My interest is in “we have started work to tackle these problems”.
Mr Speaker, one major problem faced by the fishing sector in Ghana is the dramatic decline of our fish stock. Two main factors are accountable for this; one of those factors is increased fishing effort and the other one is high prevalence of illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activities on our waters.
Mr Speaker, it might interest you to know that in the year 2012, the then Government signed a financing agreement with the World Bank where an amount of US$53.8million was allocated under a programme called the West African Regional Fisheries Programme (WARFP).
The key objective of the Programme was to improve sustainable management of our fisheries. One of the key components there was to reduce fleet numbers in the trawlers sectors. Indeed, as a key covenant, at the time of the contract, we had licensed 67 trawlers and as a key component, we are supposed to reduce this by 20; from 67 to 47 at the end of the life of this financing agreement, which was five years from the date of implementation.
Mr Speaker, it is sad to note that at the time the NPP Administration led by His Excellency, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo took over, trawler numbers, which were supposed to go down from 67 to 47, haD actually ballooned to 94 trawlers licensed and fishing in our waters.
So, the issue is that, we went to the market to borrow to reduce fishing effort but we rather borrowed to increase fishing efforts. And this was supervised by the NDC Administration.
When Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo- Addo's Administration took over -- I have already mentioned that we had 94 vessels licensed in the trawlers sector -- Within one year, we have reduced this to74.
This is because we believe that if we do not curb and reduce fishing efforts, our fish stock would continue to be depleted. Fish provides protein for over 60 per cent of our population, and it provides livelihood for over 10 per cent of our people.
Another objective of the West African Regional Fisheries Programme was to reduce Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing activities. Mr Speaker, IUU is a situation where fish is taken from our waters, sold on the high seas, and transported outside; they do not come to our ports for us to record, export, sell and tax.
Mr Speaker, this is one of the major challenges we have on our hands today. We in the Ministry refer to this as galamsey on the high seas. And I want to bring this to your notice that conservative estimates indicate that, annually, we lose over US$100million to illegal, unreported, unregulated fishing activities on our waters.
But I have also seen estimates that puts this loss at about US$600million. And I just feel that every one of us should be worried that we lose this amount of our resources.
Mr Speaker, once again, under the West African Regional Fisheries Project (WARFP) covenant, we were supposed to fight IUU. The WARF project came into operation in January, 2013 and was supposed to end by December, 2017.
One of the key objectives as I said, was to reduce IUU, but in 2014, Ghana was
issued a yellow card by the European Union because the IUU had ballooned.
This means that we could not export Ghana fish to the European market. And this was specifically applied by other friendly partners to the European Union like the US and Canada. This happened under the watch of the NDC Administration.
Mr Speaker, since His Excellency the President's Administration took over, a number of measures have been taken to address IUU. One of the key measures is the implementation of close season. Last year, in the months of January and February, we had a close season for our trawler vessels.
This year, in the months of January and February, we would still implement close season for our trawler vessels. We intend to extend close season to artisanal sectors by the month of August, and in effect, we would try to curb effort.
We have also trained 100 observers and placed them on all the trawlers, so that they could capture what is happening on the high seas for us. This is so that anybody who engages in IUU could be tracked and punished.
Mr Speaker, we have also increased patrols in collaboration with the Ghana Navy to address the issue of IUU. We have instituted the Vessel Monitoring System on all our industrial vessels. This is to ensure that we monitor the vessels on the high seas and whatever they are doing.
We launched the Fisheries Watch Volunteers which is a collaboration
between Fishermen and the Ministry, to address the issue of illegal fishing activities. These are activities we are carrying out to fight IUU.
I would want to come to what pleases our people, which is premix fuel. Yesterday, I heard in this House a contribution by my Hon Colleague, Edward Bawa, Member of Parliament (MP) for Bongo, on premix fuel. He sought to create the impression that when H. E. the President said that since November, 2017 to date, there has been no diversion, the President was economical with the truth.
Mr Speaker, I hold in my hand, a statement issued by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, on 30th March, 2015. This was as a result of fishermen demonstrating against the Government for reconstituting the National Premix Fuel Committee.
The Hon Minister issued a statement and I would want to quote a few lines from it with your permission.
“The premix fuel distribution has been bedevilled with the following problem:
a. A proliferation of Premix Fuel Sale Points owned by indivi- duals rather than fishermen who should be the actual beneficiaries of the fuel intended for their trade.
b. Rampant diversion of Premix Fuel from intended destinations, creating shortages to the disadvantages of fishermen and to the embarrassment of the Government.”
The Hon Minister issued this statement on 30th March, 2015.