The government has been urged to protect, respect and fulfill the human rights of fishing communities in the country.
It was also encouraged to put in more measures aimed at addressing the issue of forced labour in all economic sectors, particularly in the fishing industry, in accordance with the International Labour Organisation (ILO) Conventions and national and international standards.
These recommendations were contained in a study undertaken by Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) Ghana, on the human rights abuse in Ghana’s fisheries sector.
The study identified potentially serious human rights issues including declining incomes and living conditions for small-scale fishers and fish workers, high levels of employment and income insecurity, a lack of access to social security, adequate sanitation and clean water, as well as food insecurity and poor school completion rates, among others.
Fisheries Programme Manager, EJF, Socrates Apetorgbor Segbor, making a presentation on the findings of the study during a stakeholder meeting in Accra expressed concern over the widespread and destructive illegal practices in the industrial fishing sector.
Conducted among fishermen and fish workers in five communities in the Central Region, he said, the study revealed that the Fisheries Observer Programme, where public officers were stationed on board fishing vessels for varied roles including reporting fisheries violations, was substantially compromised by bribery, threats and corrupt practices, which impeded effective reporting and follow up on illegalities at sea.
Mr Segbor disclosed that overwhelming majority of the trawler vessels are operated by Chinese corporations and captained by their nationals, in contravention of the Fisheries Act, Act 625, Section 47, Sub-section 1(a) defines a local industrial or semi-industrial fishing vessel as one owned or controlled by a citizen, the government, or owned or controlled by a company or partnerships registered by law in the Republic.
He said according to the study, one of 10 crew members who shared their experience disclosed that ‘A Captain on a vessel that was engaging in illegal discarding of fish at sea allegedly pushed a fisheries observer and threatened to hit him with a stick if he tried to report on the incident.’
“I have seen observers taking money from the Chinese nationals. I witnessed it myself. They gave the observer money, he (the observer) told me the Captain gave him GH¢1,500.00,” said the report.
Mr Segbor said per the study, some of the observers felt they had no option than to accept the bribes as they feared for their lives at sea.
He entreated the government and stakeholders to work together to ratify and implement key international instruments to protect workers on fishing vessels.
“Critically, there is a need for further investigation by the government of Ghana and the CHRAJ in several key areas to determine whether government acts of omission or commission in relation to the management of the fisheries sector constitute a violation of fundamental human rights,” he said.