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Low Catch Affects Fishing Business

01 July 2013

GHANA - The low catch by fishermen along the coast of the Western Region has forced some fishmongers to buy imported fish from cold stores to smoke before retailing on the local market.

Citing the Daily GraphicGhanaWeb reports that in Sekondi and its surroundings, hundreds of ovens, which had heavy clouds of smoke hanging over their roofs, have not been heated for months.

To them, they simply cannot get enough to smoke. They attributed the problem to the dwindling fish stock in the country’s territorial waters.

Speaking to the Daily Graphic, one of the fishmongers, Sister Ama Attah, a member of the Essikado Fishmongers Group, said the situation was affecting the fishmongers more than any other group along the shores of the region.

She said, “Since we have children to feed and needs to cater for, we the women have to go to the cold stores in the central business district and buy the imported fish to smoke and retail it so we don’t stay idle.”

Asked if it was profitable to buy the imported fish, Sister Attah said, “On each carton we smoke and sell we make only GH¢10.00 profit and out of that GH¢10.00, we spend GH¢5.00 on firewood and other things needed to smoke the fish.”

“We cannot just stay here doing nothing. Sometimes we go to the fishing harbour to struggle to get a little to smoke and all the loan we took for our business has become debt,” she lamented.

She said at the moment, the known fishing seasons were no longer time for bumper harvest, adding that “in the past we used to know that there was a season of abundant fish, but as we speak today, when the fishing season, covering July, August and September, comes we will not be expecting anything special.”

That aside, she said the fishermen spent a lot of money going to sea, and “they fish for days but return with little catch. Even the little catch that they return with is sold at a very high price to enable them to recover the cost of fuel and other inputs and pay other fishermen.”

She explained that a few years ago, a box or bowl of fish at the fishing harbour was sold for GH¢150.00, but at present, the same quantity is sold for between GH¢280.00 and GH¢300.00.

Madam Victoria Darko, the spokesperson for the Crentsiwaa fishmongers group in Sekondi, said because of the low catch, the cost of fishing had gone up and that at the moment the fish business was no longer profitable.

“In the past one fishmonger could sit by a whole boat full of fish and sell the whole day and send the rest home for smoking or to the cold store and we made good profit,” she said.

She said the wire mesh, which they use for their business, had also become very expensive, the cost of firewood was also very high and that was actually making life very difficult for them.

She confirmed the claim that they bought fish from the cold store for sale, which she also said was not profitable but they had no other job, saying, “The only job we know how to do is to smoke fish.”

Madam Darko said in the past smoked fish from the Sekondi shore was exported to America and Europe but now they could not get enough to smoke, let alone export some.

When the Daily Graphic visited the area, the ovens were without fire, and jumbo aluminium bowls used for measuring the fish were empty with the women sitting idle, and some of them sleeping close to their ovens or heap of fire-wood.

At the beaches, the fishermen were seen mending their nets in readiness for the next season. An elderly man, Nana Ato, appealed to the fishery sector to come up with innovations that would help them since the situation currently was not the best and that the low catch and high cost of operation were plunging them into heavy debts.

“We have no other options, all we know is fishing, that is what we do best,” he said.

Asked if they were not to be blamed for the situation, he laughed and said that assertion was true to some extent, but the law enforcement agencies had to ensure that the fishermen did not employ unacceptable methods to fish.

The fishermen use illegal means such as pair trawling, light, and dynamite, which destroys the breeding grounds in the sea.

TheFishSite News Desk

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