It is damning to say but the truth is that eating fish in Ghana is more harmful now than good to our bodies.
Gone were the days when fish was consumed with the notion that one could get omega-3 fatty acids, which are essential nutrients that keep the heart and brain healthy.
The two omega-3 fatty acids found in fish are EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) which our bodies do not produce are expected to be gotten through the food we eat but we are now exchanging that with cancer, specifically lung cancer.
This stark reality was made known when this Writer visited eight landing beach sites in the country especially the Albert Bosomtwi-Sam Fishing Harbour in Sekondi.
Illegal fishing activities like light fishing the use of dynamite, detergents as well as resorting to unprescribed fishing nets continue to impact Ghana’s fishing industry negatively.
Fishermen in Sekondi have admitted that light fishing is the best option for them since they are faced with great competition with other foreigners who engage in the practice, referred to as ‘Saiko’.
Saiko is an illegal system where foreign trawlers stay on the sea for longer period doing licensed fishing but catch unauthorised fishes and sell them as by-catch to members of the By-Catch Collectors Association right on the seas.
This practice, according to the fisher folks, prevents fishes to swim to their catchment areas and so when they go to sea, they do not get the usual catches.
The bad practices involved in fishing is reported to have reached an alarming rate as the country spends millions of cedis to address the impact of the menace.
But checks at some fishing centres in the country have also revealed that the fisher folks may not be ending their inhumane deeds anytime soon.
So there is a likelihood of cancer wiping out a number of people from the face of the earth in the next 10 years if the good fight against illegal mining (galamsey) by government and other stakeholders especially the media does not echo in the fishing industry.
Nana Kwesi Duncan I, the Chief Fisherman of Marine Park Elimina in the Central Region, in an interview with the Ghana News Agency urged government to deploy a monitoring mechanism that would help test the safety of fishes that were landed at major landing sites.
He said when that was done it would help detect fishes that were caught through illegal means so that arrangement could be made to discard them before they got to the markets and sold to the unsuspecting public.
Some fishermen at Shama in the Western Region have also urged the government to fight the illegal miners to help restore the Pra River that flowed into the sea and gradually polluting it.
They said the results of galamsey on the Pra River had also affected and polluted section of the estuary site, usually called “Baka” in the local parlance, which used to be a vibrant fishing area for the fisher folk and a tourist attraction for visitors.
They said Pra estuary which joined the sea had been polluted so much so that most of the fishes in there have been killed retarding fishing activities in the community.
“We support government in the fight against galamsey to restore the Baka to its natural state. This Baka has been a good source of drinking water for the people and a tourist attraction to many foreigners.
“Now all the fishes are dead in there and we no longer can drink the water because it is so polluted,” Mr Francis Cobbina, the Secretary of the Shama Unit Committee said.
Mr Francis Kwesi Eshun, the Chairman of the Ghana Inshore Fishing Association told journalists that: “The Chinese are all over the sea engaging in Saiko fishing and selling them right on the sea. When Saiko is stopped by the authorities, then we can also be stopped.”
The journalists were part of a three- day tour organised by USAID/University of Cape Coast’s (UCC) Centre for Coastal Management under a five-year funding support from USAID.
Dr Benjamin Betey Campion, Senior Lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Watershed Management of the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology, said studies conducted under the project in 2015 revealed that most of the fisher folks continue to engage in Illegal unregulated an unreported fishing practices despite many efforts by various partners to curb the practice.
He said the fisher folks also face the biggest challenge of premix fuel saga, which had been highly politicised thus remaining the highest issue of concern for the fisher folks.
Dr Campion said the many challenges facing fisher folk and their coastal zones necessitated the tour to enable the journalists to go round the landing beaches and learn about the issues to bring them to the fore to help address them holistically.
Dr George Darpaah, who is In-charge of Marine Fisheries Governance at the UCC College of Agriculture and Natural Centre, said there were a lot of good fishing practices in neighbouring countries like Cote D’Ivoire that Ghana could learn from to improve the sector.
“In Cote d’Ivoire for instance, there is a pre and post inspection of vessels, which is done to ensure that no illegal activity or light fishing is done. The laws must also work here in Ghana,” he said.
Now the question is, what is government and other stakeholders in the fishing fraternity as well as the media going to do to help solve or save our fishes?
The choice is yours to make, fighting the poison in your kitchen or enjoying to destroy your lungs with cancer and even more.
Feature by Elsie Appiah-Osei