Business News of Friday, 28 August 2020
The Minority spokesman for Food and Agriculture, Eric Opoku, has lambasted the Akufo-Addo administration for superintending a failed fisheries sector fraught with illegalities.
The MP for Asunafo South at a press conference on Tuesday said the government has failed to end the transshipment of fish at sea from industrial trawlers to local canoes also popularly known as ‘saiko fishing’, after condemning it in opposition.
According to Mr Opoku, who referred to a Ghana News Agency report, Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo, then flagbearer of the New Patriotic Party (NPP) prior to the 2016 elections claimed that the “commitment of his government to ending ‘Saiko’ in Ghana is very strong” yet failed to deal with the menace in the country.
Mr Opoku said despite collapsing the fishing industry, Fisheries Minister Elizabeth Afoley Quaye in 2019 said the government will not collapse saiko fishing, contrary to the laws of the country.
“There is a practice in this country called Saiko, it is not the intention of the NPP to spoil the ongoing business, there are rumours that the fisheries ministry has banned the practice but it is untrue,” Afoley Quaye reportedly said in 2019 at a ceremony held in Apam in the Central region in the presence of Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, the President of Ghana.
But Eric Opoku bemoaned the double standards of the NPP government said Saiko fishing had been emboldened by the government, making it move from “free through batter trade and now commercialized.”
He urged the Government to be clear on Saiko, especially when the President recently said his “commitment to ending saiko is very strong.”
Below is his statement;
THE PRESIDENT MUST BE TRUTHFUL TO GHANAIANS ON THE ILLEGAL SAIKO BUSINESS
On the 22nd August, Ghana News Agency reported that the president of the Republic of Ghana and the flagbearer of the New patriotic party (NPP) Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo has claimed that the commitment of his Government to ending “Saiko” in Ghana is very strong.
In the supreme interest of Ghanaians, we, in the minority of Ghana’s parliament seek clarity on the true position of Government on Saiko as conflicting positions have been assumed by the Government on different platforms.
“Our commitment to ending saiko is very strong-AkuffoAddo ’’ 22nd August 2020
2: “There is a practice in this country called Saiko, it is not the intention of the NPP to spoil the ongoing business, there are rumours that the fisheries ministry has banned the practice
but it is untrue.” By Minister for Fisheries in 2019 at a ceremony held in Apam in the central region in the presence of Nana Addo Dankwa Akuffo Addo, the President of Ghana.
Ladies and Gentlemen, it is extremely difficult for one to appreciate the true position of the NPP Government on the Saiko business given the background provided under reference above.
Saiko is a term used in Ghana to refer to the transshipment of fish at sea from industrial trawlers to local canoes. At the outset Saiko emerged as a form of informal trading activity whereby the unwanted catch of industrial trawlers was exchanged for food brought by canoes.
Today industrial trawlers licensed to fish for bottom dwelling species target fish specifically for the saiko trade. It has moved from free through batter trade and now commercialized.
The Saiko business is seriously depleting our resources thereby exposing the close to 10 million Ghanaian population that depend on our fishery for livelihood to penury.
For the records: The Fisheries Act was passed in 2002 by the NPP Government to establish the Fisheries Commission yet nothing was done in terms of proper tooling and support. The Commission as constituted by Section 4 of the Act to make the body functional was not
established until August 2008. There was no LI to make the Commission operational. Under that regime, a lot of pair trawlers were imported from China which became a menace in the
Ghanaian oceans and every effort to outlaw them was met with stiff opposition from the state.
In 2009 when the NDC took over the Fisheries Commission was properly constituted and in 2010 the LI 1968, Fisheries Regulation 2010 was passed. In the LI 1968 the following amongst many illegalities were outlawed and same was enforced;
Fishing with light
Transshipment at sea in any form
Use of obnoxious chemicals in fishing
The Marine Police was established to help in fighting fisheries infractions and ensuring prosecution. The processes to establish the Monitoring Control Surveillance Enforcement Unit (MCS FEU) or Fisheries Enforcement Unit was rolled out and duly completed. The enforcement unit was established and offices were created in Takoradi and Tema Community 2.
Vessel Monitoring System (VMS) and Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) were installed on all vessels for the first time and a monitoring centre was established at Tema Community 2 under the West Africa Regional Fisheries Management Project (WARFP). Two
patrol vessels fully funded by the Ministry of Agriculture were acquired from China purposely for fisheries enforcement to be operated by the Ghana Navy, one for the Eastern Command and the other for the Western Command and to be boarded by the FEU staff.
We deliberately made it a policy to have a Naval Captain or above to head the FEU so that issues of partisan interference will not be entertained.
We provided the FEU under the WARFP project with vehicles and tools for land based enforcement and took them through vigorous training as detachment, comprising the Navy, Marine Police, BNI, Fisheries Staff and informant system.
In 2014, the Fisheries Amendment Act 880 was passed to review fines and punitive measures to make it more deterrent for offenders, with fines for transshipment at sea ranging between US$1million and US$2million.
Under the NPP, the transponders in the Vessel Monitoring Systems are not working since November 2019 and fishers needed to rely on the suppliers for information, as a results Ghanaian vessels are at the mercy of Nigerian pirates at sea. The offices of the enforcement unit are no longer functional and the staff demotivated. This is the sorry state the Akufo Addo Government has left the fisheries enforcement in Ghana. All capable trained staff have been victimized and transferred with others taking a back seat. For the first time, a politician with no fisheries background who lost the parliamentary elections was made an Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission leaving competent staff with the know how stranded.
On premix, the NDC administration left a robust system that reduced drastically attempts to divert the fuel. There was a tracking system at NPA and a functioning secretariat with the fishers in control. Between February 2017 and November 2017, over 270 tankers of premix were diverted causing the tax payer over GHS28million. Even with evidence of tracks that were involved, oil marketing companies and drivers details, not a single arrest was made in-spite of all the noise in the media and official complain to the police CID and Parliament.
Under the NDC all the Tuna vessels were working and enjoying state support. Now under the current leadership, industry is retrogressing with the Tuna Sector recently crying during a press conference. Their fishing license fees increased by over 381%, unprecedented. The sector has seen the near collapse of its once vibrant pole and line sector with active vessels reducing from 20 to 5. The purse seine sector is struggling to break even and taxes
increased on everything.
Growth in the sector has been on the decline from 3.1% in 2016 through negative 1.4% in 2017 and -6.8% in 2018 to -8.4% in 2019.The sector is in recession and its implications must not be forgotten.
The incompetence of the President and his lieutenants is most pronounced in the fisheries sector. Crass incompetence coupled with the penchant for pelf has accelerated the collapse of the sector.
HON. ERIC OPOKU
(MINORITY SPOKESPERSON ON AGRIC.)
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