Ghanaians’ crave for “baby fish” or small fish has been cited as one of the reasons for the current shortage of fish in the country.
Contributing to the discussion on the state of the fishing industry in the country, a lecturer at the Department of Oceanography and Fisheries of the University of Ghana, Dr Francis K. E. Nunoo, told the Daily Graphic that “Ghanaians are not selective in the fish they eat, but make a delicacy of baby fish, which is the food of other fishes in the sea.”
He said the excuse of most people for eating small fishes was that they were delicious and their bones were soft.
However, in making a delicacy of baby fish, he said, Ghanaians were competing directly with and depriving the fishes of their food, hence the decline in fish stocks at sea.
He said in developed jurisdictions, catching those types of fish were banned and anyone found with them was made to face the law.
He also cited the greed of fishermen, bad fishing practices, poor sanitation and environmental practices by Ghanaians, as well as climate change, as other challenges in the industry.
Dr Nunoo, who specialises in Fisheries Ecology and Management, Coastal Management, Environmental Impact Assessment and Marine Biodiversity Conservation, said the challenges of the industry as was being reported in the media recently, was not new.
“For the past three decades the fisheries industry has been going through decline in stocks. After 1972 when there was a bumper harvest, there has been fluctuations ever since,” he said.
Dr Nunoo said the catch of fish per unit effort, that is, the amount of standard time, effort and resources put into fishing, was not corresponding with any of the catch made.
And as a result fishermen were using more effort, time, resources and finances for less results.
The greed of some fishermen too, and the fact that their whole livelihood depended on the industry, resulted in the use of what Mr Nunoo termed “unorthodox methods of fishing”.
These unorthodox methods include fishing with bright lights, dynamite and carbide.
With the dynamite, all marine life, that is, the fish targeted, those that were not edible but helped in the balance of the marine ecosystem, and all other aquatic life was destroyed, Dr Nunoo explained.
With 10 per cent of the population of the country totally dependent on the fishing industry for their livelihoods, depleting stocks meant more unorthodox methods, he pointed out.
Climate change, Dr Nunoo said, was also having an impact on the industry. With low temperatures the sea experienced upwellings, a phenomenon that brings nutrients from the bottom of the sea to the top for even distribution to the fishes.
This way, all nutrients necessary for the nutrition of fishes are evenly distributed for all fish. He explained that when the temperatures were high, upwellings decreased.
Dr Nunoo said the Ministry of Fisheries had a division called the Marine Fisheries Research Division, which undertook research that fed into policy drawing and implementation.
He said the ministry was doing the best it could with the low logistics and funding to improve on the industry.
Dr Nunoo said a National Fisheries and Aquaculture policy was currently being discussed.
DAILY GRAPHIC, SATURDAY, AUGUST 30, 2008, PG 1