President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has stressed the need to curb illegal fishing methods and the over-exploitation of Ghana's marine resources in order not to compromise the country's food security.
He noted that due to many years of unreported and unregulated fishing, dominant fish stocks were disappearing from Ghana's waters, saying, "This cannot continue to happen, as it threatens the very essence of our existence."
"Although population growth can be said to be a contributory factor, the "twin-evils" of illegal fishing and the over-exploitation of our marine resources have worsened an already dire situation. This cannot continue to happen, as it threatens the very essence of our existence," he said.
The President expressed the worry at the welcoming ceremony of the new Fridtjof Nansen Fisheries Research Vessel to Ghana, at the Tema Port.
The Research Vessel, which is on its maiden expedition to the Coast of West Africa, is in Ghana to assess the marine stock levels in the country's waters. The vessel's programme has been unique in training scientists and equipping them with the necessary tools to assess stocks of fishes in our waters.
The state-of-the-art vessel, owned by the Norwegian Agency for Development Cooperation, was built as part of the United Nation's (UN) Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) project to help develop the fisheries management of developing countries.
This is the second time in two years that a Nansen research vessel is docking in Ghana. The country would benefit from the Nansen Program which enables countries to receive technical and scientific support and refocus the management of their fisheries through the adoption and implementation of an Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) and national fisheries research institutions.
There are four Ghanaian scientists working with the many others on the vessel.
President Akufo-Addo said though "We may have little or no control over climate fluctuations or changes, but one thing we can have control over is our day-to-day activities".
"Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) methods are depleting our fish stocks. Our beautiful coastal wetlands are threatened by high volumes of plastic and metal waste that choke breeding habitats for fish," he said, adding "this must not be allowed to continue."
The President disclosed that an Inter-Ministerial approach to curb the menace was afoot, saying, "together we can protect endangered species, achieve food security, and protect our ocean for the future."
Government, he indicated, had instituted a Fisheries Management Plan to guarantee the long term conservation of Ghana's waters and marine stocks.
The plan aims to reduce the excessive pressure on marine stock; engender effective legislation; strengthen participatory decision making; and meeting regional and international obligations.
President Akufo-Addo also disclosed that Ghana intended acquiring its own research vessel to help in the monitoring of the country's fish stocks.
He said Ghana was poised to complete the assessment of ecologically sensitive areas along the Ghana coast, and designate Ghana's first marine protected area by 2025, to safeguard coastal and marine biodiversity.
"We recognise that the wealth of resources that oceans provide forms an important part of the common heritage of mankind, and we owe it to ourselves and to succeeding generations to conserve this natural heritage.
"Let us continue to develop our oil find and fish resources into an integrated entity where food security is guaranteed, and where business thrives," he added.
The President was thankful to the Norwegian government for the gesture, adding, "I wish the new Research Vessel, R/V Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, her captain and crew well, a happy stay in our country, and pray for God's guidance in this mission, and in all of its endeavours."
The Norwegian Ambassador to Ghana, Gunnar Andreas Holm said the Partnership with the Norwegian Government in the implementation of the Nansen Program is of major importance to FAO.
"Beyond the information that will make it possible to better manage the use of resources in a sustainable way, the research will allow a better understanding of the impacts of climate change and other external factors, such as pollution on aquatic ecosystems, "he explained.
The FAO's Representative to Ghana, Dr Abebe Haile Gabriel, commended President Akufo-Addo for the efforts his government was making to promote agriculture as the bed-rock of economic development in Ghana.
He was optimistic that the vessels' work would help Ghana boost its actions to ensure food security for the country.
Fisheries Minister, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye was also hopeful the results of the research would enable stakeholders understand and improve the fisheries regime in the country.
The new Nansen Programme aims at consolidating the results of the previous phase and also addressing the multiple impacts of human activities, including overfishing, climate change and pollution on fish stocks in particular and the marine environment in general in order to preserve the productivity of the oceans also for the benefit of future generations.
The first research campaign of the new ship that started on May 8, 2017 in Morocco and is expected to end in December 2017 in Cape-Town, South Africa, after stopovers in Port-Gentil, Gabon, and Walvis Bay, Namibia.
The new and impressive ship brings important innovations and technological capabilities necessary to improve scientific research.
Photo : ISD Patience Lartey