Illegal ‘saiko’ fishing should be declared a national disaster for Ghana, says the Vice Chair of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs, Abraham Dwuma Odoom.
He said that the committee must collaborate with civil society organizations (CSOs) in the fisheries sector to wage war against this illegality, which is not only a threat to the country’s fisheries, but to national security. Saiko activities are fast depleting Ghana’s fisheries thereby affecting the livelihood of fishers and the country’s economy.
Mr Dwuma Odoom made these statements during a meeting of the committee and a consortium of CSOs led by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and Hen Mpoano at the Parliament House in Accra.
The CSO consortium visited the committee to present their new report and film entitled “Stolen at sea: How illegal ‘saiko’ fishing is fueling the collapse of Ghana’s fisheries”. The report uses film shot at sea, first-hand monitoring at ports and data analysis to reveal the full catastrophic scale of this form of organised crime.
The other groups present at the meeting included Oxfam, Care International in Ghana and Friends of the Nation, as well as representatives of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), the industry association for small-scale fishers.
‘Saiko’ is a severely destructive form of illegal fishing, where industrial trawlers target the staple catch of canoe fishers and sell this stolen fish back to local communities at a profit. The report found that in 2017 alone, the saiko trade stole around 100,000 tonnes of fish, costing Ghanaians millions of dollars in revenue and threatening coastal livelihoods. The report estimates the catches in 2017 were worth US 40.6 - 50.7 million dollars when sold at sea, and US 52.7 - 81.1 million dollars when sold at the landing site.
After watching the film, members of the committee expressed shock and dismay, likening illegal Saiko fishing to illegal mining (‘galamsey’) on land. Mr Dwuma Odoom said the committee would join forces with EJF, Hen Mpoano and the other CSOs to bring the information to the attention of the President, describing the situation as ‘galamsey at sea’.
Speaking on behalf of the fisheries CSOs, EJF Fisheries Programme Manager, Mr Socrates Segbor, said that the government of Ghana risks overseeing the collapse of the artisanal fisheries sector if illegal saiko activities are allowed to continue.
“The activities of the industrial trawl fleet have dire consequences for the country in the area of food security, livelihood of fishers and the economy. The effects of saiko are undermining the government’s effort to implement key management measures, such as closed seasons, aimed at rebuilding the nation’s fish stock, which provides livelihoods for 10 per cent of the country’s population”, he said.