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Hidden fleet: Chinese ownership of Ghana’s industrial fishery

Staff Writer | October 15, 2018
An investigation by The Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) focuses on ownership of Ghanaian fishing capacity by Chinese companies, in contravention of Ghanaian law which does not allow foreign ownership or control of fishing vessels under the Ghanaian flag.
Africa   Foreign companies operate through Ghanaian front companies
According to EJF, the Chinese and Ghanaian governments must now work together to eradicate the illegal fishing practices which are rife in Ghana’s industrial fleet, improve transparency, and apply sanctions against those contravening ownership laws.

Ghana’s Fisheries Act states that, with the exception of tuna vessels, fishing vessels cannot be owned, or part owned, by any foreign interest, a measure that is intended to ensure that the financial benefits from industrial fisheries go directly to Ghana, rather than being sent overseas.

EJF findings are that foreign companies, overwhelmingly Chinese entities, operate through Ghanaian front companies, using opaque corporate structures to import vessels, register them and obtain licences. In 2015, 90% of industrial trawl vessels licensed in Ghana were built in China, and 95% were commanded by Chinese nationals.

With the balance of control invariably resting with the Chinese investor, such arrangements clearly contravene the purpose of the legislation, if not the letter of the law. The result is a complete lack of transparency as to who is responsible for illegal actions, and who controls and benefits from Ghana’s industrial trawl fleet.

According to EJF, new vessels have continued to arrive from China, despite a moratorium on new industrial trawlers entering Ghanaian waters.