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Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal “saiko” practices and declining stocks

In a practice known locally as “saiko”, trawlers illegally target catches by fishermen and re-sell to the communities

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Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks
A fisherman casts his net in the waters of the Gulf of Guinea, outside Jamestown, the oldest fishing community in Accra. (Photo by Natalija Gormalova / AFP)

Fish vendor Mercy Allotey waits at the beachfront in Ghana’s capital Accra for customers to buy the freshest catch brought in by the brightly-coloured dugout canoes plying the coast.

But she complains the local fishermen are now netting less and less as a combination of illegal techniques and unscrupulous trawlers have devastated stocks.

“It is spoiling our fishing,” she told reporters.

“Many times when they go, they don’t get the fish.”

The fishing sector is crucially important to Ghana.

It provides support for more than two million people, up to 10 per cent of the population, and the produce it generates accounts for about 60 per cent of the protein in the diet of Ghanaians.

READ: How climate change is draining Lake Malawi and local fishing economy

But the figures are startling. United Nations data shows that production fell from almost 420,000 tonnes in 1999 to 202,000 tonnes in 2014.

To blame are both the mainly Chinese-operated boats trawling offshore and the damaging practices employed by artisanal fishermen as they scramble to make up for losses.

Last month, a report from Ghanaian NGO, Hen Mpoano and the European Environmental Justice Foundation said the trawlers cost the country’s economy some $50 million a year.

In a practice known locally as “saiko”, they illegally target the staple catch of local fishermen —  including sardinella and mackerel — and sell it to the communities onshore via middlemen.

Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks

The report estimated some 100,000 tonnes of fish were scooped out of the water in this way in 2017, drastically reducing employment opportunities for Ghanaians reliant on fishing. 

Fishing bans –

Ghana is looking to crack down on “saiko” as well as illegal practices employed by local fishermen including using bright lights to attract fish, poisoning them with chemicals or even tossing dynamite into the water.

READ: Sierra Leone tackles overfishing but gets small fry

In a bid to replenish stocks, the government banned artisanal fishing for a month from May to June and will forbid trawlers in August and September.

But even those in charge admit a lot more needs to be done to rectify the situation.

“The big challenge is a complete understanding of the system by policymakers and everybody down the line, down to the fisherman,” said Emmanuel Kwafo, who is in charge of fisheries law enforcement at Ghana’s Navy.

He said there needed to be a more fundamental shift in Ghana from a mindset where illegal methods are seen as permissible to make ends meet.

“When we do the right thing, we rather enhance our chances of survival,” he said.

Kwafo was part of a major maritime conference held last week in Accra that brought together naval chiefs from around West Africa and abroad to discuss tackling issues including illegal fishing and the scourge of piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. 

READ: Sierra Leone bans industrial fishing for a month

Illegal fishing has a devastating cost on the region — the UN estimates that nearly 40 per cent of all fish caught in West Africa are done so illegally, resulting in a loss of $2.3 billion.

‘Survival of Ghana’ –

Kamal-Deen Ali, Director of the Accra-based Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa, does not hold back when talking about the need to fix the fishing sector. 

“Fisheries (are) linked to food security, the national security and the survival of Ghana as a country,” he told reporters.

Ghanaian fishermen decry illegal "saiko" practices and declining stocks

He insists the first scourge to focus on are the “saiko” trawlers.

But he said existing laws also need to be enforced for the local fishermen — with politicians often pandering to their communities and turning a blind eye to wrongdoing. 

Few know the threats better than Nii Quaye, a former fisherman who now works as a spokesman for the local trade in the Accra district of James Town.  

Among his duties is checking the catches coming in to ensure they have not been caught using chemicals or dynamite. 

He said that fishermen had not seen an increase in stocks following the artisanal suspension, and that success will come with law enforcement.

“When you arrest a person using chemicals or illegal fishing, if they go to jail maybe for three to six months, when they arrest five people I think everything will be stopped,” he said. 

But he fears that if nothing major is done, then in a few years there may not be any fish left to catch.

“Everybody in James Town will be hungry because there is no fish,” he said.

