Partners in Africa and Asia Focus on Fisheries and Plastic Pollution to Mark World Environment Day

Partners in Africa and Asia Focus on Fisheries and Plastic Pollution to Mark World Environment Day

Partners in Africa and Asia Focus on Fisheries and Plastic Pollution to Mark World Environment Day

As part of activities to mark the first ever Illegal Unregulated and Unreported (IUU) Fishing Day on June 5th and World Oceans Day on June 8th, EJN’s new partner organization in Ghana, the Journalists for Responsible Fisheries and Environment (JRFE), organized a set of press trips in the country’s main fish landing hubs — Elmina, Moree and in the Volta region.

June 5th was also World Environment Day, which EJN marked in Asia with a series of reports from the Philippines, the Pacific islands, Mekong region, Nepal and Indonesia on the problem of plastic pollution in the respective countries and regions, and how local communities are taking steps to stop it.

PRESS TRIPS IN GHANA

“Our first World Oceans Day as a network of journalists was well received by the public and local fishing communities, who responded in most parts positively to the research visits we coordinated,” reports Shirley Asiedu-Addo, one of the founding members of the JRFE network in Ghana. In total, 19 regional and local journalists attended the activities in three different fishing communities.

The theme of their first World Oceans day as a network of journalists was “Saving the Ocean, Our Collective Responsibility.” Activities were split into three parts: one research trip in the Volta region, and another trip to the coastal towns of Elmina and Moree.

Journalists in the Volta Region embarked on a field trip to assess the state of fishing communities in the municipality of Keta as fisheries stocks continue to dwindle. During their research trip, they investigated the effect of IUU fishing and the fishing industry in the region, a major fishing area in the country. The fishermen briefed participating journalists on the use of illegal fishing methods which they noted are having devastating effect on the communities.

When questioned by the journalists, the fishermen backed the recent government proposal to declare the month of August as a closed fishing season. Pillow Defor, Chief Fisherman for Fuveme, Atiteti and Agorkedzi all in the Keta municipality also said in an interview that “light fishing” – the illegal use of powerful lights to attract fish -- and the activities of trawlers were also major concerns, underlining the need for these practices to be tackled by the government.

Around 20 journalists from the Central and Western Regions of Ghana also embarked on press research trips to the coastal towns of Moree and Elmina in the Central region on the 8th of June. In Moree, the group met with the Chief Fisherman Nana Mensah Bonsu, who accompanied the journalists as they interacted with local fishermen, who in turn raised their concerns regarding IUU and ocean pollution.

During the trip, Nana Bonsu told the journalists: “we cannot look on while the illegalities in the sea go on. We are happy that the journalists group is interested in fisheries and are ready to bring issues to the people in authority for real action.”

Some of the fishermen advocated for strict enforcement of laws against IUU activities. Some argued that there should be more political to address the menace posed by IUU. Kofi Preh, a fisherman said “we cannot do much if there is no political will to ensure the enforcement of the laws.”

Fishermen in Moree mostly talked about the effects of IUU, particularly illegal transshipment out at sea and how it affects their work. “Sometimes we go to sea with nets and come back with no nets. Some of these trawlers come into our space and drag our nets away. Our lives are being frustrated,” said one fishermen to the journalists.

Nii Amarh, another fisherman from Elmina, urged the government to show more commitment in working to stop illegalities at sea to save the sea’s resources from total collapse.

“Actions from government must show us that they are serious about saving our oceans,” he said.

“We sometimes come home with empty nets instead of fish,” Ekow Panyin, a fisherman at Moree in the Central Region of Ghana also told journalists.

These local press trips showed that not much has improved in the fishing communities since we hosted our workshop and press trip in collaboration with EJN in September 2017. The shores were still dirty and fishermen still complained of dwindling catch. The fishermen sounded frustrated by the dwindling stocks and the impact on their lives. They called for strict enforcement of laws against illegalities by industrial vessels.  They sounded ready to support efforts at saving fishery stocks.

However, Asiedu-Addo added, “there were some moments during our trip when fishermen sounded hostile to some of our journalists, claiming that nothing significant had been done about the plight of fishermen, and the illegalities at sea in particular, leading to worsening living conditions for them and their families. It was obvious that there is a need for more reportage on issues to push the government to take drastic actions on the issue. Such interaction should not be one time. Journalists must continue to engage the fisherfolks in efforts to help restock the sea.”

Overall, the fishermen were happy about the fact that there was a group of journalists committed to pushing the cause of fishermen and the oceans in the local and national media.

JRFE’s WORK ON PLASTICS

In line with the global theme on World Oceans Day, the JRFE also urged members to look at the issue of plastics and its effects on the ocean, fisherfolks and fisher communities.

JRFE called on the government to establish recycling plants in every region as part of the one district one factory policy of the current administration. The proposal was made by members of JRFE following observations that the fishing communities were engulfed with filth, particularly made up of plastics.

Nana Bonsu of Moree alluded to the fact that some fishermen dumped plastic refuse into the ocean when they went fishing. It also came to light that there were no dustbins on shore so fishermen just dumped refuse on the ground. Dealing with plastic pollution falls under the broader strategy of the JRFE to ensure responsible fisheries and the group therefore educated the fishermen to ensure proper use and disposal of plastics.

A list of stories produced by JRFE in Ghana through project activities can be found below.

PRESS ON PLASTICS IN ASIA

Meanwhile in Asia, to mark World Environmental Day (June 5th), EJN organized a Plastic Pollution Media Workshop on June 23-24 in partnership with the Philippines Network of Environmental Journalists (PNEJ). Sixteen journalists from across the Philippines joined the workshop.

With environmental activists, legal experts and senior environmental; journalists as resource persons, they discussed the state of plastic pollution in the Philippines and relevant policies, potential solutions to address plastic pollution and ways to raise public awareness. As a result of the workshop, a number of news stories on plastic pollution in the Philippines have been produced. Here are some examples:

OTHER STORIES FEATURE IN ASIA:

STORIES PRODUCED BY JRFE MEMBERS IN GHANA:

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