Closed season: Fishermen in Elmina have fled to Ivory Coast and Togo amid hardship

Closed season: Fishermen in Elmina have fled to Ivory Coast and Togo amid hardship
Closed season: Fishermen in Elmina have fled to Ivory Coast and Togo amid hardship.

Fishermen in Elmina have fled to Ivory Coast and Togo in droves amid hardships visited on the fishing community during the closed season.

This is to enable them pay back loans they secured for business after they were hit by the closure of the sea on July 1.

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A few others have also gone into farming outside the coastal town while some were struggling, according to some residents.

The closed season is a period in the year when fishing expedition is officially prohibited to allow for the natural replenishment of the dwindling fish stock in the sea.

The season commenced from July 1 to July 31, 2022, for artisanal and semi-industrial fishers and from July 1 to August 31, 2022, for industrial fishers as announced by the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in a statement issued on April 12, 2022.

This, according to the Ministry, was pursuant to Section 84 of the Fisheries Act, 2002 (Act 625) adding that “the period of the 2022 closed season was agreed on based on scientific evidence and stakeholder consensus.”

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The Ministry has, therefore, halted the supply of premix fuel to landing beaches to aid compliance.

Consequently, residents in Elmina have turned to the lagoon, where catches are minimal, with some fishmongers buying from the cold store.

The shortage created by the situation has sent fish prices skyrocketing, pushing many fishmongers out of business.

On a visit to the Elmina landing beach Friday, the Ghana News Agency saw an almost deserted site with very little activity.

The fishermen were, among others, mending their nets, playing draft, chatting and some sleeping.

In separate interactions with the GNA, they unanimously expressed dislike for the closed season, describing it as a needless policy which was impacting adversely on their lives.

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A fisher, Mr Kobina Eshun noted that the closed season was the period of bumper harvest, but they had been denied that excellent opportunity and many rendered jobless as they depended solely on the sea for survival.

“Life is unbearable for us. We operate with loans, and we are unable to pay back our loans. There were no positive results last year when the sea was closed and it is going to be the same this year,” he said.

He called on government to abolish the policy, adding that “life is tough; government should come to our aid.”

The Assemblyman for Liverpool Electoral Area, Mr Kwaku Arhin Nketsiah, who expressed similar sentiments questioned the motive behind the closed season, indicating that government had not been consistent with the period for the season.

He disputed claims that artisanal fishers were destroying the sea, adding that industrial trawlers must be stopped immediately to save Ghana’s territorial waters from further deterioration.

According to him, the hike in fuel prices had also compounded their already dire economic situation.

“We are hungry. We are barely surviving. Some people have resorted to stealing and terrorising us in our homes,” he said.

“A few days ago, someone’s boiling pot of soup meant for selling Banku was stolen by some of these elements out of hunger,” he recounted.

Another fisherman, Egya Kwesi Awotwe told the GNA that most of the fishermen had migrated to Ivory Coast for survival.

“This is the time for bumper harvest and so the fishers procure loans between May and June to repair their boats and mend their nets in readiness for the season but unfortunately the government has decided to close the sea. If they stay here, they cannot pay back their loans,” he noted.

He appealed that instead of closing the sea, government should find means to eliminate light fishing and Saiko.

“If these conditions remain, nothing is going to change even if the sea is closed for one year,” he stressed.

He called on government to provide some compensation for them to mitigate their plight like it was done in other countries.

The fish market was virtually empty when the GNA visited.

The fishmongers also called for a repeal of the closed season because it took away their livelihoods.

“Mothers are weeping. We have been swallowed by debts because we are borrowing to feed ourselves,” a fishmonger, Madam Esther Nkrumah said.

“I am a single mother of six. This is how I survive with my children. We are pleading with the President not to close the sea again,” another woman, Madam Ernestina Ntsiful said.

GNA