Importance of shark fisheries for the livelihoods of coastal communities in Western Ghana

Published on
18. January 2021

Fishing for survival: importance of shark fisheries for the livelihoods of coastal communities in Western Ghana

Issah Seidu, Lawrence K. Brobbey, Emmanuel Danquah, Samuel K. Oppong, David van Beuningen, Moro Seidu, Nicholas K. Dulvy


Small-scale shark fisheries support a large number of coastal community livelihoods in developing countries. Shark meat comprises a cheap source of protein and is traded locally in many parts in developing countries, while the skins, oil, fins and gill rakers are exported to the international market. This study addresses a gap in literature regarding the importance of elasmobranchs to key shark-fishing communities and the degree to which trade in shark products (meat and fins) vary in time and among fishing communities in Ghana. We interviewed 85 fishers and traders involved in shark fisheries in Axim, Dixcove, and Shama communities using semi-structured questionnaires. Fishing was the primary source of income and accounted for 59.9% of the total household income of respondents. Other important economic activities were fish processing (15.2%), fish retailing (14.8%), and small businesses (2.9%). One-third and often two-thirds of respondents generated between 80-100% of their income from shark fisheries: Axim (n = 65%), Dixcove (68%), and Shama (35%). Shark meat consumption was common among fishers and traders and represents a substantial source of protein in the diet of the study communities. Overexploitation of these species may compromise food security. Hammerhead Sharks (Sphyrna spp) and Bull Shark (Carcharhinus leucas) have the most valuable fins and meat. Further, 75% and 95% of fishers and traders respectively see fishing and trading of shark meat as their last safety-net and, therefore, tend to be satisfied with their jobs. Non-fishing related livelihood streams including small businesses and transportation were the major fallback activities both fishers and traders preferred to rely on if there is a ban on the exploitation of sharks in Ghana. Thus, any shark management strategy must take into consideration the preferred livelihood fallback options outlined by fishers and traders, and implement them to ensure the success of the intervention.

bioRxiv, DOI: 10.1101/2021.01.18.427106


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