GHANA – Ghana’s fish and seafood imports in 2018 grew to about US$ 311.4 million on account of increasing demand and dwindling fish stocks.

According to a recent report by the Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), of the United States Department of Agriculture, the country imported an estimated 370,000 MT in during the period.

The imports were largely composed of the mackerel, sardines, and whiting/hake fish species contributing to the annual domestic consumption of approximately 775,000 metric tonnes.

However, the report reveals that overexploitation of the marine stocks in the country’s own territorial waters has implicated the domestic seafood production, with the effects expected to spill over to the next few years.

Estimates further show that import levels have been trending within US$290.1 million, US$349.4 million, US$297.5 million and US$311.4 million between 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018 respectively.

On average, the total domestic fish production from all fishing sources in the past five years have been placed at just under 450,000 metric tons per annum, the report says.

However, a small but rapidly expanding aquaculture sector is projected to be more promising in addressing supply challenges.

Although beginning from a low level, the aquaculture sector has registered remarkable growth since 2010, production growing from 10,000 MT to 57,000 MT in 2017.

In addressing critical levels of overfishing, the government has planned to impose closed seasons in 2019, despite unsuccessful attempts in the previous years.

This notwithstanding, the report indicates that imports will continue to play a key role and account for an increasingly significant share of domestic consumption in the country.

Marine, inland (rivers, lakes and lagoons), and farm operations all play roles role in Ghana’s fisheries sector.

The fishing industry accounts for an estimated 1.2 percent of total GDP, while agriculture accounts for 6.6 percent of the GDP, according to the Ghana Statistical Service.

However, marine production has stagnated in recent years, with the data from the reports suggesting marginal decline in inland capture production which has been seen to contribute to over-exploitation and its subsequent effect on available fish stocks.

The primary large pelagic fish species in Ghanaian waters is tuna with the three types of tuna species of commercial importance and value highlighted to include the yellow fin, skipjack, and big eye tunas.