By Cecil Mensah
The Fisheries Commission, the fisheries sector regulatory body, has stressed that, the introduction of the Electronic Monitoring System (EMS) and in particular the Vessel Monitoring System (VMS), has curtailed the activities of Illegal Unreported Unregulated (IUU), popularly known as the pirate fishing and has generated six million Ghana Cedis in fines to the Commission.
According to the Commission, the vessels caught engaged in IUU in the country’s territorial waters by the MESA project have so, far paid over four million Ghana Cedis in fines to the Commission.
The monitoring system, has also brought an end to the issues of pair trawling, which engaged the minds of many artisanal fishermen during the last two presidential elections.
The success in the fisheries sector, came to the fore when the Ministry of Fisheries and Aqua-Culture through the Commission, launched the Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA); as part of the Economics Community of West African States (ECOWAS): Coastal and Maritime
Thelma to resolve territorial conflicts among artisanal fishermen and semi-industrial vessel operators.
The MESA project, since being operational, has provided safety at sea for fishers and saved the lives of many semi- industrial vessels in the country.
The Ministry intends to roll out the distribution of some transponders as part of the MESA project, to monitor all the activities of artisanal fishermen in the country.
As part of the MESA project, artisanal fishermen now receive safety tips on their mobile phones by Short Messaging Service (SMS) warning them of the weather conditions at sea.
Under the project, Chief Fishermen at the various landing beaches after receiving the test messages are expected to raise green flag when the sea is calm, yellow flag when the sea is rough and red flag when the sea is dangerous and not good for fishing.
Speaking at the Second National Steering Committee made up of stakeholder’s to evaluate the relevance of the MESA project in Accra,Mr. Godfrey Baido Tsibu, Head of the MCSD at the Fisheries Commission said since the introduction of the MESA project, issues of fishing in foreign waters have been brought under control.
He said the commission has since put measures in place to eliminate IUU and foreign vessels don’t just come and fish in Ghana’s waters but they are granted authorization to do so in accordance with International Maritime laws.
According to him, the commission now runs two monitoring systems namely the VSM for monitoring fishing vessels and the Automatic Identification System (AIS) which is meant for general use of huge ships to prevent collisions.
He said, now fishing companies cannot export fish to countries in the European Union (EU) without the accompanying VSM report from the commission.
The activities of IUU, has made people to steal fish and take away resources belonging to others thereby creating social and environmental problems.
He said 25 to 30 percent of fish caught by way of IUU are unreported and the affected countries have lost close to ten to 23 billion Dollars every year.
He explained that the beneficiaries use these moneys to buy guns to fuel conflicts in some part of the world.
The National Focus Person (NFP) for the MESA project, Mrs Eunice Nuerkie Ofoli-Anum urged the artisanal fishermen council to set up by- laws that
will sanction fisher folks who go against the safety regulations of the commission.
She gave the assurance that the commission was working to have the transponders fixed on all the 12, 000 canoes operating in the country to control illegal fishing and ensure safety of the industry.