Most people live and work within an hour’s drive of Ghana’s more than 300 miles of coastline. Today, the government estimates that the fish and seafood trade alone supports 10% of Ghanaians. When viewed as a commodity, tuna fuels Ghana’s seafood exports, which generates thousands of jobs. Large-scale industrial and artisanal fishers catch several species of tuna in the Gulf of Guinea and in the greater Atlantic, including skipjack, which is typically processed and canned.
The prospects for sustaining Ghana’s tuna industry have been met with challenges, including tension with neighboring countries over fishing grounds. In recent years, the European Union warned that tuna exports from Ghana could grind to a halt due to allegations of illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing activity. The EU is the largest market for Ghana’s tuna, and if Ghana were unable to export to the EU, the entire industry could collapse.
The Common Oceans ABNJ Tuna Project—funded by the Global Environment Facility and implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations—chose Ghana as the site for this work due to its expansive tuna fishing footprint, as well as its need to bring order to observer coverage. WWF led the effort in partnership with the International Seafood Sustainability Foundation and the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development of the Republic of Ghana.
In October 2015, five vessels were outfitted with equipment to observe individual vessel operations at sea. At the same time, the government of Ghana established a unit of land-based observers, to review the image data collected at sea.
The team of land-based observers was trained to analyze the footage and data to provide estimates of the catch, including targeted fish species and other marine life, known as bycatch. The observers are also on watch for any potential infractions happening on board of the vessels.