New government initiatives to expand domestic production of Ghana's fisheries


Unlike commodities such as cocoa, produced mainly for export, the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) estimates that 75% of Ghana’s annual fish production is for domestic use. Indeed, fish consumption accounts for up to 60% of animal protein in the average Ghanaian diet, with average annual per capita fish consumption estimated at 26 kg.

According to the Medium-Term Expenditure Framework (2017-19) published by Ghana’s Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD), the government aims to increase domestic production of fish from 465,000 tonnes in 2016 to 499,000 tonnes by 2020, a goal that will require a strategic planning of the sustainability of fishing practices.

Dwindling Fisheries Stocks

Fishing has historically been the main source of income for millions of Ghanaians living along the 539-km coastline, near the 1600-km Volta River or around Lake Volta. However, illegal practices and overfishing have posed a threat to the sustainability of stocks. According to 2016 data from the FAO, marine fishing production has halved in the last 20 years, from almost 420,000 tonnes in 1999 to 202,000 tonnes in 2014. In economic terms, the contribution of fisheries to GDP has declined from approximately 6% in 1993 to 4.5% in 2016.

As fishing levels have decreased, the country has had to meet demand with imports, which reached $373m in 2013, resulting in fish trade deficit of $319m that year, compared to a $33m surplus in 1997.

Annual Ban

In 2015 Ghana implemented the Marine Fisheries Management Plan, which runs until 2019. The strategy provides a framework for reversing the decline in fish resources and establishes a management regime to ensure that fish stocks are exploited sustainably. One of the key points of the plan is the closed season, which bans fishing for two months to reduce pressure on the stocks and allow fish to spawn. The Ghana Fisheries Management Plan will implement this directive annually until 2019.

Fines ranging from $500,000 to $2m may be imposed on fishermen caught fishing during the ban, depending on the situation. The government will be running patrols at sea during the no-fishing period to help enforce the ban. Meanwhile, to meet domestic demand for fisheries products during the two-month ban, the country will have to rely on imports.

According to the FAO, marine fishing is the primary source of local fish production, contributing approximately 80% of the total fish supply. Due to the importance of the industry, the public response to the ban has been largely negative.

The ban led to a number of protests, particularly in the Western Region, according to local media reports. An estimated 70% of marine fishing in Ghana is conducted by small-scale, artisanal fishers, whose livelihoods are threatened by such a policy.

Seeking Longer-Term Solutions

Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, the minister of fisheries and aquaculture development, has publicly committed to improving management of the fishing and aquaculture sector. The increasing emphasis on fisheries is also reflected in the 2017 budget: the expenditure for 2017 is increasing by 18.4% to GHS62.4m ($14.9m) from GHS52.7m ($12.6m) in 2016. In addition, the government has announced plans to reduce import taxes on fishing equipment by 2018.

In July 2017 the EU announced it will provide a four-year grant totalling €1.9m for a Ghanaian food security project called Far Ban Bo, meaning “protecting fisheries livelihoods”. In addition to helping to reduce illegal fishing activities in the country, the goals of the project include securing tenure rights for small-scale fishers and improving participatory co-management of fisheries facilities. The programme, which is a joint effort between two non-profit organisations, the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation and Ghanaian Hen Mpoano, will be implemented in 10 districts within the Central Region and the Volta Estuary.

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The Report: Ghana 2018

Agriculture chapter from The Report: Ghana 2018

The Report: Ghana 2018

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