Ghana journalists learn to report on oceans and fisheries

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Earth Journalism Network, Ghana

In partnership with local and national Ghanaian media organizations and with funding support from the Adessium Foundation, Internews’ Earth Journalism Network held a three-day capacity-building workshop on fisheries reporting in Ghana, in September 2017.  The workshop, entitled “Ghana Journalists Ocean Science and Fisheries Training” was organized with the support from the newly launched network Journalists for Responsible Fisheries and Environment and the Ghana Journalists Association, Ghana’s main national journalist membership body.

A fisherman at the Ghanaian fishing port of Elmina tends to his nets. Credit: James Fahn/internews

Through expert presentations, discussions and a field research trip to the port of Elmina in Cape Coast, the training enabled journalists to develop a deeper and broader understanding of fishing activity off Ghana’s coast and the cumulative impacts of overfishing and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing on coastal communities, artisanal fleets and the country’s food security. Based on a selection process carried out by our local partners, 15 journalists from print and broadcast media—including 7 women—were selected from the four main regions of the country.

Kwamena Duncan, the Central Regional Minister, officially opened the workshop and called it “timely and appropriate” for the region. During his address, he welcomed participants and emphasized the importance of “expos[ing] media practitioners to issues relating to ocean governance” in order to expand their understanding of effective fisheries management. He also highlighted several challenges to Ghana’s fisheries, including “unsound fishing practices” such as illegal nets and the use of dynamite and other hazardous chemicals to increase catch rates.

To increase the capacity of Ghanaian journalists to expertly tackle the often complex and overlapping issues related to ocean governance, while gaining a better understanding of how to integrate scientific research and data into their reports, the workshop featured presentations from key experts and local stakeholders. Renowned ocean scientist Dr. Rashid Sumalia, for example, provided an overview from Tokyo (via Skype) of the state of fisheries in West Africa and Ghana, and discussed the overfishing of some key commercial stocks.

Participants also heard from research fellow Dr. Wisdom Akpalu, of the University of Ghana, and Kofi Agbogah, manager of the national activities of the Ghana Sustainable Fisheries Management Project and director of Hen Mpoana (“Our Coast”), a non-governmental organization that supports coastal communities. During his presentation, Akpalu examined the effects of overfishing from the sea to the land by focusing on its socio-economic impacts.

To help the journalists better communicate with their audiences, Trainer and Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist Kenneth Weiss discussed how to bypass the traditional use of fisheries-related jargon and write compelling stories that adapt to the reader’s needs and level of topical understanding.  Weiss, a veteran investigative reporter, also curated and distributed a wide selection of research papers, reports and issue briefs for the journalists to use in future reports.

During a field trip to the port of Elmina, in Cape Coast, participants then had the opportunity to put their training into action and formed small groups to research assigned topics. The vast and bustling landing port, once the central point of West Africa’s slave trade, continues to be a hub for all kinds of illegal activities. The topics included:

  • The economic impact of dwindling stocks on fishermen’s livelihoods, particularly women;
  • How to tell the difference between legal and illegal catch at the market and during landings, particularly those caught with destructive methods such as dynamite;
  • How to spot juvenile landings at ports (this training was led by professor Isaac Okyere, from the University of Cape Coast, Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences);
  • Fisheries legislation and obstacles for implementation at the local and grass roots level.

Following the training, a number of the journalists expressed interest in researching these topics further and some have applied for funding to conduct in-depth investigations and reports through EJN’s story grants program. A second round of grants will be awarded in January.

This workshop is the first of two planned for the region. The second, to be held in 2018, will take place in Senegal and focus on French-speaking reporters. By partnering once again with key stakeholders, EJN seeks to provide a collaborative, inclusive and innovative platform from which local, regional and international expertise can lay the groundwork for a new era of fisheries reporting in West Africa.