IMPLEMENTING PARTNERS of the Improving Fisheries Governance (IFG) project have called on the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development to end ‘Saiko’ fishing in order to derive the full benefit of the closed fishing season.
Saiko is a term used in Ghana to refer to the transfer or transhipment of fish at sea from industrial trawlers to local canoes.
Initially, Saiko arose as a form of informal trading system, whereby the unwanted catch of industrial fishing vessels would be exchanged at sea for food, fruit and livestock brought by canoes.
In recent times, industrial trawlers licensed to fish for bottom dwelling species such as groupers, snappers and cephalopods, target fish specifically for the Saiko trade.
The practice, in 2017, saw about 100,000 tonnes of fish, predominantly juvenile, worth over $50 million being sold at the landing site.
Addressing the media at a press briefing in Accra, the consortium comprising Hen Mpoano, Friends of the Nation (FoN), Environmental Justice Foundation, Trygg Mat Tracking and Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea, posited that the closed season, which aimed at rebuilding the dwindling fish stocks, must be supported by other management measures.
These include controlling overcapacity, limiting the number of boats on the sea to sustainable levels, and stopping all forms of Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
Donkris Mevuta, Executive Director of FoN, said it was important for the Ministry of Fisheries Aquaculture Development and the Fisheries Commission to ensure that industrial trawlers landed all their catch at the two designated ports in Tema and Takoradi to allow for the inspection of their catches.
The closed season policy, under section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625), is intended to reduce the over-exploitation to engender fish stock replenishment in Ghana’s marine waters that sustain the livelihoods of over 2.7 million Ghanaians.
The consortium, however, commended the ministry for implementing the closed season concurrently for all fleets, except tuna.
“The ministry’s approach of directly engaging key fisher associations in deciding the dates for this year’s closure, in line with scientific recommendations, is commendable” he said.