The Minority National Democratic Congress (NDC) has called for suspension of the one month moratorium on fishing declared by the Minister for Fisheries, Madam Afoley Quaye.
According to the Minority, the one month ban in August, is illegal because the Minister does not have the mandate to issue such directive.
At a press conference addressed by Ranking Member for the Agriculture Committee of Parliament, the Hon. Eric Opoku, he noted that the authority to declare such suspension does not reside in the President in whose name the Minister issued the ban.
He stressed that by provision of Section 84(1) of the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625) the authority to declare a close season rests with the Fisheries Commission.
He stated, We need to beware that the Presidency is different from the Commission and when the law places responsibility on an institution of state due to its technical competencies, it will be a slap in the face of the law for another authority, be it higher or lower, to conduct such an activity.
It is an error for the Ministry or even as the Minister suggested, the President to direct that a moratorium is observed for the fisheries sector.
The Minority, he said, supports efforts to reverse the trend in the decline of fisheries stock, but a sensitive government will do so conscious of the implication on the socio economic and cultural implication of the fisher folk.
The Ranking Member argued that Ghana as a country does not have a research vessel or a well resourced research laboratory but to plan a closure requires adequate scientific study on the migratory patterns of the species to be managed and identifying their breeding grounds and periods.
This we are aware has not been done and therefore reliant on data from Norwegian research vessel, the Dr. Fridjof Nansen, which has been in Ghana periodically would not be enough basis for a closure.
Research facts indicate that Ghana has an open sea with small pellagic (sardinella and Mackerel) migrating from the Axim and Cape Three Points area towards Benin.
The journey begins annually in May and ends in October and fish are normally found in the Accra-Keta enclave in August heading eastward, meaning there is no guarantee that the fish would remain in our waters after August.
Hon. Eric Opoku argued that the closure is too harsh and insensitive because canoe fishermen are only peasant people who live from hand to mouth and that there is an estimated 13,000 canoes in Ghana with an average 15 people per crew, which means about 195,000 people are directly being denied fishing for a month.
He noted that there is an established direct linkages of head potters, fish mongers and truck pushers amongst others estimated at about 100,000 people aside the numbers employed by the over 75 active trawlers and 400 semi industrial vessels.
The fishing season, he indicated, picks up in August and fishermen are able to raise money to pay their debt and save some for the future.
By September another academic year begins and no sensitive government will deny its citizens the only means for keeping their children in school through the provision of school essentials.
Since fishermen earn only per trip, it means that a day without fishing is just like losing a month salary and so the 27 days of the ban equates to 27 months of a salaried worker being denied employment and salary. How can the fisherman survive this, he queried.
According to him, the ban is not properly thought through and must be suspended immediately, especially when neither the President nor the Minister is the person mandated by law to gazette and declare the closure.
Adequate consultations, he argued, has not been conducted and that the fisher folk who were consulted had registered their displeasure on the closure.
The Minority urged the government to acquire a research vessel for the country as promised during the welcoming of the Dr. Fridjof Nansen vessel in Tema 2017 to conduct its own regular surveys and appealed to the scientific community to determine the scientific areas where fish spawn to enable them advise permanent or temporary closures to preserve the country’s fish resources.

By Osumanu Al-Hassan/uthmanhass@gmail.com

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