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Second Densu Delta close season opens for oyster harvesting


  16 Avril      0        Society (17485),

   

By Lydia Kukua Asamoah, GNA

Accra, April 16, GNA-A community durbar has been held at Tsokomey in the Ga South Municipal Assembly to mark the opening of a five-month long close season of the Densu Delta to usher in a period of oyster harvesting within the Municipality.

The close season, observed from November 2018 to April 2019, was geared towards increasing oyster stocks for pickers around the Tsokomey, Tetegu, and Bortianor communities.

It is the second season to be observed by the communities under a co-management programme introduced in 2017 and being implemented with the support of the USAID’s Feed the Future’ Sustainable Fisheries Management Programme (SFMP), the Development Action Association (DAA), a non-governmental organisation, and the Fisheries Commission.

The oyster pickers programme is one of the three pilot projects being implemented under the SFMP in Ghana, to demonstrate the viability of coastal fisheries collaborative management.

Oysters are said to be an important source of income and protein for the communities in and around Tsokomey.

In 2017, the oyster pickers were organised to form the Densu Estuary Women Oyster Pickers Association (DOPA) and were educated on the basic science of oyster habitats and reproduction, the importance of water quality, salinity, acidity, and turbidity-how much dirt and sand is suspended in the water.

Under the Co-management programme, the women have been trained on how to re-establish oyster reefs by returning old shells back into the estuary to promote new growth of baby oysters as well as planting over 10,000 mangrove seedlings for the roots to serve as oyster habitats.

The observance of the close season, a plan to establish an ecologically and economically sustainable oyster fishery, was developed in a participatory manner with the inclusion of the oyster pickers, local authorities, traditional leaders, the Wildlife Division, and the Fishery Commission.

It allows time for the oysters to spawn and grow bigger, enabled the women to harvest more and much bigger oysters, thereby improving their livelihoods and nutritional status.

Dubbed the Densu Delta Oyster Harvesting Community Durbar, it was organised on Monday on the theme: « Co-Management-Paving the Way for Effective Natural Resource Sustainability ».

Mrs Elizabeth Naa Afoley Quaye, Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, commended the women around the area for showing great fortitude to support the effective and sustainable management of the oyster natural resource in the Densu Delta.

« You did not wait but saw the condition of declining oyster stocks and were willing to take actions yourselves. You aligned your actions with the intentions of the government by aligning your programme with our draft co-management policy, » she stated.

She said based on the success of the first closed season and over a year of scientific data that was collected by the women themselves, the DOPA, decided to close the season for a second period « and today we are here to open that season ».

« By closing their oyster harvesting for a set period every year, the Oyster pickers from Tetegu, Bortianor and Tsokomey are dealing with something that currently threatens the fish stocks on which Ghanaians most depend.

« They are together addressing what is called open access fishing here in Ghana. In open access fishing, anyone can go fishing anytime, without any restrictions ».

Ms Quaye said currently, small pelagic fish, also known as ‘the people’s fish’ of anchovies, mackerel, and sardinella, were nearly or already collapsed.

Like the science of the Densu oyster pickers, science shows that the ‘people’s fish stock’ would likely completely collapse within a few years unless drastic decisions were taken, she said.

« I see what you are doing here as a great positive example and success story that we as MOFAD / FC can draw lessons from in our bid to pilot co-management activities in the marine and inland fisheries of Ghana ».
She commended the USAID Ghana for its support for the marine fisheries sector through the US Government’s Feed the Future programme, expressing the hope that such a meaningful relationship would continue in the efforts to rebuild marine fish stocks and improve the livelihoods of fishers.

Mr James G. Lykos, Acting Team Leader of the USAID Ghana Economic Growth, said the successful oyster close season had proven that « when the responsibility for decision-making is shared between government, citizens, and other stakeholders, resource management is more effective and sustainable ».

He applauded the media’s role in highlighting the critical issues in the fisheries sector, as a good advocacy tool, for increasing public and private support for the sector, which was facing several challenges, dwindling the fish stock, and posing insecurity in the sector.

Madam Lydia Sasu, the Executive Director of the Development Action Association, urged all the community members and the traditional rulers in the area, to help sustain and continue with the oyster close season to help beef up the stock all year round.

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