“We are begging, so (that) they stop it.”

READ: Libyan Navy seizes Italian fishing boat in Misrata port

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Rwanda’s Skol brewer cancels sexist jokes on beer bottles after backlash

Skol Brewery Limited also promised to immediately discontinue its “Live Laugh Lager” campaign

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Rwanda's Skol brewer cancels sexist jokes on beer bottles after backlash

A Rwandan brewery apologised Tuesday for printing sexist jokes on its beer labels after its attempt at humour drew a stinging rebuke from some of the country’s top female officials.

Skol Brewery Limited also promised to immediately discontinue its “Live Laugh Lager” campaign, which saw the offending gags grace the back of its lager bottles and encouraged drinkers to share jokes to win prizes.

“When can a woman make you a millionaire? When you are a billionaire” read one, alongside a cartoon of a woman surrounded by shopping bags dreaming of a red sports car.

Displeasure at the sexist tone of the campaign — it was promoted by an image of three men laughing over beers — started on social media but soon high-ranking public officials were joining the fray.

“Such language demeaning women is not acceptable in our country, Rwanda. It shouldn’t be tolerated… and should be punished by law,” said Soline Nyirahabimana, Minister of Gender and Family promotion, on Twitter.

Rose Rwabuhihi, who heads Rwanda’s Gender Monitoring Office, a public watchdog, said the campaign was “totally unacceptable”, comments echoed by one of the country’s top crime fighters.

“This is not acceptable at all! Skol Rwanda should apologize and remove the product from the market. Otherwise, no woman, no man who supports women should buy or drink such a beer,” said Isabelle Kalihangabo, deputy secretary-general of Rwanda Investigation Bureau, the federal crime agency, on Twitter.

Rwanda is proud of its record on gender, with women filling some of the country’s top positions. It was the first African nation to achieve gender parity in cabinet and more than 60 per cent of its MPs are women.

The brewer, in a mea culpa issued on Twitter on Tuesday, said it was “very aware” of the backlash and took the matter “very seriously and apologise for any offence caused”.

“We’ve stopped production of these jokes,” said the brewer.

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Zimbabwe’s business community calls for economic reform

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had initiated a massive protest against worsening economic conditions

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Zimbabwe’s business community calls for economic reform
Zimbabwe President Emmerson Mnangagwa. (Photo by Jekesai NJIKIZANA / AFP)

The Zimbabwe business community has called on its government to urgently address ordinary people’s concerns in order to avoid continuous loss of production time through protest shutdowns.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) had initiated a massive protest in central Harare to express growing impatience with the government’s failure to remedy a deepening economic crisis that has pushed many to the edge.

The government, however, insists that the pain caused by its tough policy measures was necessary for an economy which is reeling from decades of mismanagement under former President, Robert Mugabe.

Police moved on Thursday to impose an unpopular ban on the demonstration, setting the stage for ugly clashes with MDC followers.

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Nigeria’s state oil firm awards crude oil swap deals to 15 firms

The awarded oil firms include Vitol, Trafigura, oil major, BP and local downstream companies

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Nigeria's state oil firm awards crude oil swap deals to 15 firms
NNPC Towers, headquarters of Nigeria's state oil firm in Abuja, Nigeria. (File photo)

Nigerian state oil company, NNPC, has announced that 15 companies have won the right to swap the country’s crude oil for fuels, following a tender for the deals.

About 132 companies made a bid for the deals. The tender for the one-year contracts effective from the 1st of October and dubbed direct sale, direct-purchase (DSDP), was issued in March.

Nigeria is almost entirely reliant on imported fuel due to years of neglect at its own refineries.

It has leaned heavily on the swap arrangements to get fuel, particularly gasoline, as other would-be importers struggle to make money due to price caps.

The Nigerian National Petroleum Corporation says the companies that won the bids are made up of a consortium of 15 companies including Vitol, Trafigura, oil major, BP and local downstream companies.

Since the scheme’s inception in 2016, replacing a program that paid subsidies to importers, the NNPC has said it had saved the country $2.2 billion and supplied some 90 per cent of its import requirements.

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