Illegal activities are threatening fishing in Ghana. Approximately 2m people are reliant on fish for their food and income. However, and according to media reports, trawlers, run almost exclusively by Chinese operators using Ghanaian front companies, are illegally targeting this staple catch and selling it back to local communities at a profit in a practice called saiko.
In a report from local NGO Hen Mpoano and the Environmental Justice Foundation, saiko used to just be a regular practice where fishermen would meet trawlers at sea and exchange the trawler’s catch for goods they were carrying.
Kofi Agbogah, director of the NGO, says that unfortunately it has since become a multimillion-dollar business where trawlers are harvesting fish that they are not licensed to harvest and sell it back to some canoes. He further added that they are often not traditional fishers. They just go out there without nets, they buy the fish from the trawlers, and come and sell it in some designated ports.
The report found that in 2017, industrial trawlers caught almost the same amount of fish as the local fishing sector when illegal and unreported catches were taken into account. It also found the practice of saiko also destroyed the livelihoods of local fishermen.
On the other hand, local fishermen are imploring the government to banish those behind illegal fishing. Moreover, there are also cases of fishermen undertaking illegal practices using fishing lights, where a light is beamed into the water to attract fish.
Ghana’s government says it is focused on tackling such issues.