26 April 2023. In its latest TAKING STOCK transparency assessment, the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI) evaluated the amount of fisheries information that national authorities in Ghana make publicly available via government websites. Based on the requirements of the FiTI Standard, this assessment reviewed transparency across 12 thematic areas of marine fisheries management, evaluating whether government information is publicly accessible, up to date and easy to find.
Overall, the results reveal the country’s poor transparency performance: while there is some information published, the majority of what is required for open and inclusive fisheries management remains inaccessible.
Both the Fisheries Commission and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development (MoFAD) have separate websites that indicate public access to a range of information. However, neither of these websites is well maintained and there are considerable gaps in information. Although the MoFAD produces an annual report, this is not freely distributed in electronic copy. To improve transparency, not only should this annual report be made public, but national authorities should agree on a central point of government information.
As described by Sven Biermann, Executive Director of the FiTI, “This transparency assessment helps everyone to understand where the shortfalls of access to information lie in Ghana’s fisheries. But it also highlights the opportunity that if Ghana’s authorities prioritise transparency, excellent levels of transparency and public participation can be reached. Like for all West African countries, fisheries are so important to the people of Ghana, and an open government is essential for accountability and democratic participation. Without public access to information there can be no sustainable fisheries. As Ghana’s national authorities move forward with policies and actions to address food security, overfishing and compliance with national laws, transparency will be vital to build trust and demonstrate the government’s successes. Ghana would therefore benefit significantly in joining the Fisheries Transparency Initiative”.
This assessment considers the government of Ghana not to be ‘data deficient’. There are countries where low levels of transparency are caused by the government not having the resources to generate fisheries information. In Ghana, there is evidence that national authorities collate considerable information on the fisheries sector, including detailed information on both large-scale and small-scale fisheries, as well as the post-harvest sector. The problem appears to be that Ghana’s national authorities have not prioritised sharing this information with the public, despite strong demands from national and international stakeholders.
Key findings of the assessment include:
1. The Government of Ghana does not regularly publish detailed information on the status of fish stocks in the country. Despite widespread concerns about overfishing, and the government’s commitment to rebuilding fish stocks, the public in Ghana is not provided with official data that demonstrates if fisheries are being managed sustainably.
2. There are no regular reports issued by the government of Ghana on the economic and social importance of the fishing sector, including estimates of the number of people engaged in artisanal fisheries and the important role of women in the sector. This is despite the government undertaking regular surveys. The importance of fishing for employment and livelihoods, as well as changes to these contributions over time, are therefore not widely understood by the general public.
3. The government does not publish information on public revenues from the fisheries sector, including those paid by industrial fishing companies. It is therefore impossible for people to understand what contribution fisheries make to the national budget, and whether there is a public dividend.
A positive step by the Ghanaian authorities has been to produce a vessel registry for the industrial fishing sector. However, this registry is not up to date and information on vessel licenses covers a six-month period in 2022 only. There is also no public information on the beneficial ownership of vessels, despite this being mandatory information for fishing companies to supply for gaining a fishing license.
Despite Ghana’s disappointing performance on fisheries transparency, in 2019 the country enacted a long-awaited Right To Information Act, which includes obligations for government departments to proactively publish information. This provides a strong legal context for going forward with improving the public’s right to have access to fisheries information.
According to Dr. Kamal-Deen Ali, Executive Director from the Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa (CEMLAWS Africa), “Information sharing is key to transparency and fisheries governance. In recent times, attempts are being made to improve fisheries governance in the country. This TAKING STOCK transparency assessment provides an enormous opportunity for the country to take pragmatic steps to achieve transparency objectives by effectively and openly sharing information. This will ultimately enhance fisheries governance in Ghana”. CEMLAWS Africa collaborated with the FiTI on this transparency assessment.
The assessment concluded with four concrete recommendations to national authorities in Ghana, presented and discussed today during a multi-stakeholder workshop in Ghana’s capital, Accra.
Ghana’s assessment was funded by the Bloomberg Philanthropies Ocean Initiative and carried out under the supervision and responsibility of the FiTI International Secretariat. The report was peer reviewed by Kofi Agbogah (Hen Mpoano), Stephen Akester, Dr Kamal-Deen Ali (Centre for Maritime Law and Security Africa (CEMLAWS Africa)) and Socrates Segbor (Ghana Fisheries Recovery Activity (GFRA)) prior to its publication.