Ghana’s fishing industry, the exploitation of the Global South’s natural resources and the responsibility of consumers in the Global North

Ghana’s fishing industry is risking collapse.

As of 2016, the Ghanaian fishing industry made up 5% of its total GDP. Needless to say, a collapse of the industry could be catastrophic to one of the strongest economies in West Africa.

A report based on investigations by the Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) in partnership with Ghanaian non-governmental organization Hen Mpoano, indicates illegal fish trans-shipments is costing the Ghanaian economy around USD 50 million (EUR 44.6 million) a year.

According to the report, Chinese trawlers “are making millions of dollars in an illegal trade which makes up over a half of the fish caught by industrial boats in Ghana.”

In the past, Chinese trawlers have simply refused to pay fines for overfishing by the Ghanaian government. In 2019, a Chinese trawler was fined $1 million for illegal fishing, after they refused to pay, their fishing licence was renewed anyways the following year.

Similarly, many fishing corporations will choose to ship along the Ghanaian coast due to the cheaper fishing licences there, in comparison to her West African neighbors.

A fishing village at the Gate of No Return in the Cape Coast Castle, Ghana

However, the problem runs deeper than the disobedience of Chinese fishing corporations.

This extreme off-shore commercial fishing, which is then sold overseas, is dramatically decreasing the availability of fish for the local markets. In fact, the catch rate of some popular species of fish has reduced by 80% in 20 years whilst little of the revenue actually goes to the Ghanian locals.

As many of us may have recently watched, the documentary Seaspiracy, made some pretty controversial claims about the global fishing industry. Many have criticised the documentary for shifting the ‘blame’ of the problems of the fishing industries on the countries in the Global South where the fishing happens, rather than on the countries that produce the extreme demand for fish and seafood.

Similarly, an article by the Guardian criticises the documentary for making such a black and white statement against fish consumption as “choosing to abstain from consuming seafood is not a realistic choice for the hundreds of millions of people around the world who depend on coastal fisheries.”

In fact, the documentary pointed out that African local fishing has historically been a sustainable form of fish consumption. However, this form of fishing, as well as the future prospects for all Ghanaians who live of the industry, is being endangered by commercial over fishing.

Fish being sold is a Ghanaian market

It seems that this risk of collapse of Ghana’s fishing industry is yet another sad example of the inequalities of our world. Here, in the West, we benefit from the weak governance of even the most democratic and well-governed countries in the Global South, such as Ghana.

This takes place in order to fill our supermarkets with fish and chocolates and hang gems from our necks. Nonetheless, in the UK alone, 6.7 million tonnes of food go to waste every year, often before it is sold.

It is evident that much of the exploitation of, for example, Ghanaian, natural resources is not sustainable for the economies that produce them as well as for those who consume them. 

In an overpopulated world, a simple process can turn sour very quickly, just like in this case, where international shipping has turned to unsustainable fishing in the Ghanian coast to profit from her natural resources, at the cost of the Ghanaian people.

So what do we do?

It is easier said than done to just say “abstain from fish, seafood, etc.” and as previously mentioned, to be able to abstain from certain foods due to personal preferences is a privilege of few.

Nonetheless, if you can, abstain from fish that is sourced in the Global South. Here in Europe, we have access to fish and seafood sourced in Norway and Scotland which goes through rigorous sustainability checks by the EU and UK governments.

UppFutures is a UK based charity that raises funds for our sister organizations in Ghana. It is only right that we, too, raise awareness over the impact that consumer choices, here in the UK, have in the Ghanaian communities which we are supporting.

That being said, if you care about communities in the Global South (and if you read until the end of this article, I am sure you do) donate to charities or organizations which promote sustainable and long-lasting growth in such communities, make sustainable choices and raise awareness of the impact that these can have.

Published by Lucía Martín Marco

I am UppFutures´ Content Creator and Blog Writer and I also manage our social media platforms.

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