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Minority unhappy about GOVT’s poor handling of 2021 closed fishing season

The Minority in Parliament has expressed worry about the manner at which the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission are handling the nationwide closed season for fishing.

The season which starts from July 1 to July 30 this year is binding on artisanal and inshore fleets, as well as industrial fleets.

But the Minority believes the Government is not treating the fisherfolks well.

At a press conference, the Ranking Member on the Agric Committee, Eric Opoku said there are basic issues that can block the successful execution of the 2021 closed season scheduled.

Speaking to the press, the Ranking Member on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa, Eric Opoku placed on record that the NDC on a fundamental level is not against closed season as part of the measures to reverse the dwindling fishery resources of our country yet passionately opposed to some policies being implemented by the Nana Akufo Addo/Bawumia government.

Below is the statement;

PAYMENT FOR LICENCE FOR THE PERIOD OF THE CLOSED SEASON

Ladies and gentlemen, you may recall that in 2020, the Nana Akufo Addo/Bawumia government increased licence fees for vessel owners from $35 to $135 per gross registered tonnage. The increase is almost three hundred (300) percent. The combined impact is that every one of the 76 vessels in Ghana with the average capacity of 200 tons pays $27,000 for licence in 2021 compare to $7,000 in 2016.

Vessel owners must not pay for licence over the 2 months of closed season for effective implementation and the realization of the full benefits. You cannot close the season and simultaneously expect individuals with legitimate fishing licence not to flout the directive. In other words, you are merely cheating the fishers. How can you punish those vessels who may flout the closed season orders on the strength of their licence? The Ministry of Fisheries must note that they cannot approbate and reprobate.

In most jurisdictions, when government imposes a fisheries management measure such as closure for 2 months, industry players are cushioned with some social intervention measures to enhance compliance and fishers are compensated to make life comfortable for them and their families. On the contrary, the Nana Addo/Bawumia government continues to take more from them, making life unbearable, report Xyz Princess Arita Anim.

PAYMENT OF OBSERVERS OF FISHING VESSELS

The Nana Akufo Addo/Bawumia government in gross violation of Section 100 of the Fisheries Act 2002 (ACT 625), extort monies from vessel owners for the payment of observers who are supposed to ensure that vessel owners comply with all the rules and regulations on fishing in this country. In consonance with the law, the observers are supposed to be public servants appointed by the Minister upon the recommendation of the council. Why is the industry (private entities) paying public servants whose main duty is to check/oversee the activities of the vessel owners? What is even more worrying is that no social security and other statutory payments are made on their behalf, thus risking their future. This is an illegality that must be stopped forthwith!

Ladies and gentlemen, we are reliably informed of an illegal bank account called the GITA/MOFAD account in which these monies are being lodged on the blind side of the Controller and Accountant General and the Auditor General. We demand the immediate closure of this bank account and stoppage of these extortions and ensure strict compliance with the provision of the law.

As the minority, we are worried about the mode by which observers are being recruited and paid in direct violation of the law.

RE-APPLICATION FOR LICENCE TO OPERATE INDUSTRIAL VESSEL

The Fisheries Commission on 22nd June, 2021 issued a letter to all fishing companies captioned “re-application for licence to operate industrial vessel”. This is not based on law because the processes leading to the operationalization of industrial vessel are well laid in the law.

The authority to allow industrial vessels to operate in Ghana is vested in the Ghana Maritime Authority and not the Fisheries Commission. The Commission only has power to grants licence to fish which is renewable quarterly. It is therefore confusing what exactly the commission seeks to achieve with this letter. In fact, the Fisheries Commission is overstepping its mandate and must be called to order. Particularly, when it failed to put in proper management measures that got Ghana to be issued a second yellow card which if not reversed will soon disable Ghana from exporting Seafood to the European Union.

Fine people, this is plainly an endeavor to grease up the wheels of nepotism, cronyism and corrupt practices in the Fishery sector and we will not condone it!

In conclusion, the Ministry must look again at the implementation of the closed season and ensure fairness and equity to all players. The terms of the fishing licence to industrial fishers is a huge disincentive for continuous investment in the sector and a recipe for flouting the regulations of the closed season. The issue of observers on industrial vessels is a sick joke and must be looked at again.

Recruitment process and personnel is in contravention of the law and heavy extortion from the industry player is at play – this cannot continue and yet you expect cooperation from industry players for the closed season to succeed.
I thank you for your attention!

Signed:
Hon. Eric Opoku – Ranking Member- Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs

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