Source: Undercurrent News
Another vessel charged with overfishing in Ghanaian waters has refused to pay the resulting fine, representing a systemic problem for the country’s government, according to the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF).
According to the NGO, the Chinese vessel Lu Rong Yuan Yu 956 was caught in Ghanaian waters with illegal nets and undersized fish in 2019, resulting in a standard fine of $1 million. However, the owners have now reportedly refused to pay the fine, the latest in a string of cases where beneficiaries of illegal fishing have simply walked away without being held accountable, the EJF said.
The Lu Rong Yuan Yu is not the first Chinese vessel to be caught fishing illegally in Ghanaian waters; both the Meng Xin 16 and the Meng Xin 29 had fines imposed in 2017 and 2019 for illegal fishing respectively, and in each case, the vessel’s owners paid a smaller fee before ultimately being re-licensed.
At present, roughly 90% of Ghana’s fishing fleet is linked to Chinese ownership, the EJF found in a 2018 survey. Should illegal fishing practices among these vessels continue, the EJF warns that the small pelagic stocks which form the staple catch for local canoe fishers could collapse within the next decade.
“Such has been the devastating impact of illegal fishing activities that Ghana now has to import around half of its fish, and local fishing communities are increasingly victims of the impact of rapidly declining fish populations,” said Steve Trent, executive director of the EJF.
“According to the Fisheries Act, failure to pay the fine within 30 days results in the matter reverting to the court. It is now essential that the court uses all legal options available to require payment of the fine and accompanying sanctions to ensure deterrence.”