90% of fishing vessels operating in Ghana are Chinese-owned – reveals Environmental Justice Foundation
The Environmental Justice Foundation revealed that 90% of fishing vessels operating in Ghana are owned by Chinese companies.
The non-governmental organization, during its three months of investigation, identified serious environmental problems in the Gulf of Ginuea.
According to the Foundation, the depletion of fish stocks in Ghana’s seas can be attributed to Chinese trawlers, whose owners are using complex schemes to set up front companies in the country.
The EJF based its investigation on interviews with fisheries experts and analysis of company records and financial documents.
Populations of small pelagic fish in Ghana, such as sardinella, have fallen by 80% over the past two decades. One species, sardinella aurita, has completely collapsed. China is the world’s worst illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fisherman, according to the IUU Fishing Index.
“Any further decline will be catastrophic and have huge socio-economic costs,” said Steve Trent, executive director of the EJF, in a report on ghanaweb.com.
The problem is common in West African countries, where illegal fishing accounts for 37% of all catches, costing the region $1 billion a year, according to the EJF, which estimates that Ghana loses $50 million a year due to opaque arrangements with companies such as the Chinese company. Shandong Zhonglu Oceanic Fisheries Co.
Shandong Zhonglu has set up three shell companies which hold five fishing licenses in Ghana, according to the EJF, which criticized the country’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development for issuing the licenses.
Francis Adam, president of the Central Region Fishermen’s Association, said calls for reform in the fisheries sector have mostly gone unheeded, even after Ghana received a “yellow card” from the government. European Union last year. The EU concluded that the country’s level of development and commitment against IUU fishing was insufficient. A yellow card is a warning that penalties may be imposed if the country does not improve its efforts to end IUU fishing.
“The current minister and former officials have not shown enough commitment to deal with Chinese involvement in the fishing sector and the impact on local fishermen,” Adam told ghanaweb.com.
Mavis Hawa Koomson, Ghana’s fisheries minister, did not respond to EJF’s requests for information for its investigation.
Chinese trawlers in Ghana use a common illegal tactic called saiko: an industrial trawler transfers its catch to a large canoe capable of carrying about 450 times more fish than an artisanal fishing canoe.
In 2017, the saiko took 100,000 tonnes of fish from Ghanaian waters, costing the country millions of dollars in revenue and threatening food security and jobs, according to the EJF.
“Saiko destroyed our ocean,” Ekua Kokuwa, a fishmonger in Ankaful, told EJF. “It’s worrying because the trawlers catch all the fish to be caught by our husbands and use them for saiko. The government must support the coastal communities by stopping the saiko because we are really suffering.
More than 200 coastal villages in Ghana depend on fishing as their main source of income. The average annual income per artisanal canoe has dropped by up to 40% over the past 15 years or so, according to the EJF.
To help preserve fish stocks in West Africa, Ghana in December urged neighboring countries to implement coordinated closed fishing seasons. In the same month, Ghana signed a pact with Benin and Togo to implement a joint fisheries observer program aimed at reducing IUU fishing in the region.