If fish stocks off the coast of Ghana were to collapse, it would put the livelihoods of millions of people at risk, but a new app that allows local fishermen to photograph and report illegal trawlers could be the perfect tool to prevent disaster.
Using hand nets and line, small-catch fisheries here in West Africa have provided generations of families with a source of food and income that is at risk from illegal commercial-scale trawling operations, which have depleted many of the fish species. “fish of the people”.
There are strict laws preventing trawlers from entering the shallow waters where small-catch fishers work and where fish species live, but due to enforcement limitations, these laws are regularly violated, with an estimated 37% of the Annual catch is transported illegally.
The new app, called Dase, was developed by the non-profit organization Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF) and allows small-catch fishers to quickly report violators of the law directly to the Ghana Fisheries Commission with just their smartphone.
The project was funded by the EU delegation to Ghana as part of a three-year process to restore sustainable fish stocks in the country of 32 million people living in an area the size of Kansas.
The Guardian reports one case in which a fisherman in a canoe saw a trawler operating within the six-mile exclusion zone reserved for small-catch fishermen. Using his smartphone camera, the fisherman photographed the boat’s identity plate and videotaped its activity, before sending it directly to the government.
To prevent bribery from ensuring that records are archived somewhere and never seen again, evidence is sent to a database jointly managed by the EJF, which can help build and verify the status of cases against perpetrators.
So far, more than 100 small-catch fishermen have downloaded the app, in communities along Ghana’s 350-mile coastline, to make sure trawlers are under the legal microscope at all times.
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