The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has performed a colourful ceremony to commence this year’s ‘Close Season’ for fishing spanning, Saturday, July 1, to Tuesday, August 31, at Elmina in the Komenda-Edina-Eguafo-Abrem Municipality of the Central Region.
While canoe and inshore fishers will observe the closed season from Saturday, July 1 to Monday, August 31, industrial trawlers would observe it from July 1 to Thursday, August 31.
The term “closed season” also known as “biological rest period”, refers to the stopping of fishing activities during the spawning period to help replenish the stock.
Closed season is observed as a way of reducing fishing pressure on stocks when they are most productive, in terms of allowing the fish a chance to lay their eggs to replace the lost population due to fishing and other natural causes.
Globally, closed seasons are considered one of the key fisheries management procedures to help protect fish stocks and increase their population.
For the first time since Ghana started implementing the Closed Season in 2016, the country is doing it together with Cote d’Ivoire and Togo while Benin will join in 2024.
Placing the one-month ban on fishing expeditions, Mrs. Mavis Hawa Koomson the sector minister said, she was particularly filled with joy and satisfaction for the two countries’ participation because it was an indication that her working visits to those countries was yielding results.
To her, Elmina is not only known for its rich culture and historical structures such as the Elmina Castle but most significantly, as an important fishing community.
Therefore, hosting the official closure ceremony in Elmina was part of activities to highlight the importance of Elmina in the fisheries sector, following the commissioning of the Elmina Fishing Port Rehabilitation and Expansion Project on Friday, May 26.
For the Close Season, she acknowledged the contributions of scientific working bodies both national and international, the academia, development partners, and Civil Society Organizations in making the Closed Seasons a success.
“Our gallant fishermen and fish processors work tirelessly to ensure that we have fish in our diets to meet our protein requirements.”
She also recognized the contributions of the Ghana Navy, Fisheries Enforcement Unit, Security Agencies, and the Attorney-General’s Department in law enforcement and prosecution of offenders during and after the Closed Fishing Season.
She attested to the fact that the marine subsector had experienced a decline in fish stock levels and sizes due to activities of overexploitation and Illegal, Unregulated, and Unreported fishing, among others.
The livelihoods of the over 3,000,000 people and 187 coastal fishing communities that depend on fisheries resources are being threatened by the depletion or decline of fish stocks.
The Scientific community, including the works of academia and FAO Scientific Working Group, recommended the implementation of fisheries management measures, including closed fishing seasons to ensure recovery and rebuilding of depleted fish stocks to avoid the collapse of the fishing industry.
Accordingly, the Ministry and the Fisheries Commission in 2016 have been implementing the closed fishing season as a fish stock recovery and replenishing strategy by Section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625).
The continuous closure of the sea for the past seven years for the industrial fleet and four years for the artisanal and inshore fleet had shown a significant positive impact on fish stock recovery.
Buttressing that, she said, “The result of a biological survey conducted in 2022 indicated that, canoe landings were higher after the closure period than before the closure. The result also revealed that bigger fishers were caught in 2022 than in 2021.
“All these are signs of replenishing of fish stocks and increase in the growth of fish population over time. It is also an indication that the closed fishing season needs to be implemented for many years for us to attain the long-term objective of rebuilding the depleted fish stocks and replenishing dwindling stocks.”
In addition to that, she said the Ministry and the Fisheries Commission had undertaken series of broad stakeholder consultative meetings to engage and sensitize fishermen, fish processors, and the public on the implementation of the 2023 closed season.
Mrs. Koomson assured that the government was fully aware of the short-term economic impact of the Closed Fishing Season on fishers and processors.
Therefore, she said the Ministry would continue to provide relief items in the form of rice and cooking oil to support fishers and fish processors during the closure period.
As a way of reducing pressure on the fisheries resources, the Ministry and its partners, including the Ghana Fisheries Recovery Activity has launched alternative livelihood training support for fishers starting with 1350 fishers.
The beneficiaries will be trained in masonry, carpentry, dressmaking, hairdressing, electronics and auto-engineering among others in selected communities along the coast.
“This training would be scaled up to cover 8,350 fishers and after the training, trainees would be supported to set up to ensure that they earn incomes from their trade. I take this opportunity to encourage fishers, especially the youth, to embrace this opportunity and enrol on the programme.”
“We thank the Regional Ministers, Metropolitan, Municipal, and District Chief Executives, as well as, Development Partners like the Ghana Fishery Recovery Activity for their continuous support.
After the ban, she said the enforcement authorities would commence full surveillance and enforcement activities to ensure compliance with the Closed Fishing Season and prosecute offenders accordingly. I therefore humbly appeal to fishers to desist from fishing and comply with the closure.
“On this note, I declare the season closed for artisanal canoes and inshore vessels from 1st to 31st July 2023 and for the trawl vessels from 1st July to 31st August 2023,” she stated.
Under the auspices of the Fisheries Committee for the West Central Gulf of Guinea (FCWC), joint fishing patrol operations will be undertaken by the Navy of the two countries to ensure, among others, compliance with the Closed Fishing Season in both countries.
Mrs. Justina Marigold Assan, the Central Regional Minister, commended the government for the innovations brought to redeem the sector from decline.
He thanked the government for the establishment of the fishing harbour to create employment for the youth.