THE Ministry of Fisheries has defended itself against claims that it has permitted pair trawling and also registered foreign vessels to fish in Ghanaian waters.
A group calling itself the Joint Action Against Pair Trawling (JAAPT) had alleged that the ministry illegally registered Chinese, Korean and Japanese fishing vessels and others belonging to Ghanaian to engage in pair trawling.
Pair trawling is a fishing activity utilising the towing power of two boats, for which larger nets than usual can be used.
The method also increases the fuel efficiency of the two boats.
The JAAPT had threatened to embark on a protest march to call for a ban on pair trawling on the country’s coast.
That action sparked outrage from the Joint Ad hoc Committee of Registered Trawler Vessel Owners Association, an association of people engaged in fishing, as the threats would have affected their fishing activities.
The leadership of the association subsequently denied the engagement of local vessels in pair trawling.
During her turn at the meet-the-press series in Accra yesterday, the Minister for Fisheries, Mrs Gladys Asmah, said the allegations of the JAAPT were “simply untrue” and gave an account of the ministry since its establishment in 2004.
According to the minister, the ministry had not and would not register any foreign vessel, be it Chinese, Korean or Japanese, because it was inimical to the interest of the nation and also against the laws of the country.
“Be they Chinese, Koreans or Japanese, all these expatriate fishers being complained about are employees of Ghanaian companies. They have all been recruited by Ghanaian companies as employees and are paid salaries,” she pointed out.
She said contrary to the claims, the ministry was gradually building up the capacities of indigenous fishers and companies to enable them to operate independently and eventually take complete control of the fishing industry in the country.
She added that that was being achieved by assisting Ghanaian companies to own their own trawlers, instead of importing fish.
Mrs Asmah said pair trawling was of great concern to the ministry, for which reason she had, on several occasions, met with all stakeholders in the industry to discuss solutions to the challenge.
The ministry also introduced vessel monitoring systems to track down and monitor the activities of vessels, as well as other illegal methods of fishing.
She reiterated a prior appeal to fishers and people living in fishing communities to act as whistle-blowers and give out the names and particulars of vessels engaged in pair trawling to enable the ministry to initiate criminal prosecution of all offenders.
“The ministry is relying on the good sense of the people in the fishing communities and fishermen generally to solve the problem of pair trawling in the country,” she said.
Mrs Asmah expressed the belief that if the JAAPT had contacted her ministry, all issues raised would have been solved, without the need to initiate a demonstration which could cause violence and instability in the industry.
“We believe the mass demonstrations or protests will not solve the problems being complained about. It is dialogue and understanding which will bring about an amicable settlement,” she said.
Mrs Asmah recounted some achievements of the ministry, which included plans to build fishing harbours and landing sites and the provision of cold stores and refrigeration facilities.
She charged Ghanaians to constructively criticise the ministry to help improve the sector but warned those focused on disrupting progress in the sector to desist from unwarranted accusations.
DAILY GRAPHIC, THURSDAY MAY 15, 2008, PG 49 (SPREAD)