General News of Wednesday, 2 August 2017
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Francis Kingsley Ato Codjoe, has ordered the Inspector General of Police (IGP) to immediately terminate criminal proceeding against some fishermen, who are facing prosecution for indulging in light fishing and other unapproved means of catching fish.
The directive to IGP David Asante Apeatu, was captured in a letter dated July 11, 2017, bearing the signature of Mr. Codjoe, who is obviously encouraging the illegal fishing, by jumping to the defense of the fishermen, who had flouted the law on illegal fishing.
The Deputy Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, shockingly demanded that the illegal items the fishermen were using be returned to them. These items like pair-trawling, have been found to be depleting the fish stock in the country’s water bodies.
This letter comes at a time, Ghana is desperately seeking answers to fight corruption by creating a Special Prosecutor’s office.
It has left many asking, if the Akufo-Addo government and for that matter Ghana, is truly interested in fighting corruption and lawlessness through use of the court.
The prosecution of the fishermen, came on the heels of an operation by the Fisheries Watch Volunteers (FWV), in some fishing communities in the Greater Accra and Central Regions.
During the exercise, banned fishing nets were seized from some fishermen in places such as, Prampram and Bortianor, while others were threatened with prosecution, which were being worked on by the police.
“It has come to my attention that some of the fishermen have been threatened with prosecution and some are on self recognizance bail. I would therefore request that the court proceedings be suspended and the fishermen released. Counting on your usual cooperation”, he said in his letter, asking the IGP to discontinue the case.
Light fishing involves fishermen using strong lighting to attract the fish. The practice depletes fish stock, as fingerlings are even caught in the process.
Per the letter sighted by The Herald, the offending fishermen, were not only threatened, but according to the letter to the IGP, were granted self recognizance bail, pending prosecution. Others were bonded to be of good behavior before their illegal nets were released.
However, the deputy minister, who is also a Member of Parliament (MP) for Ekumfi in the Central Region, though agreed that the fishermen flouted the law, ordered that the case be suspended and the fishermen left off the hook.
During her vetting with the Parliament’s Appointment Committee (PAC), the now Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, said government was working on a fisheries collaboration management plan that would empower fishermen to also police the sea.
“We have Fisheries Collaboration Management Plan being drafted. What the fisheries collaborative intends to do is to devolve some of the powers of the fisheries Commission into the hands of the fisher folks. What will happen is that, the fishermen will become their own watchdogs and they will have the right to arrest colleague fishermen who are engaged in this practice of the light fishing”.
It is not clear, if the Fisheries Watch Volunteers, is one of the groups, the MP for Krowor, Ms. Quaye, was referring to whose work is being thwarted by her deputy.
Below is the full statement
Following the enforcement exercise carried out by Fisheries Watch Volunteers at Prampram and Bortianor in the Greater Accra Region and Nyanyano in the Central Region, some fishing nets were seized
During subsequent discussion with the Police authorities in these areas, it was agreed that the arrested fishermen who flouted the law and fished with light and unapproved means should be cautioned, made to sign a statement of good behavior and their fishing nets released.
It has come to my attention that some of the fishermen have been threatened with prosecution and some are on self recognizance bail.
I would therefore request that the court proceedings be suspended and the fishermen released. Counting on your usual cooperation