One Dr. Edusei on Joy News file hosted by Samson Lardy Ayenini Esq. made comments to the extent that the Hon. Nominee for the Ministry of Fisheries need not speak English and once she could speak Ga or Twi and could interact with the fishermen, she was good to go. Though, a co-panel, Mr. Bentil was quick to correct the erroneous impression the learned PhD holder sought to create on national Television, Radio and as well as International Media, I am of the firm resolve that he and others who think like him need some education. The suggestion that the work of the Hon. Minister is limited to interact with fishermen who do not appreciate the English language betrays the ignorance of the Doctor of books about the complexities within the sector, a situation that requires just a person who can speak Ga or Fante; even at that, we have fishing activities wherever there is natural water body and in a number of instances backyard fish-farms and dug-out ponds. By implication one may need to speak every Ghanaian language since fishing activities take place everywhere in Ghana.
As an industry that has existed as long as man existed, fishers have interacted not just with Chiefs and Kings, but at least four of the 12 Disciples of Jesus Christ are known fishermen and his most trusted and the one upon whom he built his church, the first he called was a fisherman. So anyone appointed to provide leadership in the sector must exhibit a sense of appreciation of the value of the fisherman in the eyes of the Lord. In contemporary fishing, a Minister is enjoined to provide policy direction that will ensure that the sector becomes sustainable. The Minister needed to work with the Fisheries Commission in developing Fisheries Management Plan, Budget as well as constantly responding to issues in parliament; I am sure all these can’t be conducted in Ga and Fante. Hon. Kwesi Ahwoi was the Chair of the Ministerial Conference on Fisheries Cooperation among Africa States Bordering the Atlantic (ATLAFCO) and it was expected that he chaired the conference speaking Ga and Twi? The Hon. Mike Akyeampong, then a Deputy Minister responsible for Fisheries when Fisheries was part of Agriculture Ministry was the Chair of Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) fisheries wing, Conference on Fisheries (COFI) which convenes annually in the Italian capital Rome. Our very own Prof. Emeritus Martin Tsamenyi a lawyer of great international repute also chaired the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas on Ghana’s recommendation. These are just but a few of engagement requiring a Minister or the assign from Ghana to engage in and I am sure the speaking of Ghanaian Language per Dr. Edusei understanding of whom a Fisheries Minister should fits the purpose? Ghana has an Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) working team with the European Union and meetings take place both in Ghana and in Brussels, Belgium regularly, I am sure such meetings cannot be conducted in Ga or Twi, aside the meetings with the World Bank and the various Diplomatic Missions on the cooperation between Ghana and many countries on multilateral and bilateral fisheries related diplomacies.
The Minister responsible for Fisheries has an ultimate responsibility to formulate implementable policies for broad sector, employing about 2.3million people directly and indirectly and feeding at least 80% of Ghanaians who have fish as part of their daily meals. This sector comprises; 1. Industrial Tuna 2. Industrial Trawl 3. Inshore (Semi Industrial) 4. Artisanal (marine) Canoe 5. Artisanal (Freshwater/Inland) Canoe 6. Aquaculture 7. Fish Importers 8. Processing Companies 9. Research and Academia 10. Training Institution 11. Auxilliary services (Transporters, Stevedores etc) 12. Labour 13. Market and local processors 14. Ministry and Commission Staff Beyond these there are activities within the maritime space as well as the riverine systems such as Hydrocarbon extraction, Mining (both legal and illegal), water transport, fibre optic cables all of which has interactions with the fishes and the activities of the fishing industry. For the benefit of the learned Dr. Edusei, we would like to explain briefly some of the major activities that the Minister should interact with;
Ghana, as part of the ICCAT community is required to comply by ICCAT regulations that are amended almost every year based on what the ICCAT Scientific Community assesses the stock levels of the various Atlantic species to be and the Total Allowable Catches, Fleet sizes and numbers allowed as well as areas and fishing methods. Ghana is a very important member of ICCAT as a leading producer of Tuna ranking in the first five with Japan, European Union, Brazil inter alia. Ghana per ICCAT regulation is allowed 37 Tuna Vessels which Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) have already been recorded in ICCAT records and which must comprise 20 Pole and Line Vessels and 17 Purse Seine Vessels. Pole and Line Vessels only means the vessels do not use net in Fishing, they use fishing hooks on nylon lines attached to a pole. They bait the tuna with live anchovies (Keta School Boys) that are released into the water and whiles the tuna tries feeding on them, the sailors hook them. The Purse Seine Tuna (Ring Net); uses fishing net of not less than 100mm mesh sizes that hangs vertically in the water with floats at the top and the ends drawn to encircle the tuna. The only sector in Ghana, that the law allows a foreign participation of not more that 50% beneficial ownership.
