By Doreen Ampofo
CSIR-Center for Food Research promotes harvesting consumption of juvenile fishes, contrary to Ghana’s Fisheries Act.
Findings of a three-year research conducted on small fishes have shown that harvesting juvenile fishes does not harm fish stock.
The practice rather balances fish harvest in the ecosystem instead of depleting it.
The findings are contrary to Ghana’s fisheries Act 2002, Act 625 clause 89 which prohibits the harvesting of juvenile fishes in a bid to improve the quantity of fishes in the sea.
Per Ghana’s fishing regulation, a person caught harvesting juvenile fishes commits a criminal offense and is liable to a fine or term of imprisonment.
Such regulations are meant to protect the juvenile fishes until they grow into bigger ones.
However, the Small Fish Food and Products project which was conducted over the last three years in collaboration with the CSIR-Food Research Institute, says a large number of the juvenile fishes will eventually die and it will be prudent to harvest such fishes for consumption especially as they have very high nutrition values.
Project Coordinator, Jeppe Kolding who is also a Professor in Fisheries Science at the University of Burgen in Norway says small fishes should also be harvested in the same proportion as the adult fishes.
“We should only catch the large ones. It comes from a mathematical model where fishes grow mathematically but we don’t feed them once we have to account for the food then we have to say that every large food has caused me five kilos of small.”
He added, “if you look at the natural system that catching juveniles and small fish is actually not a problem and this is actually controversial in many circles but is because with many years you said only catch the adult but what we see when we only catch the adult is that slowly by slowly”.
“Generation after Generation if I only take the large ones, the mothers become smaller and smaller that’s why they also saying the fish is becoming smaller and that’s because every time I take the large ones out then those that only grow small and start breathing small they will have more babies so we have what we call a fisheries induced evaluation and that is actually changing the whole ecosystem.
But the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture insists that the juvenile fishes should be protected. The Focus should rather be on fishes that are naturally small such as anchovies.
Doris Yeboah is Director of Policy at the Ministry of Fisheries. She gave more insight into the fish chain.
“We have tilapia that the sizes are just small and that’s what the women fry and sell around Accra. So, if you want small fish, go for that type of fish and enhance the utilization of that fish. One man thousand and all that which are naturally small fish work on the utilization on that one make fish powder out of one man thousand change the forms in which it can be used but as a ministry our policy on over harvesting of juvenile fish and things like that it still stands because we need to protect the stocks that we have so encouraging people to consume juvenile fish for now that is not what we support.”
Present at the dissemination was Acting Director of CSIR-Food Research Institute Prof Charles Tortoe who raised safety concerns found in the processing of fish.
” The traditional practices of sun drying of small fishes all over Africa including Ghana involves drying of fish on the ground and this practice we agree that comes with safety concerns and quality issues of the small fishes. These concerns deserve more work to be done and by doing so the team with their visit to various locations, new town and Prampram Communities came out with various activities to address these changes.
The report called for explicit food security and nutrition policies that promote the consumption and utilization of small fish, especially among low-income groups”.