Children mending fishing nets during closed season

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Nii Laryea (Not real name),13, is among several fishers busily mending fishing nets at the Jamestown beach in Accra on Tuesday afternoon while others idle about on the once busy beach.

Nii Laryea did not go to school because his father asked him to help mend fishing nets after the fishing season.

David Nii Boye Tagoe, father of the pupil, says until the fishing season resumes, he will not be able to provide feeding and transportation for Laryea to go to school.

Many other children are seen loitering and playing around during school hours because their parents are unable to give them transportation and feeding money for school.

Stalky Laryea, with a long needle, patches a sea blue net as he converses with his father. Occasionally, he scratches his bare chest and quickly moves the needle around skillfully to the admiration of his father, 35.At least, he has found a reason to smile amidst the financial challenges and idleness.

During the close season, most fishers face hard times because they depend solely on fishing. For this close season, they claim the timing is wrong because it has denied them bumper harvest and money to fend for their families.

According to them, July, August, and September are good times for bumper harvest, which we call our “cocoa season” so, the closure should have been declared earlier or later.

That way, we can raise some money to settle our bills and take care of our families, Mr Tagoe said.

Joshua Anum Abeo, a fisher at Chorkor, said: “We experienced continuous rainfall the whole of May and June and we were unable to go fishing so, the closure could have been done at that time when the weather was bad”.

Like Nii Laryea, who is assisting his father during the close season and go back to school after a month, Nii Doddoo, 13, is also being trained to be a fisherman.

Nii Doddoo’s father, Mr Mensah said training his son in fishing at a young age is very necessary so that he would have enough experience by the time he becomes an adult.

Nii Doddoo, who is out of school, is also expected to have enough experience and take over his father’s fishing gear and job in future, a legacy for the family.

“It is difficult to train adults in fishing, they get scared and make fatal mistakes. Training my son at this young age is very necessary, because he will be able to learn fast, become courageous by the time he becomes an adult.We were all trained from an early age,” he said.

My son is very smart, most of the young ones vomit along the line but my son does because nauseous and lazy.He has the passion for the job.

Mr Mensah who has fathered six children, says he is unable to pay school fees for all of them. Two of them are already working as fishermen, two of them are in school and I am training the last two so that they can take over my fishing business.

Nii Doddoo says he has no choice but to be determined to be a competent fisherman although he is been deprived his childhood innocence and education and could be labouring as a child.

The term, “child labour” is often defined as work that deprives children of their childhood, their potential and their dignity, that is harmful to their physical and mental development.

It refers to work that is mentally, physically, socially or morally dangerous and harmful to children, which interferes with their schooling.

The practice deprives these children the opportunity to attend school, obliging them to leave school prematurely or requiring them to attempt to combine school attendance with excessively long and heavy work.

Nii Doddoo, 13, and his younger brother, nine, are now “infant fisherman” who only spent some few years in the classroom.

He says he wants to respect his father’s decision and so far he is able to go as far as Bortianor, Elmina and beyond.

At the Jamestown landing beach, Nii Doddoo is being taught how to mend the fishing net.

Other children of school going age, between the ages of nine and thirteen were also spotted playing at the Chorkor beach. Some were bare chested whiles others were without any clothing. These children are already into fishing with training from their fathers.

Samuel kwei, 12, stopped schooling at primary four and had since been fishing with his father. The jovial Jacob Ashong, 13, is also into fishing with his father at chorkor.

According to him, though he had been enrolled before, he stopped school because the “classroom is too hot and the pen is too heavy”.

Some fisher folks told the GNA that realising the poor performance of their children at school, they quickly push them into fishing, to be productive and have a lifetime career.

Jacob Ashong said he gets enough money from the fishing businesses to take care of himself. He also works as driver’s mate and has not been affected by the closed season.

Closed fishing season is observed annually to reduce fishing pressure on stock while allowing the lost population to replenish.

Globally, closed seasons are considered one of the key procedures by fisheries management to help protect fish stock and increase their population.

But the fisher folk at Chorkor and Jamestown continue to express concern about the closed season at the wrong time.

Mr. Samuel Odartey Lamptey lamented that they have lost a huge opportunity at a time when they should be catching enough fish.

“The fish stock is moving from our shores to other areas, affecting our livelihood. I have lots of fisher folks working under me and I spend 200gh on the them every day  as we mend the net so how do we survive under this condition? “.

Fish mongers and food vendors at Chorkor and Jamestown communities also say that they have also been greatly affected as they resort to frozen fish from the cold stores since they no longer get fresh fish directly from the fishermen.

Madam Mary Tetteh, a Kenkey seller at Chorkor, expressed worry as prices of fish at the cold store had increased immediately the closed season begun.

She said getting fresh fish directly from the fishermen was cheaper and economical as compared to the ones at the cold store.

Madam Rose Duah, also a kenkey seller said businesses had been slow because the main customers who are the fishermen have stopped buying.

She said: “My kenkey usually gets finished very early in the morning, but as at now I am still struggling to sell even at midday.”

Mr Robert Nettey, Spokesperson for Ga Mashie fisher folks, commended government’s efforts in addressing the challenges affecting the fisher folks.

He said since the closed season begun, some species that were hardly  available were now in abundance and fishermen were happy about it.

The spokesperson, however expressed worry over the continues illegal fishing practices, particularly the light fishing practice, the use of dynamite, monofilament net and carbide among others and needed to be tackled.

He called on government to properly equip the Marine Police  to help prevent illegal fishing activities.

A GNA News Feature by Muniratu Akweley Issah-GNA

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