The Journalists for Responsible Fisheries and Environment (JRFE), has called on the government of Ghana to end the illegal transshipment of fish at sea popularly known as Saiko.

The Association is worried about how the livelihoods of artisanal fishers in the four coastal regions of Ghana, are being affected with the wanton disregard for the fisheries laws in Ghana by some industrial trawlers, especially in these times of Covid-19.

In particular, the JRFE says it shares in the concerns of fishermen that have led to a series of agitations across a number of coastal communities in the country in recent times.

Fishermen across the country’s four coastal regions have started a one-week protest against the activities of Saiko, the illegal transshipment of fish at sea.

Their protests followed a  JoyNews hotline documentary ‘Saiko: When the last fish is caught’ that investigated the activities of industrial trawlers on high seas.

Among other revelations, the industrial trawlers were caught using under-sized nets to catch small fishes (a preserve of local fishermen) only to throw the dead or undesirable fishes back into the sea.

In a release, the Executive Director of the Journalists for Responsible Fisheries and Environment, Kingsley Nana Buadu, reveals some of the trawlers have been and are still engaging in the transshipment of fish at sea which the country’s fisheries laws forbid.

The worrying aspect, he explains, is that trawlers target species meant to be caught by local fishers, freeze them and then resell to the fishermen for profit.

“This situation is rendering the government’s support for fishermen in terms of giving out subsidized outboard motors and premix fuel, less useful.This is because these fishers spend hours on sea but return with little or no catch,” he avers.

Both the Fisheries Act 2002, Act 625 Section 132 and the Fisheries Regulations 2010 (Regulation 33) clearly prohibit Saiko. This illegality is undermining government’s efforts to better the lives of local fishers through fishing which serves as a source of livelihood for over 2.7 million Ghanaians.

“Saiko is threatening the jobs and food security of the fishing communities and Ghana’s economy in general,” he stated.

In 2019, fisheries scientists warned that Ghana was likely to lose fish stocks in the near future in the marine waters and this they explained would put food security and goals for the economic growth and poverty reduction in fishing communities at risk.

The chairman of the Scientific and Technical Working Group for the Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP), Professor Kobina Yankson, cautioned that Ghana was facing imminent fish stock depletion unless something drastic was done to save the industry.

The JRFE calls on the government of Ghana to as a matter of urgency end “Saiko and other illegal fishing activities such as over fishing and overcapacity, light fishing and fishing with chemicals to help save the lives of local fishers.

“Ending saiko in Ghana means, the country is greatly contributing to the achievement of the targets set under the Sustainable Development Goal 14 – Life Below Water,” the Executive Director stated.