Illegal fishing puts the oceans under pressure and causes billions of dollars in damage. 90 per cent of the world's fish stocks are considered overfished or exploited to the limits of sustainability. Large industrial trawlers often place themselves above the regulations and put the livelihoods of local fishers at risk. Ghana wants to improve its fisheries and make them fairer.
Ghanaian dockworkers have a lot to do. In an effort to reduce illegal fishing, inspectors regularly check the ships arriving at the port of Accra, the capital. They control vessels, licences and crews, while a tracking system keeps a constant record of the ships’ movements. If a ship disconnects itself from this system while at sea, it is an indication of illicit activities. Illegal fishing is a major problem for Ghana. Its waters, once teeming with fish, are becoming emptier every day. This is depriving the country of an important food source, undermining jobs and incomes for local fishers, and putting pressure on biodiversity.
On behalf of the German Development Ministry (BMZ), the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH is working to encourage sustainable fisheries. This involves ensuring an adequate food supply and enabling local people to generate higher incomes, while also protecting the environment. Controls like those in the port of Accra contribute to the further reduction of illegal fishing. Some 13,000 inspections have already documented more than 160,000 tonnes of fish, an average of over ten tonnes per inspection.
The standardised controls are based on the international Agreement on Port State Measures, to which Ghana is also a signatory. One of the inspectors in Accra is Richard Yeboah. He well remembers how things started: ‘It was difficult at the beginning but we’re making great progress, while still learning new things every day.’
Achievements have already been made. It is no longer permitted to fish without limits. Fishing licences and quotas now regulate who can catch fish, and how much. The licences also define areas where fishing is allowed, and block them if they become overfished. Almost 26,000 new fishing licences have already been issued. As a result, fish stocks are protected, biodiversity can recover, and food and jobs are secured for local people.
Besides Ghana, GIZ is also working to preserve biodiversity in Madagascar and Mozambique. Digital solutions underpin these efforts. For example, inspectors wear body cameras during their inspections to document violations and record evidence. ‘We are collecting more and more data,’ explains Richard Yeboah. ‘Over time, a pattern is emerging that lets us identify illegal activities more quickly and in a more targeted way.’
Illegal fishing is a global problem. To make fishing sustainable worldwide, the data from inspections is shared with other countries using a digital platform. This makes fish catches and sales traceable. If a vessel has a history of illegal activity, it can be prevented from entering a port. Every ship has to dock at some point – that is where the improved rules take effect.
Last update: June 2022