Enraged that foreign trawlers continuously deprive them of food and income, artisanal fishermen in Ghana are using a new smartphone app to detect and report illegal fishing.
The app is called Dase, meaning “evidence” in Fante, a Ghanaian dialect. It was developed by the Environmental Justice Foundation, a nongovernmental organization that combats illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing in West Africa.
More than 100,000 fishermen and 11,000 canoes operate in Ghana, according to Steve Trent, executive director of the foundation. The app also is being developed for use in Liberia and Sierra Leone.
Ghana’s “marine fisheries support the livelihoods of over 2.7 million people — almost 10% of the population — and more than 200 coastal villages depend on fisheries as their primary source of income,” Trent told ADF in an email. “However, fish populations are in steep decline, driven, in large part, by widespread illegal fishing by Chinese-owned industrial trawlers.”
When a trawler is suspected of illegal fishing, an artisanal fisherman can open the app and photograph the vessel — including its name or identification number — to record the location. The app uploads the report to a database that authorities can use to catch and penalize perpetrators.
The foundation unveiled the app in November 2020 and will encourage artisanal fishermen to use it regularly.
Over the past 15 years, Ghanaian fishermen have experienced a 40% drop in average annual income per artisanal canoe, according to the foundation.
Frederick Bortey is one of many Ghanaian fishermen who want the government to clamp down on illegal industrial trawlers. “My children are not getting money to go to school,” Bortey told Voice of America. “So it is very painful that we are talking about it. They can try and sack those people for us. We would like that, so we can fish, too, in our own country.”