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The Gas and Fishing  

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With Accra just by the sea, fishing has an important role in the communities in Ga Mashie. The trading of fish and salt were the basis of the Gas’ precolonial economy and continues to contribute to both the informal and formal economies of the communities. Fishing also has a cultural and social significance; to be a fisherman is a respectable employment and a good way of earning money. Many fishermen are introduced to the trade by their fathers or another male relative. The process of fishing requires different elements and people to make it work. There are shops on the beach that caters to the practical needs of the canoe and other fishing accessories. On a boat there is normally 6 to 12 fishermen who tends to be men. There is a system of ascribed roles and also a hierarchy based on knowledge and merit rather than nepotism and gerontocracy. Despite the gendered nature of fishing, women play an important role during different parts of the fishing process (often when the fishermen brings the fish to shore). There is often a canoe mother who is the mediator between the fishermen and the public who wants to buy the fish. The canoe mother (who is related to the canoe owner or the canoe owner) decides the prices and also provides money for any repair that needs to be done on the canoe or other equipments. Women are often those who buy, cleanse and prepare the fish (either by frying and smoking) for consumption. Though there are different types of fishing which can result in a canoe or boat being offshore for days, weeks and even months, many practice day fishing. A day fishing team normally starts at dawn and return to shore around 6-8 am to transfer their catch to the canoe mother. If there are no problems with the canoe or fishing nets they normally return home. On the days where equipements need to be fixed, the team attend to that before leaving for the day. Fishing can be done on any day except tuesdays. Tuesdays in popular narrative (associated to Ga traditional belief) is a resting day for the sea gods, for individual fishermen and fixing of fishing equipments.

Disclaimer for audio recording The person doing the talking is not the chief fisherman but his friend sitting to his left. The chief fisherman is infact quiet during the entire interview

The mornings on the beach of Jamestown are busy and crowded. The sea is filled with empty canoes and those returning from the morning fishing. Some people are transferring fish from the canoe to the shore. Some are buying fish from the canoe mother either for personal use or to further sell to other people. Some women are already rensing some fish before selling them. The big and expensive fish are kept in a cooler, whilst some of the smaller fish are left out to dry. There are hawkers as in most business spaces and the trading of other things such as vegetables.

The mornings on the beach of Jamestown are busy and crowded. The sea is filled with empty canoes and those returning from the morning fishing. Some people are transferring fish from the canoe to the shore. Some are buying fish from the canoe mother either for personal use or to further sell to other people. Some women are already rensing some fish before selling them. The big and expensive fish are kept in a cooler, whilst some of the smaller fish are left out to dry. There are hawkers as in most business spaces and the trading of other things such as vegetables.

The first stage of the selling of fish is normally mediated by a canoe mother who determines the pricing. After the fish has been bought from the canoe mother, many of the fish traders who are often female traders sell the fish off to either other traders that are in the communities or individuals. The bigger the fish the higher the prices. The smaller fish tend to be sold in bulks as they are much cheaper (70ghs for the ones seen in the picture) whilst a big and expensive such as the “red fish” can be sold for 100ghs for 4 fish.

On the shore there are also some broken down and worn out canoes no longer of use, rubbish, parts of fishing nets caught in the sand, rubbish and fish and sea creatures.

On the shore there are also some broken down and worn out canoes no longer of use, rubbish, parts of fishing nets caught in the sand, rubbish and fish and sea creatures.

The blue nets can be used to catch all types of fish The green nets are the nets used to gather and store the fish after they have been caught The white looking nets are blue nets bleached by the sea salt

Interview with Samuel Lamptey mending and fixing nets with his co-fishermen: Samuel Lamptey works as a fisherman on his father’s canoe and has been fishing since a young age. Samuel goes fishing with the rest of the crew between 1 am to 6-8 am depending on the amount of fish they catch. When they arrive to the shore, some of the fish are given to the canoe mother and some are given to a few of the crew members’ (with higher positions) to give to their wives to sell. If there are no problems with their nets, the canoe and other equipments, his day ends when the fish has been handed over to the mediators: the canoe mother and the fishermen's wives. The boat has between 7-12 fishermen on each fishing expedition. On the canoe, there is a clear stratification. There is the canoe owner (Samuel’s father), a second boss, a third boss etc. and payment is awarded on the basis of this hierarchy. Samuel explains that even though the second boss is younger than some of the fishermen in the team, he earns more as he has more knowledge of the trade.

Mr George’s fishing shop Located on the beach in Jamestown, Mr. George’s shop has all the essentials (such as anchors, nails, fishing lines, peg, yarn and super glue) needed for fishing, building and reparation of a canoe and other fishing essentials such as the nets.

The white yarn is used to seal leakages in the canoe

As the largest nails in regular shops are not sufficient to keep the boards of the canoe tightly together, Mr. George invents his own nails from parts of automobile.

A tool used to mend nets and can be compared to a needle.

A tool used to mend nets and can be compared to a needle.

The basic shape of a canoe is carved out of a large tree in the forest before it is brought to the shore for layers of wood to be added to it and prepare it for the sea.

The basic shape of a canoe is carved out of a large tree in the forest before it is brought to the shore for layers of wood to be added to it and prepare it for the sea.

Pegs and nails are used to secure the layers added to the initial structure to heighten the canoe.

The different stages of cleansing a fish before it is either sold or fried for consumption: cutting of the head, the tail, the fins, clearing of the inside and removing of scales.

The different stages of cleansing a fish before it is either sold or fried for consumption: cutting of the head, the tail, the fins, clearing of the inside and removing of scales.

The first stage of the selling of fish is normally mediated by a canoe mother who determines the pricing. After the fish has been bought from the canoe mother, many of the fish traders who are often female traders sell the fish off to either other traders that are in the communities or individuals. The bigger the fish the higher the prices. The smaller fish tend to be sold in bulks as they are much cheaper (70ghs for the ones seen in the picture) whilst a big and expensive such as the “red fish” can be sold for 100ghs for 4 fish.

The different stages of cleansing a fish before it is either sold or fried for consumption: cutting of the head, the tail, the fins, clearing of the inside and removing of scales.