The Safety of Fishers and Fishing Vessels form part of the International Maritime Organisation’s mandate. However, the fishing industry, from a global perspective, is reported not to have an acceptable safety record. A number of factors have been identified as reasons that have contributed to this development, including technical and legal constraints on the part of member states of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) to implement the organization’s protocols to ensure safety and smooth operation in the fishing sector.
The Cape Town Agreement of 2012 of the IMO’s protocols is a revised version on earlier protocols that binds member states to commit to the fight against illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities with the aim of safeguarding fishers and fishing vessels.
The provisions of the protocol agreement includes setting equal standards for all vessels of 24M length and above – ensure mandatory international requirements for stability and associated seaworthiness, life-saving appliances, communications equipment or fire protection, as well as fishing vessel construction.
It is against this backdrop that the International Maritime Organisation is organising seminars globally, especially in the African region to encourage member states of the IMO to ratify the convention with the view of enhancing safety of fishers and vessels.
In Accra, Ghana, the IMO has collaborated with the Ghana Maritime Authority for the regional seminar on the implementation and ratification of the Cape Town Agreement of 2012 which attracted favourable participation from key maritime and fishing sector stakeholders, from Ghana and its neighbouring countries.
In the opening ceremony of the workshop, Sandra Allnut, Head of Maritime Safety Division of the IMO, said illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing activities do not only compromise safety but have dire consequences on environment and fish health.
“There are a number of factors that have contributed to these. There can be no doubt that the lack of effective global regulatory regime has played a significant part of the status quo. Illegal unreported and unregulated fishing is also a serious issue for the global fishing sector,” she educated.
She said the IMO is dedicated to provide support to member governments to fulfil the obligation of the Cape Town 2012 protocol of safety of fishing, and asked for consistent feedback from relevant fishing sector institutions.
“With these activities, the organisation seeks to, on this occasion provide support for administrations to fulfil their obligation as member governments. At the same time it is important to get feedback and comments based on your experience and deliberations,” she entreated.
The Minister of Transport, Kweku Ofori Asiamah, said the Ghana fishing industry employs about 10,000 people directly, and contribute millions of dollars to the nation’s economy, hence the sustainability of the fishing industry is of grave importance to the Government, and admitted that Ghana, needs to step up in its management of the fishing sector.
“The sustainability of the fishery industry is a crucial part we need to deal with. There are presently about 125 fishing vessels with the length of about 24 meters or more on our register. And all are not properly managed because of the lack of requisite regulations,” he stated.
The Director General of the Ghana Maritime Authority, Thomas Alonsi, urged stakeholders to help enforce international regulations in order to avert the reputation of a historically unsafe fishing industry.
“The picture painted here of the fishing industry is quite gloomy. This does not have to be so. All it needs is for the requisite international regulations to be put in place and enforced to help eliminate factors that lead to these fatalities. This can only be done if all stakeholders take the necessary steps to ensure that Cape Town agreement comes to fruition,” the GMA boss opined.