IMPORTANCE OF FISH IN FOOD SECURITY IN GHANA AND THE NEED FOR SUSTAINABLE FISHERIES MANAGEMENT
Fish is recognized as the most important source of animal protein in all regions of the country. Estimates suggest that over 60 percent of animal protein in the Ghanaian diet comes from fish and the commodity makes it up to 22 point four per cent of food expenditure in all households and over 25 percent of food expenditure in poor households. Certainly, fish is extremely important to Ghanaians for food security, particularly among the poor. The fisheries sector plays a vital role in the national economy contributing approximately four percent of the GDP, provides employment to the labour force and adds to the foreign exchange of the country as well as assists in the alleviation of rural poverty. Regarding foreign exchange earnings, Ghana's fish exports are among the top three most important non-traditional exports. On employment, it is estimated that over 150,000 fishers are engaged in marine capture fisheries. It is also estimated about one point five to two million people rely on and or provide support to these fishers. It must be noted that thousands of artisanal fishers are losing out in the competition with industrial fishing for exports.
Indeed, there is strong evidence to suggest that their regular fishing activities have been affected due to the uncontrolled influx of trawlers into the country's coastal waters. Already, marine and fresh water fish stocks are showing signs of depletion. Ghana is a net importer of fish and can ill afford further decline in fisheries productivity due to unsustainable practices. The situation is made more troubling as experts are driving up domestic fish prices and nearly a quarter of children below five are undernourished according to the FAO. The demand for fish in the country exceeds the annual supply by about 360 thousand tons. This is nearly as much as domestic annual production which will need to increase significantly in the coming years to prevent food insecurity. This brings to the fore the need to address illegal fishing in the country through education and sensitization of stakeholders for sustainable fisheries management.
Government should as a matter of urgency enforce the fisheries law and strengthen the marine police, the Navy and the other security agencies to do their work effectively in order to deal with the miscreants putting the fishing industry at risk.
BY GEORGE GRANT-YANKSON-A JOURNALIST.