Ghana fishing: Abuse, corruption and death on Chinese vessels


Bright Tsai Kweku has seen it everything when it comes to cruelty and corruption on Chinese fishing boats in Ghana. He claims that he has observed Chinese crew members abusing local fishermen like “slaves.”

Mr. Kweku said, “They beat them, they spit on them, and they kick them.” I’ve experienced that previously.

Mr. Kweku is employed as a bosun, an officer in control of the crew and equipment. He claims that he was denied food, made to drink contaminated water, and forced to work for three days without rest.

Some of his fellow fishermen suffered even worse outcomes, he said.

According to Mr. Kweku, one of his coworkers contracted cholera while aboard a Chinese ship, but the crew refused to bring him ashore for treatment. He did not return alive.

He witnessed another suffer severe burns on a ship when a fire broke out inside. Another employee was struck by a propeller. According to him, neither one lived, and the families weren’t given the required recompense.

These are only a few instances of the widespread alleged abuse and neglect attributed to Chinese fishing boats operating off the coast of Ghana fishing.
According to the UK-based Environmental Justice Foundation (EJF), at least 90% of the industrial trawlers fishing under the national flag of Ghana are owned by Chinese firms, in violation of local rules governing such ownership. According to EJF, a sizable fraction of these vessels have engaged in unlawful activities.

A recent EJF investigation looks into what it claims are human rights violations and illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by China’s Distant Water Fishing (DWF) fleet in Ghana. China’s DWF fleet is the largest in the world and is subject to complicated and opaque ownership and operating management.

All 36 of the crew members EJF spoke with reported being forced to work more than 14 hours a day and receiving subpar nutrition.

  • 94% had received subpar treatment or had seen verbal abuse.
  • 86% reported unsatisfactory living circumstances.
  • 81% had seen physical violence.
  • 75% have observed major maritime injuries.

China’s embassy responds by claiming that it is a “responsible fishing country.”

The BBC is informed by the country’s press office that “we have always collaborated with other members of the international community to crack down on illicit, unreported, and unregulated fishing, and have done a lot in effectively combating illegal fishing.”

Eight months ago, one of the biggest accidents involving a Chinese ship in Ghanaian waters occurred.

The MV Comforter 2 sank on May 6 due to bad weather. Of the 14 crew members who were saved, 11 are still missing and are believed to be dead, including the state-appointed observer. The Chinese captain’s body was discovered.

One of the survivors, who asked for anonymity and whose name we will use as Michael, remembers the atrocities that took place that day.

He claims that despite the weather getting worse, the Chinese crew instructed the fishermen to bring in an excessive amount of fish all at once. The boat was already loaded down with fish when it lost control and capsized in the turbulent waves and haul.

Before a fisherman discovered them, Michael and nine other people were able to hang onto a floating oil drum for almost 24 hours.

He says, “It was a horrible night. “We had no idea if we would survive or not.”

Michael claims that the Ghanaian business officially in charge of the vessel, Boatacom, has not given him any compensation and that he has not physically or psychologically healed from the catastrophe.

“I’m not at all satisfied because the firm never stops making excuses. My entire body can get hurt at times. I require medical care, but I lack the funds, “He claims.

Boatacom’s managing director, Kojo Ampratwum, tells the BBC that the company has sent its reports to the insurance provider and is awaiting a response.

It is difficult to determine who owns the MV Comforter 2 and other ships that are present in Ghana.

Although it is forbidden for foreigners to own industrial trawl vessels flying the Ghanaian flag, some Chinese corporations circumvent this rule by using front companies registered in Ghana.

According to EJF’s investigation, the MV Comforter 2 is a vessel that belongs to the Meng Xin fleet and is ultimately owned by the Chinese Dalian Mengxin Ocean Fishery Company.

The disappearance of fisheries observer Emmanuel Essien, one of the most infamous cases on Ghanaian waters in recent memory, has also been connected to the Meng Xin fleet.