The fisheries sector is one of many sectors supporting socio-economic development in Ghana. Fish and other seafood products generate about US$ 1 billion in revenue annually and contribute about 5% and 3% to agricultural GDP and national GDP respectively (Sarpong et al., 2005; ATLAFCO, 2012). Further, the sector supports the livelihood of over 2.6 million Ghanaians (FAO, 2016; ATLAFCO, 2012) and thus, helps in poverty reduction across the country.

Ghana is endowed with fisheries resources due to abundance of water resources such as the sea, lagoons, rivers, lakes and dams. For decades, fish is the most important and affordable source of animal protein for both the poor and rich in Ghana, and local consumption constitute around 75% of total domestic fish capture. Fish provides around 60% of the animal protein requirements of Ghanaians. The annual per capita consumption of fish in Ghana is estimated to be 25kg, which is higher than the estimated averages of 18.9kg and 10.5 kg for the World and Africa respectively (Sarpong et al., 2005; FAO, 2016; Onumah et al., 2018). To continue to maintain current per capita levels of consumption, Ghana imports around 191,000 metric tons of fish annually from other countries because it is only able to satisfy about 50% (about 420,000 metric tons) of its total national fish requirement (Failler et al., 2014; Frimpong & Adwani, 2015).

In Ghana, the commonly consumed fish types include affordable sardinella (called amane or εban in the local language), anchovy (Keta school boys), mackerel (salmon), horse mackerel, chub mackerel and tuna. The sea bream, cassava fish, red snapper and tilapia are also consumed by a segment of the population and are also patronised by hotels and restaurants

(USAID, 2009). Consumers normally purchase fish in either fresh/frozen or processed form for food preparation at home. Processed fish forms include smoked, salted and dried, dried, fried, canned and grilled. The most preferred product by majority of Ghanaians is smoked fish due to its flavour and the fact that it remains intact when used in food preparation (Quagrainie et al., 2009).

Nutritionists have argued that fish is a major and richest source of essential fatty acids such as LC-PUFAs and bioavailable micro-nutrients such as vitamins (D and B) and minerals (calcium, iron, zinc, etc.). The rich nutritional properties of fish make its consumption beneficial to the health and development of millions of low income consumers (HLPE Report, 2014). Therefore, experts have concluded that consumption of certain quantity of fish especially fatty fishes (e.g. sardines) can reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases and stroke problems and can contribute to improved brain development (FAO/WHO, 2011). Moreover, research over the years have shown that consuming fish can help prevent high blood pressure, cholesterol and cancer (Can et al., 2015).

Fish consumption all over the world has increased dramatically in recent decades. Likewise, statistics from MoFA (2017) give the indication that fish consumption has generally increased over the years, reflecting the increased fish supply over the period. For instance, fish consumption increased from 51,8612.2 metric tons in 2009 to 58,8874.1 metric tons in 2011. Growth in population and incomes, urbanization, preference for fish, and cultural factors among others are the determining factors that could explain the increase. Fish consumption at the consumer level has also increased as a result of increased awareness about the health benefits of eating fish, availability of seafood and affordability of fish compared to other animal products (Myrland et al., 2000; Erdoğan et al., 2011).

However, the overall increase in fish consumption does not reflect the consumption behavior of households towards fish. Information on household consumption behavior is very important for the seafood industry. Erdogan et al. (2011) emphasized that the development of the seafood industry is strongly dependent on consumer behaviour and consumption habits. For instance, an increase in consumption of fish can lead to gains in production and have positive effect on livelihoods in terms of employment and exports leading to higher incomes (Can et al., 2015). Therefore, understanding consumer behavior towards fish is deemed important, and this study provides such understanding with a focus on low-income households in urban areas of Ghana.

      Problem statement

Fish forms an important component in the diets of urban households in Ghana. However, fish has become expensive in recent years as a result of declining fish capture, increased demand due to growth in population and incomes, high cost of transportation, high transaction costs, among others. Increased fish prices disproportionately affect low-income households particular in cities in terms of difficulty in accessing fish since they depend so much on fish for their animal protein supply (FAO, 2011). The situation is often accompanied by changes in consumption behavior and diets of urban poor households who cannot afford high valued fishes. It is believed that low-income households in developing countries often patronise the small pelagic fishes for their animal protein needs because they are affordable, available and easy to use in preparing meals at home. The commonly consumed small pelagic fishes include sardinella, anchovy, mackerel, horse mackerel and chub mackerel. In Ghana, the sea bream, cassava fish and red snappers are also preferred but they are expensive and therefore many people cannot afford to buy (USAID, 2009).