Illegal fishing by foreign trawlers costs Ghana $50m a year, researchers say

Date: June 18, 2019

Source: The Guardian

Destructive industrial fishing practices condemned as ‘corporate, organised crime’

Illegal fishing by foreign trawlers is decimating Ghana’s fish populations and costing the country’s economy tens of millions of dollars a year, according to researchers.

An investigation published on Monday by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) claims that “saiko” fishing, whereby trawlers target the staple catch of Ghanaian canoe fishers and sell it back to fishing communities at a profit, landed approximately 100,000 tonnes of fish in 2017, worth $50m (£40m) when sold at sea and up to $81m when sold at port.

The practice is precipitating the collapse of Ghana’s staple fish stock – small pelagic fish such as sardinella, a crucial protein in the local diet. Scientists have warned that stocks could be completely destroyed as early as 2020, said EJF’s executive director, Steve Trent.

“This is corporate, organised crime,” said Trent.

“Saiko is facilitated precisely to operate undercover. If you have trawlers coming into port and landing fish they’re not licensed to catch, government agencies have no option but to act. But by using fewer, smaller boats to bring the frozen fish to shore, the catch is claimed as being legitimate and legal when it patently isn’t.”

More than 90% of Ghana’s industrial trawl fleet is linked to Chinese owners, who depend on Ghanaian “front” companies to bypass national laws forbidding their operation, according to the EJF.

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A transhipment of fish at sea off Ghana’s coast. Photo credit: EJF

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