Fisheries Ministry sued for increasing licensing fees

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The Ghana Tuna Association has sued the Fisheries Ministry over what it calls exorbitant licensing fees being charged by the latter.

A member of the Association, Richter Nii Armah Amarfio indicated that the Fisheries Ministry’s decision to increase fishing license fees from US$35 to US$ 200 per gross registered tonnage without extensive consultations with various stakeholders was unfair.

The Association is, therefore, seeking an interlocutory injunction on the implementation of the new fishing licensing fees.

It is also praying the court to allow all fishing vessels to operate until the substantive case is determined.

“We were slapped on the 31st of December, less than 8 hours to the expiry of 2019 Fisheries License of a new raise…The challenge was that they did it on our blind side.We are therefore going for a judicial review of the decision they are making in increasing the license fees. We are going for an interlocutory injunction on the implementation of the 200 dollars and we are asking that all vessels should be allowed to fish based on the previous license until the substantive case is determined.”

The Fisheries Commission in a letter dated December 31, 2019, and signed by its Executive Director, Michael Arthur-Dadzie, indicated that the new fishing license fees approved by the Ministry of Finance and Economic Planning would take effect from January 1, 2020.

The letter stated that “the chargeable rate per vessel for all industrial vessels (Tuna and Trawlers) is Two Hundred US Dollars (US$200) per GRT or its equivalent at the prevailing Bank of Ghana rate”.

The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development had earlier justified the upward adjustment in license fees for fishing vessels.

According to the Ministry, calls for the reduction of the amount by the National Fisheries Association was unjustified because the increment is aimed at protecting Ghanaian fishermen

Deputy Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Francis Kinsley Ato Cudjoe explained that the move will help reduce the depletion of the county’s fish stock by large trawlers mostly owned by foreigners.

“First is the fact that there hasn’t been any increase in such fees in the last ten years and the fees are also the lowest in the region leading to many vessels trying to do their business in our waters thus leading to a decline in our fishing stock. We have decided to peg ours at US$200.  It will be like a huge one but that is the prevailing rate. In terms of whether we are going to review or not, this is something we wrote to the Cabinet and they are aware of the approval of Parliament. We need to take measures that will ensure that our people benefit and not foreign vessels.”

The increment was said to be a major factor for the depletion of fish stock in the country’s territorial waters.

On the same league table with Mauritius, Senegal, Guinea, Sierra Leone, Liberia and Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana’s license rate of $35 for industrial fishing vessels was identified to be the lowest rate among these countries.

As of May 2018, Ghana’s license fee was said to be the cheapest among the 10 countries implementing the West African Regional Fisheries Project with commercial fishing activities.

The Fisheries Commission has been urged by the National Fisheries Association of Ghana to reduce the recently announced increase in fishing license fees for operating a fishing vessel on Ghanaian waters.

A member of the Association, Richter Nii Armah Amarfio, in an interview, accused the Fisheries Commission of short-changing members of the association by introducing the new fishing licensing fee.

According to him, the Fisheries Commission has in the past neglected their plights and has only been interested in taking money from them.

He further explained that the operational cost of fishermen has increased significantly to a point where their businesses have been negatively affected.

“At this time, our cost of operation is going high and our income is going low. We have raised concerns that our Pole and lines vessels are collapsed and nothing is happening, the ministry and the commission does not do anything to enhance the work of the industry, their interest is how to raise money from us and we think it doesn’t work to our benefit. We can’t just pay it, we can break even, we can’t add to our current operational cost, it will collapse our businesses.”

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