal fishing and hold them publicly accountable for their actions.
• Make vessel monitoring data publicly available, to improve oversight of Ghanaian fishing activities, both in national waters and in neighbouring countries.

Director of Hen Mpoano, Kofi Agbogah, talking to journalists

“Incomes of small-scale fishers have dropped by as much as 40 percent in the last 10-15 years, and Ghana is now forced to import more than half of fish consumed,” says Director of Hen Mpoano Kofi Agbogah.

“Access to credible information is essential for informed participation in fisheries management. Together, transparency and participation increase accountability of government institutions and support the fight against corruption,” he concluded.

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