A non-governmental organization, Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), has commissioned an analysis to be published to enforce the law to bring “Saiko” to an end.
Speaking for the organization, the Executive Director, Steve Trent prompted the government that, even though they are figuring a strategy to mitigate coronavirus, good nutrition for the locals at the coast is at stake as threats of coronavirus heightens.
“The world is facing a pandemic, and while it is absolutely vital that the government create a clear strategy for coronavirus, “saiko” cannot be allowed to continue while attention is diverted. These coastal communities need good nutrition and stable livelihoods more than ever in the face of threats such as coronavirus.”
‘Saiko trans-shipments’ is a form of illegal fishing where industrial trawlers transfer fish at sea to specially adapted canoes to be landed. An analysis carried out by the Taylor Crabbe legal consultancy confirms that this form of fishing is illegal under Ghanaian law.
The analysis also proved that in 2017 alone, it took around 100,000 tonnes of fish costing Ghana millions in revenue and threatened food security and jobs.
For this cause EJF was driven to conduct another analysis by which the Executive Director believes the government does not have to waste time on deliberations because it is a serious threat to Ghana’s economy.
“Saiko is a serious threat to Ghana’s economy, driving poverty, hunger and unrest. Ghana’s ‘people’s fish’ is on the brink of collapse. We do not have time to waste discussing whether something that has been illegal for a decade is illegal – it is and all parties know this. This watertight legal analysis shows that saiko is illegal beyond all doubt. Now let us get on with the real, crucial action of eradicating this criminal trade once and for all.”
According to reports, the Ghana Industrial Trawlers Association (GITA) wrote to the Ministry for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development in November 2019 saying, it would “suspend [saiko] trans-shipment at sea until further notice”.
According to EJF however, almost 200 saiko canoes landed at Elmina the same month after the association’s declaration that it would “suspend” the already-illegal practice.
Though, the legal analysis by Taylor Crabbe proves that ‘saiko’ has been illegal since the passing of the implementing rules to the 2002 Fisheries Act (Act 625) – the 2010 Fisheries Regulations (LI 1968), the illegal trans-shipment of fish is still ongoing.
According to the legal analysis, the Ministry for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, in exercising their power under the 2002 Act to enact implementing regulations on trans-shipment guaranteed:
“Where the form of transhipment is explicitly barred [by the Regulations] then the [fisheries] commission and council are precluded from authorising or supervising such transhipments”
In the 2020 budget statement, government announced that it would stop saiko as part of efforts to save the fishing industry, committing to banning all domestic and international vessels found to be engaging in saiko from operating in Ghanaian waters.
EJF has come out with this analysis to remind and urge government to keep the pledge as well as investigate all suspected cases of saiko fishing and prosecute cases transparently through the court process.
Industrial trawlers target fish specifically for saiko and they are licensed to catch juveniles and small pelagic fish aside the bottom-dwelling fish. The small pelagic fishes are known as ‘the people’s fish’ in Ghana due to their importance to coastal communities. According to the Business and Financial times, Scientists predict danger for stocks in less than six years and severe threat to the local people if action is taken.