The Speaker of Parliament has been petitioned by Laif Fisheries Company Limited to hold the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development accountable for disobeying directives of Parliament to consult stakeholders before determining the fees.
The petition, which was signed by Mr Richster Nii Amarh Amarfio, Director of Operations and Board Secretary of the company, follows the increment of the license fees for operating fishing vessels from US$35 to US$200.
It stated that “your humble petitioner seeks to crave your indulgence to use your good offices to hold the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture Development accountable for disobeying the directive of Parliament to consult the stakeholders of the fisheries sector prior to the determination of the fees to be imposed and to ensure that the Honourable Minister provides a justification of this astronomical upward adjustment in the license fees”.
They noted that on or about December 8, 2018, the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development submitted a proposal to Parliament for an increment in the 2019 fishing license fees adding that “in the Parliamentary Hansard of the said date, Parliament directed that the Ministry of Fisheries and Aqua-culture Development engages with the stakeholders in the Fishing Industry over the proposed increment from US$35 per GRT to US$200 per GRT an increment of about 570%”
It noted that their examination of the Parliamentary records showed that, the proposed increment of 570%, was not approved by Parliament for the 2019 fiscal year because Parliament saw it fit to allow for consultation in accordance with the established practice and conventions to arrive at an acceptable level of increment of the license fees.
The petition stated that the industry, through the National Fisheries Association of Ghana, had explained the implications of the increment to the Select Committee on Food, Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs as well as the Committee on Finance adding that they had also clarified that such increment was not the standard practice the world over and industry would not be able to internalize the proposed cost.
“That the industry explained further that there was a process in place that was practice and convention initiated by the Ministry for Fisheries and Aqua-culture Development consulting stakeholders in the determination of a fair fee to be charged for the renewal of fishing licenses for industrial fishing vessels flying the Ghanaian Flag”.
The petitioners said in proposing the new increment, both the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development as well as the Fisheries Commission Secretariat avoided the Select Committee on Food Agriculture and Cocoa Affairs and submitted on the blind side of the stakeholders their proposals through the Ministry of Finance as part of the fees and charges instrument for the 2020 Fiscal Year, when they were fully aware that the Select Committee would demand due process, fairness to the stakeholders and respect the directives of Parliament.
Touching on the implications of the increment on the operations of the industry, the petitioners indicated currently, at a rate of US$35 per Gross Registered Tonnage (GRT) a vessel of 1000GRT was required to pay a license fee of US$35,000 meaning that with the new fees, the same vessel would be paying US$200,000 a situation they noted would increase the cost of doing business.
They also noted that coupled with the high increment, their market was at the mercy of the European Union as the price of tuna was low on the international market and conditions of fishing were not favourable.