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Ghanaians seek protection for fishing
industry in face of oil exploration   

By Justice Lee Adoboe ACCRA, (Xinhua) -- Many Ghanaians believe that much as government derives revenue from the upstream petroleum industry, there is also the need to protect other traditional industries from the vagaries of oil exploration and production.

Civil society actors have therefore been advocating the right governance structures for the fisheries and other traditional economic sectors to ensure their continuous developmental roles in the economy.

In recognition of the importance of the fisheries industry, drafters of the Ghana Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (GHEITI) Bill listed the fisheries sector as among natural resources whose extraction needed to be covered by the EITI law.

“The drafters of that bill did a great job by recognizing that Ghana’s natural resource sector, or most of the current natural resources that we have, go beyond mining. Now the GHEITI has extended its focus and mandate on oil and gas; and also to some extent on forestry and also recognizing fisheries,” Noble Wadzah, coordinator of OilWatch Ghana, told Xinhua on Wednesday.

However, the governance structures elaborated in the bill did not support the intentions it had on the fisheries sector, he said.

“It means governance in the fisheries sector might be weak if not well addressed,” he said. “So all we are calling for is that the intention demonstrated in the GHEITI Bill must be followed through and done well.”

Wadzah cautioned that if issues within the sector were not well addressed, livelihoods in fisheries communities would be lost, as the oil industry grows.

“We have to deepen that attention that we already have and invest in the non-oil economic sectors,” Wadzah said. “Making it a reality is the most important thing, not just talking about it.”

“As for oil, it will run out at a point, but agriculture and the fisheries sector are renewable natural resources which will continue to thrive,” he said.

“While the fisheries sector is usually portrayed as a sector for peasant populations for which reason it does not make waves in the political limelight, the oil sector comes on another treadmill, which makes the waves much stronger, so you have set the basis for conflict already,” Wadzah said.

He therefore urged that the bill should live up to its own expectations otherwise there would be no need or justification for having the fisheries sector in the GHEITI Bill.

“It should not just create a warped impression that something is being done when in actual fact nothing is being done. That is what we want to ensure,” Wadzah said.

Augustine Niber, executive director of the Center for Public Interest Law (CEPIL), also described as very well thought-out the bringing in of the fisheries sector under the EITI Bill.

This, he noted, would not only be beneficial in terms of revenue transparency and accountability but also a measure of identifying or seeing to what extent that it would lead to development in the fishing communities and in Ghana as a whole.

There have been protests and agitations in coastal fishing communities, especially along the Western Coast of Ghana, about the truncating of fishing activities by exploratory and production vessels of international oil companies.

“The fisheries law would take care of issues like transparency, like contractual transparency and the rest, but just like the other sectors of the extractive industry like mining, oil and gas and the rest, you will always have the major law that takes care of issues of transparency and accountability.

“But bringing GHEITI to the fisheries sector will also lead to accountability in terms of how much companies in the sector are paying and how much government is receiving and what type of developmental priorities it is being used for,” Niber said.



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