Illegal fishing by small-scale fishers in Ghana: findings and policy suggestions.

Author:Akpalu, Wisdom

27 May 2014

The number of fishers and fishing vessels in the capture fishery sector, especially the artisanal marine fishery sub-sector, in Ghana has grown significantly over the past two decades leading to declining catches per trip. In addition to having too many fishers and boats, almost all the fishers have acquired nets with illegal mesh sizes, although the intensity of their use varies. Also nearly one-half of the fishers use light aggregation equipment when luring fish. These illegal activities are detrimental to biodiversity conservation and sustainability of the fishery sector.

The consumption of fish in developing coastal countries generally exceeds that of their counterparts in the developed world. For example, the per capita fish consumption in Ghana exceeds the global average by 77 per cent. In addition to providing the much-needed animal protein, especially for the poor, the capture fisheries sector remains a significant employer. In Ghana the fishery sector employs about 20 per cent of the nation's labour force and accounts for approximately 4-5 per cent of the gross domestic product.

The artisanal fishery sub-sector employs low-tech equipment but dominates the other marine fisheries in terms of employment and landings. The fishery sector is managed as a regulated open-access, thus any Ghanaian who has access to fishing equipment can fish if they obey the national fishing regulations. Easy access to the fish stocks has inevitably resulted in declining catches per fishing trip beginning the mid-1990s. Currently, the sub-sector lands 70 per cent of the marine catches.

In a bid to improve their catch efficiency, several small-scale/artisanal fishers are using nets with illegally small mesh sizes, light attraction equipment, poison, and dynamite in fishing. What leads to these practices and how could they be mitigated through government action? Research on two different violations of fishery law--namely illegal mesh size and light attraction fishing--gives us insights to answer this question.

Findings from research on violations of mesh size regulation

With regard to nets with illegal mesh sizes, research finds that the intensity of violation of the regulation, which is measured by quantity of juvenile catch, depends on a number of factors:

The rate at which a fishers discount future benefits/costs: Individual discount rate, which measures the rate of impatience, highly correlates with poverty. Thus, this finding indicates that...

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