Image/Graphic from: Kofi Kinaata’s ‘Illegal Fishing’ Video

From Eco-Friendly to Eco-Trendy: Kofi Kinaata merges music and environmentalism

Kofi Kinaata is popular for his eloquent use of “Taadi Mfantse” (Takoradi version of Fante-Twi) in his often upbeat music. Born, though not raised in Takoradi myself, I fell in love with Kinaata’s music from the time I heard “Susuka” in 2016. Like Susuka, Kofi Kinaata’s new single “Illegal fishing – Closed Season” is didactic. It draws attention to a pertinent environmental issue and is an open letter to the fishing industry on how to properly care for one of the most important gifts nature gives us. Environmental issues — Climate Change, Food and Water security — are quickly becoming some of the most discussed issues in global public discourse today. 

If you follow the news often, you are constantly reminded of the damage we are causing the environment. And rightfully so, studies suggest that our livelihoods could take a drastic downturn by the year 2050 if we do not change our bad environmental practices. Amazon wildfires, the burning Arctic, increased carbon emissions and continuous harmful farming and fishing practices are clear indications of how we are gradually rendering our planet inhabitable. 

Environmentalism in Ghanaian Music? 

The Ghanaian music industry is not necessarily rife with songs on environmental issues. However, songs like Gasmillah’s “Fale, Fale”; Wanlov and Sister Derby’s “Refuse, Reuse, Recycle” and Kofi Kinaata “Illegal Fishing/Closed season” that emerge from time to time, show that Ghanaian music is taking baby steps in drawing public attention to our environmental challenges. Music is always a relevant tool in raising awareness on any social issue because of accessibility and its ability to entertain as well as educate. 

Set in a fishing community in the Western region, the video to “Illegal fishing – Closed Season” shows Kofi Kinaata singing to eager onlookers in the fishing community. He highlights two of the major ways in which oceans are affected by bad environmental practices: overfishing and pollution. 

Overfishing 

Oceans are the world’s largest ecosystem and houses 80% of the world’s biodiversity, including fish, which forms 60% of Ghana’s protein sources. As the name suggests, overfishing happens when the rates at which fish is taken from the sea are quicker than the rates at which they are replaced. Fish stocks need some time to be replenished and mature to help avoid bycatch – where fishermen unintentionally catch ‘undesirable’ fish — these could be in the form of different species, immature fish or wrong sex. The global issue of overfishing, which is also experienced at the national level is where we see the importance of observing a “closed season”. 

Based on the environmental principle of preservation, the ‘closed season’ is a time where fishing is banned in order to allow for fish stocks to be replenished. Fishing being an economic activity, the closed season takes a toll on the fishermen eventually when they have to go months without fishing and have to look for alternative sources of income. Naturally, most of them do not, and continue fishing using indiscriminate methods. 

Kofi Kinaata brings to light how capitalism — the root of most anthropogenic activities causing environmental destruction — affects the sea. “So ndɛ sika enyibir na ɔnye pɛsɛmekomenya, obiara rehwehwɛ ma nanko bɛnya, nti wɔre yɛ po yi ma wɔpɛ biara” (loosely translated as “today, selfishness and avarice have led many to ill-treat the sea”). The closed season offers the environment the opportunity to rejuvenate. However “sika enyibir na ɔnye pɛsɛmekomenya” prevents this from happening. 

Importantly, Kinaata observes that the closed season is not only for the benefit of the environment, but for humans as well. “Sɛ closed season no ba a hɛn ma name no mbir, Na wɔntow, na wɔn wo, Na wɔn dɔr mfa ma hɛn ara oo”- When closed season comes, let us allow the fish to spawn and multiply for all of us. 

Pollution 

It is no secret that Ghana has both a sanitation and pollution problem. Take a look at the major cities and there’s litter everywhere. These poor sanitation practices are also seen in the small scale fishing industry. Because of “sika enyibir na ɔnye pɛsɛmekomenya” fishermen try to find the quickest and most “efficient” ways to catch their fish and as such, resort to indiscriminate methods of doing so. These methods include using light to blind the fish rendering them immobile in order to capture them easily; or using dynamite and carbide to poison fishes; or using monofilament nets that cause harm to the environment. Kinaata’s message regarding this is simple: “yɛnyai” (let us stop!). 

Water is a renewable resource that can slowly be made un-renewable through pollution and overuse. These fishing practices affect both water and food security and could have alarming consequences if not properly dealt with. 

Kofi Kinaata with support from the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development is on to something positive. Hopefully, this sustains the awareness of environmentalism through Ghanaian pop culture.

by Griselda Asamoah-Gyadu

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