While visiting a Fisheries Enforcement Unit in Tema in August, Ghana’s Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture stated that “the fishing industry, if carefully harnessed can contribute meaningfully to Ghana’s revenue generation.” To that end, Ghana needs to address a series of challenges.
First, as emphasised by the Minister, the country has opportunities to expand its international fish markets, provided regulations on illegal fishing “are enforced swiftly”. Ghana’s Director of Naval Training told reporters that as part of the law enforcement, tracking devices have now been installed on all tuna vessels and trawlers – making it illegal for any vessel to go fishing without this device.
The fight against illegal fishing is crucial regarding fish trade relations with the EU. In November 2013, the EU issued a ‘yellow-card’ warning to Ghana for not doing enough to fight illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and gave it 6 months to address its shortcomings; if a ‘red card’ were to be attributed, sanctions would include a fish import ban. On 27 June 2014, the EC granted the country another 6 months to improve the situation on the grounds that “credible progress was being made towards complying with their obligations.”
This is taking place in a context where, in July 2014, the Interim Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) deal was finalised in West Africa. On this topic, the Pacific Islands Forum Fisheries Agency’s (FFA’s) Fish Trade and Industry News reported that Ghana, a major canned tuna producer, provided “an annual average of 4.6% of total EU volume imports in the period 2009 to 2013 (including intra-EU trade)”. The FFA also underlines that the IEPA will give “a boost to a proposed tuna canning joint venture in Ghana involving the Taiwanese tuna trading giant FCF and the vertically integrated Korean firm, Silla. The factory is projected to annually process around 20,000mt of canned tuna, of which 25 percent is to be pole and line caught.”
Ben Czapnik, for ICTSD Passerelles newsletter, also commented on the IEPA topic that “despite the importance of the regional market for processed products of Ghana, this country would be unlikely to seriously consider a result any which would result in a loss of access to Europe for important commodities” – including tuna.
Meanwhile, the Ghana Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister also announced that all tilapia imports were to be banned, with immediate effect, “to help create a market for local fish farmers and encourage higher production”. More than 90% of Ghana’s annual fish demand (880,000 tonnes) is serviced by imports, which annually cost US$2 billion. However, Ventures Africa reported that Ghana’s Agricultural Workers Union (GAWU) is voicing Ghanaian fears over the lack of an alternative arrangement to meet the consumption needs for the massive shortfalls in supply that will be created by the ban.
As in many ACP countries, fisheries and aquaculture are crucial sectors for the nation’s food security, exports earnings and jobs. In Ghana, processing tuna (canned tuna/tuna loins) for export to the EU is first and foremost a major source of jobs that do not require higher qualifications. Such exports to the EU are not only dependent upon ongoing duty-free access, but also on meeting other requirements, including those derived from the EU IUU regulation. Efforts undertaken by Ghana to address IUU challenges are welcome and timely because, as part of the implementation of the IUU regulation, the EU decision on whether to ban fish product imports may be taken at the end of the year, based on an assessment of the changes introduced in Ghanaian legislation and practices. However, in order to maximise job creation in the sector, the recent decision to ban tilapia imports to promote local fish farming, is equally important. A similar recent decision in Nigeria was taken on small pelagic imports (which also form a significant part of Ghana’s fish imports).