My last assignment at Metro.
On my last full day at Metro, Humu, the assignment editor, sends me to Jamestown Beach, a major fishing village in Accra. The Ministry of Fisheries was holding a meeting with local fishermen. That’s all they would tell me.
Our news team heads to the general assembly area in the village. It has a cement floor with a thatch roof and no walls. There are five government officials sitting on one side. They are facing a group of about 10 big men in the front row wearing traditional Ghanaian clothing. Behind the big men are about 60 angry looking fishermen. As the meeting progressed, more men, women, and children began to assemble where the walls would have been.
I’m sitting in the press pool on the side. Someone comes over and hands me a copy of the Ghanaian Times. They point to a story about a government raid on Jamestown Beach where the police arrested some fishermen and seized some illegal fishing nets.
This was starting to make sense. I remember on an earlier trip to Kumasi region we saw notices that people were using mosquito nets to fish with. This is detrimental to fish populations, as nets that are too fine will kill off the younger generations of fish. This is an unfortunate consequence to the efforts to fight malaria.
The first government speaker stands up, a man in a naval uniform. He had four bars on each of his shoulders, so I thought he was a captain. I’m not familiar with Ghanaian military insignia. About two minutes into his speech I realize that he’s not speaking English. He’s speaking Ga, which is one of the main ethnic groups and languages in Accra.
I don’t speak Ga. So, I’m straining my ears at this point, hoping for some English phrases and expressions to be thrown in. I don’t hear any English, but I can tell the conversation isn’t going too well. Fishermen in the back keep interrupting and shouting at the officials, while the other fishermen cheer at the interruptions.
The naval officer shows the group something that looks like a legal fishing net. He also shows a measuring device of some kind. At this point, despite the fact that I have no idea of what they’re saying, I think I have some kind of story.
Then, the man directs the group’s attention to a large easel that had been covered. He pulls the first page off and I’m staring at this:
At this point, I’m done. The news team already knew that I didn’t speak Ga, so they were going to write the story anyway.
Then I saw some of the finest public outreach I’ve ever seen. The government was being brutally honest about what would happen if the fish populations were exhausted.
The government of Ghana intends to import proper fishing nets and make them available to the public. Overfishing of the coastlines is an urgent issue that needs immediate action. The fishermen get nets and the fish get to live.
There is no scientific evidence that a human can contract Ebola from a fish.