Ghana responds to new EU warning over illegal fishing

The European Commission has warned Ghana that a single additional case of illegal, unreported & unregulated (IUU) fishing could bring about the closure of the entire EU market to Ghanaian fish exports.

Mr Bayon Bilijo, Fisheries and Aquaculture Minister, has held a press conference to update stakeholders on his government’s developments to tackle IUU fishing in response to this warning, which was issued during EU-Ghana talks in May.

According to the Minister, Ghana has adopted a plan of action to control illegal fishing and to better manage its fisheries resources. The country’s legislative framework has been reinforced and new fisheries regulations will be promulgated later this year. Mr Bilijo has also reassured interested parties that all Ghanaian tuna vessel have now been fitted with tracking systems (VMS) as required of all EU trading partners.

However, despite the Commission’s warning Ghana’s trawlers have not yet been fitted with VMS, though the Minister indicated that this will be addressed over coming weeks.

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

Tuna imports from Ghana could be banned by the EU (photo credit: The Grocer)

The Ghanaian economy relies heavily on seafood processing and exportation to the EU and a ban could have deep repercussions in terms of revenue and employment losses. A local export firm, Myroc Food Processing (MFP), announced losses of $ 5 Million following the Commission’s formal warning (or ‘yellow card’) to Ghana in November 2013. MFP reportedly has had to reduce its workforce and export volumes substantially despite the fact that no ban is yet in place.

The European Commission’s decision to issue the yellow card was taken following significant IUU fishing concerns. These included notifications by the International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tuna (ICCAT) regarding undisclosed cargo transfers (transhipments) between vessels flagged to Ghana in breach of ICCAT rules. To see the full text of the Commission’s decision, click here.

In April 2013, large amounts of processed tuna from Ghana were rejected upon arrival at port by Spain and other European countries. In the UK, the importation of numerous consignments of processed tuna from Ghana was suspended. Containers were kept in port incurring substantial quay rent whilst lengthy investigations into the IUU fishing allegations took place.

A ban on Ghanaian seafood could impact UK importers significantly, since the reported annual value of tuna imports from Ghana is in the region of £27 Million.

It is not yet known whether a possible ban would affect Ghanaian fisheries exports to other countries. It has been recently reported that Ghana and Seychelles have entered an agreement to bolster each other’s tuna exports to the EU, as both countries’ tuna seasons peak at different times of the year. An EU market ban may endanger commercial arrangements such as this one, given the strict origin and re-export rules adopted by the EU with the implementation of Regulation 1005/2008 (the IUU Regulation) in January 2010.