More than 200 villages along Ghana’s coastline rely on fisheries as their primary source of income.

However, Ghana’s small pelagic fishery, crucial for food security and livelihoods, is on the brink of collapse following decades of over-exploitation.

The illegal practice of ‘saiko’ fishing – the transhipment of fish at sea from industrial trawlers to local canoes – has had a particularly destructive impact on Ghana’s small pelagic fisheries.

Joy News went undercover for several weeks in some of these vessels to capture the illegal fishing businesses that are said to have been suspended.

He met 38-year-old Nana Kweigya, son of Opanyin Kweigya whose ancestry straddles many generations of fishermen.

The fishing business is the only business known to Nana Kweigya and his family and has been their dependable partner for a very long period.

Their canoe is among the over 100 canoes here at Abandze where they practice their trade.

Kweigya sits in one of his canoes at the Abandze beach reflecting how difficult it has been for the fishing industry.

“What is accounting for the decline in fishing is the illegal unreported and unregulated fishing practices (IUU). The regulators know about it but they are not acting,” he lamented.

 The illegal Unregulated and Unreported fishing practices, Nana Kweigya says is widespread in Ghana and it’s done by both canoes and the fishing vessels.

“The regulator has decided not to clamp down the activities of these saiko people and this has become our undoing,” Kweigya fumed.

While sitting at the beach, Nana Anobil who has been in the fishing business his entire life returns to the beach after hours of what he describes as painful, considering the cost of the outboard motors, the canoe and the fuel that was used to power the canoe for the activity.

Nana Anobil will turn 50 this year and he narrated how he hardly sees fishes in the sea as he used to do when he started this trade with his parents.

With a painful smile, he retorted, “the trawling boats use the smallest of nets to sweep all the fish, fish we, the artisanal fishermen should be catching. All they do is to take what they want and the rest is thrown back into the sea.”

The effect of the transshipment has not only affected the fishermen along Ghana’s coastal communities but also the fishmongers who are the recipients of the catch of the fishermen at the beach. Efua Akyere laments vehemently the impact of the transshipment.

“It’s become very tough for women and children here at Abandze. Our men do not get any catch when they go fishing. This has made it difficult to take care of our children. This was what we inherited from our parents but now when they go, they come back with nothing,” she said painfully.

Efua Akyere and her colleagues are appealing to government to intervene to save their livelihoods from collapsing.

“Our appeal is simple! Government has to go beyond the rhetoric to deal with the saiko people. They are really worrying us. Something should really be done about these saiko people,” she said.

And until this is addressed, according to the scientific community, no management measure will bring the needed relief to the fishing industry, not even the closed season.