The Director of Hen Mpoano, Mr. Kofi Agbogah has made a clarion call on the government and stakeholders to come up with reforms in the fishing sector to ensure sustainable development and food security.
Thus averring the need for there to be transparency, inclusiveness and accountability by all stakeholders to reform the fishing sector.
Speaking over the weekend at a workshop held to discuss challenges in the fishing sector, Mr Agbogah reminded stakeholders in the fisheries sector to see it as an extractive industry whose renewable natural resources could be exhausted.
Participants at the two-day Friedrich-Erbert-Stiftung sponsored workshop included various members of the Industrial Trawlers Association; Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council; Inland Canoe Fishermen Council; Ghana National Fish Traders and Processors, amongst others.
The event was held under the theme: Towards consensus building –improved fisheries governance in GHEITI.
Discussing the topic “Contemporary challenges in the fisheries sector demanding transparency and accountability”, Mr Agbogah said it is imperative that Ghana signs and joins on the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI).
He reiterated that the purpose of FiTI is to “increase transparency and participation in fisheries governance for the benefit of a more sustainable management of marine fisheries”.
He added there is the urgent need for transparency in the sector to address the perennial concerns of: fisheries data collection and reporting; FC board composition; vessel ownership and licensing concerns; the Fisheries Development Fund; and the pervasive illegal trans-shipment concerns.
Mr Agbogah said the challenges in the fisheries sector include: political polarization and interferences; low empowerment of local leadership (chief fishermen); low engagement of fisher folks amongst others.
Mr Noble Wadza, an executive of Oilwatch-Ghana, said Government of Ghana signed on to the Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (EITI) in 2003.
He said this became known as the GHEITI bill which is yet to be passed into law.
Mr Wadza said the fulcrum of this Initiative is to strengthen transparency and accountability in relation to revenue and payments from the extractive sector.
He said GHEITI which was initially introduced to the mining and oil and gas sector, has now been expanded to include the forestry and fishery sector.
Touching on data in the sector, Mr Gilbert Sam, Manager of the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association, said insufficient and unrealistic data in the fishing sector is hampering effective work, calling for a modification of the closed and open fishing season dates.
He said data on fish stocks and marine ecosystems need to be updated regularly as the absence of relevant data is a challenge in the sector.
Mr Sam at the workshop at Dodowa Forest Hotel revealed that West Africa loses about 1.3 billion dollars annually due to illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing; adding that the adoption of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative Bill (GHEITI bill) would greatly improve inter-sectoral cooperation and regional fisheries management.
The discovery of oil and the designation of oil blocks, especially in the western part of the country, he said have greatly restricted fishing activities; insisting that this is besides the conflict and distrust between trawl operators and marine canoe fishermen, hence the need for transparency and accountability in the sector to help reduce the constant bickering amongst the various associations.
“There should be openness and transparency”, he said, with regards to conditions attached to fishing authorizations and contracts of fishing access agreements signed between fishing nations and coastal states amongst others.
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