Graphic Business News

Specialised fisheries court in the offing

By: Maclean Kwofi

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) is to deepen collaboration with appropriate stakeholders to establish two specialised courts to deal with those who infringe on the laws and regulations governing the fisheries sector in the country.

To be located in Tema and Cape Coast, the two courts when completed will help reduce adjudication time of fisheries infractions across the country.

This was contained in the report of the Parliamentary Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs on the 2020 programme based budget estimates of the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development.

"The ministry was expected to deepen collaboration with appropriate stakeholders to enhance effective law enforcement, and establish two specialised fisheries prosecution courts at Tema and Cape Coast to reduce adjudication time of fisheries infractions."

Ghana is an important fishing nation in the world because about 10 per cent of its citizenry operates in the fisheries sector and produces about 450,000 tonnes of fish from both capture and culture.

It is also known to have high per-capita fish consumption higher than the world’s average.

Based on the characterisation of the United Nations (UN) Convention of the Law of the Sea, Ghana stands as a Coastal State, Flag State, Port State and also a Market State.

Ghana is, therefore, under international obligation to ensure that its own fishing fleets are regulated; that it has the capacity to regulate fishing activity in its Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) and designated fish-landing ports to avoid becoming a destination for illegally caught fish; and also to ensure that its fish products entering the international markets are certified.

In November 2013, Ghana’s failure to take sufficient actions against illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing activities by Ghana flagged vessels brought about the European Commission’s (EC’s) issuance of a ‘yellow card’ sanction on Ghana, tainted with illegally caught fish.

This yellow card effectively banned the export of fishery products from Ghana into the 28-nation trade bloc of the European Union (EU).

Credible progress
Following this sanction which deprived the country of over US$150 million, Ghana made a significantly credible progress in improving the governance of the fisheries sector, as well as combating IUU with support from local and international organisations such as the European Union.

The government subsequently put in place appropriate fisheries legislative measures, inter-agency and international cooperation, collaboration and coordination, as well as human and logistical resources to manage and regulate the fisheries sector and maritime domain.

After satisfying the several stringent requirements, the EC, on October 1, 2015, removed Ghana from the IUU watch list. But barely five years after the country was removed from the IUU watch list, several reports indicate that fisheries infractions are rather on the rise.

Last year, the Fisheries Law Enforcement Unit conducted 550 observer missions and intensified sea and land patrols which resulted in the arrest of 52 infraction cases that are currently in the courts for prosecution.

It was for this reason that MoFAD is pushing for a specialised court to deal with those who infringe on the laws and regulations governing the fisheries sector in the country.

It has, therefore, appealed to the Chief Justice to set up fisheries courts to help prosecute cases of abuse, especially those by foreign vessels.

According to the Parliament report, MoFAD is planning to undertake sensitisation sensitised on fisheries laws and regulations as well as the negative effects of illegal fishing at over 150 fishing communities across the country.

These interventions were intended to reduce illegal, unregulated and unreported flshing activities by 70 percent and increase the fisheries law compliance rate by 80 per cent.