Fish hunters in Cape Coast
It was a very nice morning. I did my best to wake up as early as possible, just to get morning light pictures. And it did pay off.
But there was another reason why I woke up that early. In Elmina, the fish market opens at first light, since fishermen who have spent all the night fishing are landing on the shores, with their boats filled with fishes of all kinds. Their wives and women are waiting for them, as it is up to them to sell the fish. This is a fishing city.
Fishing in Cape Coast is more than just for the sake of getting fish. It is part of the people’ s life, part of their culture. It goes with traditions and customs, and of course, it is the source of more than 90% of their animal protein.
Let me take you around a little bit…
For the past few years, the population of Ghana has increased considerably. That meant increase in the demand for fish, thus an increase in the number of fishermen in Cape Coast. Therefore, the coast of the ocean started to deplet of fish, and fishermen started using illegal fishing methods, methods that allow them to catch any kind of fish of any size, even ‘’baby’’ fishes. That led to even more depletion (as fishes don’t get to grow up to reproduce). Illegal fishing methods include using dynamite, small-holed nets…
A catalyser to the problem
Fishing in Cape Coast is mostly limited to artisanal type. Thus, fishermen have a clear fishing area, just for them. Since some years back, big industrial fishing vessels started to « envade » their fishing area, and in some cases, destroy their nets. That not only deplets their area of fishing, but led to artisan fishermen to fully adopt illegal fishing as their own way to get some fish, at least.
What is EJF doing ?
Environmental Justice Foundation, funded by the European Union, has started Far Dwuma Nkodo , a project that has a goal securing sustainable fisheries. Started in 2016 , the project carried out different training and seminars, involving different stakeholders in the fishing industry, both public and private sector. It was a good platform to discuss about measures that could be undertaken to reduce and in long-term end illegalities in fishiries, thus heading towards sustainability.
For individual fishermen, sessions were also organised to give them a voice and to discuss problems they face, problems that lead them to practicing illegal fishing. Different campaigns are still on the run, campaigns that seek to discourage fishermen from using illegal methods. One of the interesting campaigns also involves using flags that are normally used to decorate boats, and make them a way to carry messages and slogans to encourage fishermen to change fishing practices.
Technology to reduce illegal practices
One of the oustanding solutions that EJF has come up with is a mobile application. Designed to work with GPS location technology, this phone application will help fishermen to instantly report the presence and location of any noticed fishing illegality in the water, such as a fishing vessel in artisanal fishing area.
The application, which is now in testing phase, will send an instant notification to EJF, which will transfer the alert to the national fisheries regulation body for further follow up.
I was lucky to participate in the first session with fishermen at the project offices. It is a new thing for them. Some of them had never heard of GPS, and now going into waters with their smart phones ? But that was what the session was about. They were introduced to how everything works, and later had the phone installed on their phones. It is going to be a process, but I am pretty optimistic about it, and the fishermen that we were together looked so too.
It is a beautiful thing that this city’s life revolves around fishing. And I hope that soon, with all the efforts that different stakeholders such as EJF are putting in, alongside fishermen, fishing will be made sustainable.