An EJF report: Along Ghana’s 330 mile coastline, the ocean provides food and income for millions of people. In the last half-century, industrial vessels have flocked to these waters, trawling the sea for fish to export overseas. Now an illegal practice, known locally as saiko, is pushing Ghana’s fisheries to the brink.
Saiko is the local name for a particularly destructive form of illegal fishing, where foreign trawlers target the staple catch of Ghanaian canoe fishers. It is then transferred to specially adapted canoes out at sea, and sold back to the fishing communities.
This used to be a practice whereby canoes would buy the unwanted by-catch of industrial vessels. However, the practice has developed into lucrative organised crime. Trawlers are now illegally targeting what should be by-catch, which they are not licensed to fish for. They then sell this back to the local people – who are forced to buy it, because as a direct result of saiko, they are struggling to catch enough fish to sustain their livelihoods.
These catches, which often contain juvenile fish, are landed by the saiko canoes for onward sale to local markets. This has severe implications for Ghana’s small-scale fishing industry – which is critical to food security and provides significantly more jobs than the saiko industry.