During the last decades, fishing activities have increased in the coasts of Western African countries. The uncontrolled exploitation of the coastal resources and the use of aggressive fishing methods have impacted on the environment and, as a consequence, on the local economy of the fishermen communities. In this paper we present a study of the impact of the massive fishing on a Ghanian fishermen town situated on the region of Cape Coast, Moree. The study was performed after interviewing 25 families, and 5 different groups of fishermen.



Presentation and context

Moree is a town of about 30.000 inhabitants situated in the central region of Ghana, 8 km east from Cape Coast. It is the largest fishing community in Cape Coast region. The facilities for the locals are scarce: roads are not asphalted, no sewage system exists, six public tubs give water for most of the inhabitants. In the great majority of the houses no type of toilet is found, being only accessible five public toilets with about ten latrines in each toilet. Electricity is accessible for most of the homes. The type of constructions found in Moree are mainly made of mud bricks, consisting of a single room where many members of the same family co-inhabit. As in many African communities, it exists a separation of genders, living women and children in one house, and the men in another one. Mainly all of the Morees, directly or indirectly depend on the fishing activities of the community. In the great majority, men work as fishermen. In the case of the women, a part of the population work as fishmongers and other part trade with goods, mainly vegetables (tomatoes, garden eggs, pepper, cassava and plantains) bought in the nearby cities where they can be found in a cheaper price to later sell them in Moree. No farming of importance exists in Moree.

Fishing activities and ecological problems

Since 90´s up to the present time, the coasts of Ghana become a place for fishing for other foreign countries. The arrival of new boats better prepared and the use of illegal fishing methods has led to a decrease in the number of captures. The local fishermen complain about that foreign ships are not being controlled by the Ghanian government and they are

using illegal fishing methods such as diamond lights, dynamite and fishing with trawling pairs. The impact on the local fishermen economy is not only caused by the decrease of available fish. The foreign boats often destroy the local fishermen nets and escape away. These problems have led to increase the tension between the locals and the foreign fishermen and occasionally has led to fights in the sea. Local fishermen claimed that people have been injured or dead as a result of the confrontations. They said that before the arrival of the international fishing they were able to fish the whole year. At the present time they have been forced to reduce the fishing period from the whole year to three months in summer (July-September) and three months in winter (December-February). They claim that the length of the fishing season has been decreasing gradually. In order to have a record of the different countries that are fishing in the Ghanian

coasts, we asked the Moree fishermen to spot on a list of world flags the different nationalities of the ships that they had seen when fishing. They reported of the following countries: Norway, Spain, Korea, Japan, Gambia, Ivory Coast (to be completed).

Traditionally the fishing activity in Ghana has been practised using three different types of canoes. Small (with capacity for 2 people), medium ( 6 people), large (10-11 people) and the largest ( 30 people). When going fishing, the expenses of petrol, food, nets and canoe maintenance, are paid in advance by the canoe owner. After paying the owner and covering expenses, the final profit is divided equally among all the crew members. In the case of being unsuccessful, the owner loans money to the fishermen to go fishing again and try to pay it back with the new stock. This loaning system, the continuum decrease of the captures and other external factors such us the increase of petrol prices, bring often the

fishermen to a situation of being constantly in debt.

Social and economical consequences Fish selling in the market is done by women. A fishmonger can earn a final profit of 3-5 US/week in the non-fishing season and up to 10 US /week during the fishing season. We can have an idea of the situation tell by one of the local women:

During the non fishing season, the husband does not provide any income to the family. The woman is the only person that takes care of the children in terms of feeding, clothing, health, etc. She also takes care of the husband when he is around. In times like this, when the fishing is not good, the woman are responsible for everything that goes on the family.

The little money that they have from their business collapses. If the family is large, she has to take care of all of them at the same time, including grandmother, sisters, etc. In this time, it is very difficult to obtain money and they cannot pay the school fees for the children. Also it becomes often that the members of the family can eat just once a day. Their diet consist on this time on gari, a product obtained after treating cassava, a local tuberculous, and dried fish saved from the fishing seasons.

In our surveys we found that 64 percent of the children in age of going to school are not attending at all or they just attend when the family have enough money to pay the school fees and the items needed for education. Even in the case when the children are inscribed to a public school, quite often, the economy of the family cannot afford the books and uniforms. The children are many times left at home when the mother goes to trade. In other cases, during the fishing season, the boys help their fathers when fishing. At the younger ages they help in labours at the beach side such as preparing the

fishing nets and the necessary things for fishing. At the age of fifteen years, they start working as fishermen and do not attend the school any longer. In the case of the girls they use to follow the occupation of the mother or are sent to be trained in sewing or similar activities.

Ignacio Ramis-Conde , June 2008