The trawl sector uses a drag net drawn by a steel vessel (in Ghana of not more than 250GRT) on the bottom of the sea targeting mainly demersal species such as red snappers, groupers, barracudas, cuttlefish amongst others. These vessels are not required to fish within the 30metre contour debt or 6 nautical miles, whichever is further known as the Inshore Exclusive Zone (IEZ).
The inshore sector is mostly a medium wooden vessel with an inboard propelled motor that jointly have exclusive fishing rights with the canoes within the (IEZ), when engaging in purse seine fishing otherwise may trawl outside the IEZ. They can be found mostly in Tema, Moree, Elmina, Sekondi and Takoradi.
Dug-out wooden vessels for which Ghana now have over 12,000 according to the canoe frame survey dotted along the many landing beaches of the 550km Ghanaian Shoreline. They use many gear types which include, Beach Seine, Purse Seine, Hook and Line, Cast Net, Set Nets etc. This sector is the biggest employer within the fisheries sector and over 70% of all fish landing according to the 2015-2019 fisheries Development Plan. The sector has not seen much modernisation apart from the gradual change from sails to outboard motors, sparing use of eco-sounders and fish finders. The sector is very much over capacitated just like the Inshore and Trawl Sector according to the World Bank.
This sector is the largest by size and most wide spread. The fishing activity happens on every riverine system, lake, stream and lagoons. It is from commercial scale to just recreational fishing and targets include fish, crustaceans and shrimps. This sectors contribution to the economy is very much dwindled because of the mismanagement of the fresh water and brackish water system. Water bodies have been polluted either through Industrial, Municipal or Domestic activities for which riverine system are used as sink waste for or receptors of waste. The decline in the sectors contribution is a major reason Ghana currently imports more fish than it is able to produce for consumption demand of about 1million metric tonnes annually.
One of the biggest puns Ghana has continually engage in is developing a robust and vibrant fresh water aquaculture sector that will eventually contribute significantly in meeting the high demand for fish by ignoring the structures that builds such a sector. It is a wonder how a country will be able to build an aquaculture sector when the health of our water bodies is of no material importance to the policy maker. We have allowed mining in almost every important water body, destroying the very base of the aquaculture industry. A number of lagoons are either taken over by aquatic weeds and being reclaimed for “development” and all wetlands gone, significantly imparting on the biodiversity and the ecosystem that will support fish production. I am sure Dr. Edusei will at this juncture have a better appreciation of the nature of industry and the challenges the industry faces for which a Ga of Twi Speaking Minister is all that may be required to resolve. The sector supports the two main fish processing companies, Pioneer Food Canner and Cosmo Foods. The sector provides job for many women engaged in the value chain as marketers, processors till the fish gets to the table.
In the USA as shown above, by the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Agency (NOAA), the Economic Impact of Fisheries in the US in 2017; Jobs; 1.74 Billion Sales: US$244.1 Billion Norway's export revenue has always been dependent upon the marine resources that long coastline provides. According to a speech given by the governor of the central bank of Norway, Øystein Olsen, sale of fresh and processed fish constituted 39% of the export revenue in 1835, while 25% came from shipping services. More than a century later, in 1966, shipping represented roughly 40% of Norway's export revenues. Later, the oil and gas industry became the most important sea-based exporter. Today, Norway is the world's second largest exporter of fish and seafood with an export value reaching NOK 94.5 (USD11.16) billion in 2017. This is the highest export value ever seen within the industry and while petroleum revenue constitutes 38.5% of the export revenue, fish and seafood stand for 7.9% (Source: Marine Policy Volume 110, December 2019) From the examples above it is clear, the fisheries sector, which was first made a standalone Ministry in Norway in 1946 cannot just be taken for granted as we are trying to do in Ghana. We need to tackle that sector with all the seriousness it deserves to derive maximum benefits.
Let’s conclude by reminding Dr. Edusei that the debate is not about the brilliance or otherwise of the nominee in the fluency in English language, far from that. The nominee has absolutely no knowledge in an industry that is so important yet comatose. I asked the question, if Ghana is a private company of Dr. Edusei and Parliament is the board with the vetting committee as an interview panel, the Hon. Nominee applies to be a Director in his directorate responsible for policy in fisheries sector and he sees that interview; 1. Will he ask the interview panel to recommend her? 2. Will he ask the board to approve her? 3. Will he employ her?