Despite the seeming Ghanaian ownership of the industrial fishing fleet in Ghana, the reality is that most of these industrial fishing vessels operate under foreign ownership.
The country’s industrial fishery is predominantly reserved for Ghanaians, therefore, both the legal and beneficial ownership of fishing vessels should belong to Ghanaians.
In reality, Ghanaians have actively assisted foreigners in registering fishing businesses using corporate structures to conceal the actual ownership, often through fronting schemes. Subsequently, they seek permits for importing vessels and obtain fishing licenses to exploit the fishery resources of the country.
In such schemes, not only do the Ghanaian partners or fronts lose out significantly on the economic benefits, but also the State and society lose the opportunity to use the fisheries sector for socio-economic development.
A closer observation of this trend reveals that the infiltration of foreigners in Ghana’s fisheries sector is largely due to the failure to implement a beneficial ownership regime. Currently, a fishing business incorporated, or a fishing vessel registered in Ghana is typically considered to be owned by a Ghanaian, even though the Ghanaian serves as the legal owner and not the beneficial owner of the business or vessel license.
The case being made in this policy brief is that, there is an urgent need to implement and coordinate the enforcement of beneficial ownership regimes within the industrial fisheries sector. This action would not only help eliminate foreign involvement but also enable Ghana to fully harness the benefits of its coastal resources.