Ghanaian fisheries under threat from ‘saiko’

Frozen blocks of saiko fish Photo: EJF Frozen blocks of saiko fish Photo: EJF

Ghana’s fisheries are under threat of imminent collapse as a result of ‘saiko’, a form of illegal fishing where foreign trawlers target the staple catch of canoe fishers and sell this stolen fish back to local communities at a profit.

The Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has now called for complete eradication of this harmful, illegal practice and the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), which has been monitoring the situation, has applauded the move and called for an urgent government crackdown.

Steve Dent, EJF’s executive director welcomed the clear statement made by minister Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, speaking at the national Conference on Fisheries and Coastal Environment. “Minister Quaye’s statement that saiko must end is a very positive sign, and I wholeheartedly applaud it,” he said.

“But it is not enough. What is needed is the immediate, effective and transparent enforcement of the law. Strong penalties must be applied to create a deterrent and prove that this government means to end saiko fishing for good,” he added.

Worth more than US$50 million, the practice is threatening coastal livelihoods and could lead to the collapse of stocks of small pelagic fish which are a crucial part of the nation’s diet.

Last year, the government intensified enforcement action, resulting in a high-profile arrest. This led to a notable decline in saiko activities at Elmina, a major landing site for saiko fish in Ghana’s Central Region. Since then, however, saiko activities have slowly increased once again, according to EJF monitoring.

One of the trawlers caught on film during monitoring was authorised to export seafood to the European Union, raising serious questions around Ghana’s compliance with EU’s regulation to combat illegal fishing.

“This is an ecological and humanitarian crisis,” concluded Mr Trent.

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