Fishermen meeting turns sour

A press conference organised by the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC) in Accra on Thursday to respond to issues regarding the 2019 nationwide closed season for artisanal fishery became chaotic as the fishermen were divided in their opinions as to what should be the appropriate timelines to observe the ban.

While some of the fishermen agreed with the announced timeline, which is scheduled to take effect from May 15, 2019 to June 15, 2019, others opposed the date, preferring it to start in July to allow for adequate preparation to enhance compliance.

The VAG Hall in Accra, the venue for the meeting, was characterised by confrontations among the fishermen as they failed to reach a consensus.

Strong disagreement

A section of the fishermen, wearing white armbands to represent their support for the announced date, threatened to disrupt the meeting if the executive of the GNCFC communicated otherwise, a threat which did not go down well with those with opposing views.

“The same executive kicked against the move last year and proposed that it was carried out this year. Even though some of us were not for it, we supported the postponement because we agreed that we had not adequately prepared.

“It is difficult for us to get a catch these days, owing to dwindling stock.

We believe that the only way to overcome this is to take the pain and observe the ban with immediate effect.

We will resist any attempt to change the date,” some of the fishermen stated.

“How do you expect us to lay down our tools in two weeks when no alternative means of livelihood exist for us.

It is important that we all agree on the postponement of the ban if we do not want to starve within the period,” others also stated.

The executive of the council, who appeared disturbed by the reaction of its members, only watched on as they waited for calm to be restored.

It took other members who appeared neutral in the matter close to 30 minutes to calm tempers to pave the way for the meeting to start.

The fishermen failed to find a middle ground throughout the meeting as they continuously debated one another with respect to the appropriateness of the May 15 timeline.

The ban

On April 10, 2019, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) announced that the 2019 closed season for artisanal fishery would take effect from May 15, 2019 to June 15, 2019.

The one-month ban is aimed at boosting the fish stock by increasing the species of fishes, including mackerel, that had dwindled drastically.

The Sector Minister, Ms Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, said the ministry had several engagements with the various stakeholders to arrive on the date, adding that the ministry would collaborate with the Ghana Navy to ensure strict compliance.

No stakeholder engagement

At yesterday’s press conference, the GNCFC debunked claims by the MoFAD that it engaged all major stakeholders before arriving at the date to observe the 2019 closed season.

According to the Executive Secretary of GNCFC, Nii Abeo Kyerekuandah, a supposed meeting organised by the ministry in February this year to agree on the date, as cited by Ms Afoley Quaye during her announcement of the ban, was false.

“As far as we are concerned, the meeting referred to was a hoax, stage-managed to throw dust into people’s eyes,” he stated.

The council, therefore, demanded the sector minister to produce by way of evidence the proceedings of the said meeting and the participants to clear all controversies surrounding the announced closed season.

Postpone closed season

The council also called for the 2019 closed season to be rescheduled and be observed from July 1, 2019 to July 31, 2019.

It said although it was not against the observation of a ban this year, the May 15 timeline lacked scientific basis, adding that it would not yield the needed results.

It argued that the available scientific evidence designed by a scientific and technical working group made up of “eminent fish scientists” in February this year had recommended July 1, 2019 to July 31, 2019 as the appropriate period to observe the closed season.

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