Eighteen fishermen, including a minor, arrested for fishing illegally in Ghanaian waters were yesterday granted bail, with two sureties, by a Tema Circuit Court.
Seventeen of the accused were granted bail in the sum of GH¢50,000 each, while the minor among them, Odartey Lamptey, 14, was granted bail in the sum of GH¢30,000.
All the accused persons pleaded guilty to all seven counts of prohibited fishing methods, contrary to the Fisheries Regulations of 2010, and are to reappear in court on November 25, 2019, and also report themselves to the Marine Police Unit at the Tema Port every fortnight until the determination of the case.
The court presided over by Ms Cynthia Wiredu, said Lamptey would be referred to the Juvenile Court for sentencing after the trial at the circuit court and tasked his parents to endeavour to produce him in court during the trial.
The accused persons are Ashitey Armah, 36; Ahine Acquah 45; Joshua Annor, 56; Isaac Commodore, 24, and Jonathan Commodore.
The others are Francis Lamptey, 24; Ekow Kakra, 51; Nii Kwansah, 25; Joseph Ashitey Armah, Adumoah Lamptey, 27; Ishmael Allotey, 30; Kwame David 19, and Kofi Krah, 16.
They are residents of Chorkor, Bukom, Teshie, Tema Newtown and Prampram. They are facing seven counts of conspiracy to commit a crime, namely, prohibited fishing method, contrary to Section 23 of the Criminal Offences Act 1960, Act 29, and Section 11 of the
Fisheries Regulations, LI 1968 of 2010. Presenting the statement of offence, the police prosecutor, Assistant Superintendent of Police (ASP) Jacob Asamani, said on November 9, this year, the accused persons were seen between 1 a.m. and 6 a.m. engaged in fishing using the prohibited method of dropping high-density bulbs into the sea to attract fish for harvesting.
They were seen by the Minister of Fisheries, Ms Elizabeth Afoley Quaye; her deputy, Mr Kingsley Otoo; the Chairman of the Premix Fuel Committee, as well as some officials of the Fisheries Enforcement Unit, who were on patrol duties with a team from the Ghana Navy in the waters off Prampram and Tema.
ASP Asamani said the accused persons were found onboard three separate fishing canoes, namely, “Sea Never Dry”, “Love and Unity” and “Black Star” and had onboard nine generating sets, 11 high-density bulbs and tripod stands and cables they deployed in their operations.
The lawyer for the accused persons, Mr Adomako Acheampong, in his application for bail, argued that operators of Chinese fishing trawlers who were bigger perpetrators of the offence were often not brought before the law.
He told the court that the accused persons, most of whom were school dropouts, had no knowledge of the laws for which they were being held, “although I must admit that ignorance of the law is no excuse. What these people need is sensitisation to the law and what the prohibitions are”.
Mr Acheampong said considering that the accused were all artisanal fishermen, the legal team and their relatives would rally together and work to ensure that they were freed before the next adjourned date.