Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing violates conservation and management measures currently in place in many countries. IUU is recognized as a serious threat to sustainability of capture fisheries due to its negative impact on the ecology of the oceans and economy of fishing nations. Global losses due to IUU fishing alone are estimated between US$10 billion and US$23.5 billion per year with West African waters deemed to have the highest levels of IUU in the world representing up to 37 percent of the region’s catch (OECD, 2012). This is estimated at US $ 100,000 per day, in addition to damage of artisanal equipment in the marine waters of West Africa. While much of the IUU fishing in the region is believed to be conducted by foreign vessels fishing in the EEZ of coastal West African States, in Ghana, a large part of the IUU fishing problem can be attributed to the Ghanaian fishing fleet. IUU fishing is often associated with a large quantity of by-catch as fishers do not comply with regulations, particularly the use of small mesh size.
Transhipping of fish is banned in some West African countries, including Senegal, Cote d’Ivoire and Guinea. In Ghana, the practice is authorized under a special permission and can only occur in port under the supervision of an agent of the Fisheries Commission. In recent years, a new form of transhipment developed between industrial vessels and the artisanal canoes, with the canoes buying frozen by-catch from trawlers at sea. Although it is deemed illegal and prohibited under the Fisheries Act 625 of 2002 (Section 132), the business has grown due to its lucrative nature in many coastal communities of Ghana. This is known as ‘SAIKO’ fishing. It is widely practiced in some landing sites in the Central, Western and Greater Accra Regions.
As one by-catch collector puts it, “with SAIKO, harvest is always assured”. The problem of SAIKO is compounded by overfishing, poor public education, greed and weak fisheries law enforcement mechanisms. This brief (uploaded newsprint image) proposes practical enforcement measures to reduce illegal fishing activities.
At the just ended IUU National Seminar the Hon. Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Hon. Sherry Ayittey, called for an end to Saiko fishing and as fishermen to “say no to Saiko” as it contributes to the depletion of our fisheries resources.