Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Developments In Ghana’s Fishing Industry

Fish provides a good source of high quality protein and contains many vitamins and minerals which are good for growth. Research over the past few decades has shown that the nutrients and minerals in some fish, particularly the Omega 3 fatty acids, are heart-friendly and can ensure improvement in brain development and reproduction. It is against this background that one finds recent developments in the fish industry extremely worrying, In today's edition of the Ghanaian Times newspaper, Ghanaians are being cautioned against the fish they consume because according to the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Nayon Billijo, with the exception of fish from the coast of James Town in Accra, all others are contaminated with chemicals and as such not good for consumption. According to the story, a recent test by the Ghana Standards Authority on samples of fish along the fishing communities from Half Assini to Aflao found the fish except those from James Town to contain harmful chemicals which the fishermen use. Recently, a Deputy Minister in the same Ministry, Aquinas Tawiah Quansah accused some fishermen at Axim in the Nzema East Municipality of using formalin, a chemical used in embalming corpse to preserve fish - an allegation the fishermen denied. Formalin is a poisonous chemical which according to experts when consumed could cause damage to the cornea in the eyes. Last week the price of pre-mix fuel which fishermen use in fuelling their out-board motors for fishing was increased thereby impacting on the price of fish on the market. Much as we agree Ministers of State and other government appointees have the onerous responsibility to protect consumers from patronising unwholesome products, they must be circumspect in their utterances otherwise they scare people away from patronising fish or fish products entirely. That is to say they must not press the panic button so easily. On the other hand, fishermen or fish mongers who are found to have used dangerous chemicals to catch or preserve fish must be prosecuted to serve as deterrent to others.

We agree times are hard, but that however does not mean people must use the short cut to acquire wealth at the expense of people`s lives. The fishing industry indisputably is a source of employment for a large number of people thereby giving them their livelihood and that of their dependents. Any attempt to scare people away from patronising the commodity therefore must not be countenanced. Government must put mechanisms in place to verify the allegations and arrest fishermen engaged in such nefarious activities, otherwise fish coming from Ghanaian waters will be rejected by the International Community. Such information must be carefully managed otherwise they will be distorted. It is good government is procuring special metres for testing chemicals in fish for the Fisheries Enforcement Unit. Plastics have proven to be dangerous to the environment. The water sachet we litter about irresponsibly end up in the seas, rivers and lakes and when the fish consume them, they are eventually choked. The NCCE and Information Services Department must do well to intensify campaign against reckless behaviour by some of our fishermen. They must be educated on the harm the use of such dangerous chemicals pose. Life is precious and people in their inordinate quest to maximize profit must not risk other people`s life. The Food and Drugs Authority must conduct regular checks at our beaches, markets and cold stores to clamp down on people who use dangerous chemicals to ply their trade. To many people fish is more affordable as compared to meat as a source of protein. We must do all we can to preserve the integrity of our fish. We definitely have no option.

BY: JUSTICE MINGLE, A JOURNALIST

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