Three Year Moratorium to Bolster Marine Conservation

marine conservation

Ghana imposes a three-year ban on new canoe entries in the marine sector to combat overfishing and protect dwindling fish stocks, in line with the National Fisheries Management Plan 2022-2026.

Three Year Moratorium to Bolster Marine Conservation

Starting October 1, 2023, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development has implemented a three-year ban on new canoe entries into the marine sector. This decisive move is also part of a broader strategy to address the declining fish stocks in the country, with the goal of rejuvenating marine resources and promoting sustainable management.

The enforced moratorium, aptly named “Pause No New Canoes Now,” seeks to regulate the growing canoe fleet, thereby controlling fishing efforts. The rise in artisanal fishing, in particular, has led to issues of overcapacity, overfishing, reduced productivity, and dwindling profitability within the marine fisheries sector. With small pelagic stocks teetering on the edge of collapse, the government has stepped in with measures to reverse this alarming trend.

Confronting the Challenges of Overfishing

The marine artisanal fisheries sub-sector, which accounts for approximately 80 percent of the total annual pelagic catch, has witnessed a concerning surge in the number of canoes, growing from 8,000 in 1990 to over 12,000 in 2023. Despite this increase, the small pelagic fish landings, the lifeblood of the artisanal sub-sector, have plummeted significantly from 119,000 metric tonnes in 1990 to 20,000 metric tonnes in 2022. This decline in landings has had a profound impact on the livelihoods of over three million people throughout the value chain.

It is of paramount importance that all existing and newly constructed canoes are registered and marked with identification numbers in compliance with the imposed ban. During the moratorium, no new canoes will be permitted to enter the fishing industry. However, fishermen can replace their damaged canoes in accordance with specific guidelines and formal notification to the Fisheries Commission. These measures are to play a pivotal role in the recovery of fish stocks, benefitting the fishing community.

Three Year Moratorium to Bolster Marine Conservation
Three Year Moratorium to Bolster Marine Conservation

Stakeholder Engagement and Response

The introduction of the moratorium on new canoe entries is the result of extensive consultations with stakeholders, including boat builders and carvers, traditional authorities, and relevant government ministries and agencies. The initiative has consequently garnered support from the acting President of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council, who acknowledged the issue of overfishing stemming from the industry’s overcapacity.

The three-year ban aligns with the National Fisheries Management Plan 2022-2026. Additional measures to combat overfishing include implementing closed seasons for all fishing fleets, prohibiting Saiko fishing, introducing new trawl gear directives, reducing fishing days for trawlers, enhancing the licensing system for semi-industrial vessels, piloting electronic monitoring systems on trawlers, and establishing co-management structures. These combined efforts aim not only to conserve marine resources but also to ensure sustainable and prosperous catches for fishermen in the long term.