Minister decries decline in fish stock

Business News of Thursday, 26 February 2015

Source: Graphic Online

Sherry Ayittey Minister Health

The Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Ms Sherry Ayittey, has asked operators in the oil and gas industry to ensure that their activities do not affect the country’s fishing sector.

She observed that even though the industry had contributed significantly to Ghana’s economic growth, the continuous decline of fish stock, death of whales and increase in alga bloom along the coastal areas where the offshore oil industry operated was worrying.

At the launch of a report on Ghana’s Marine Environment Condition in Accra last Wednesday, Ms Ayittey said fishermen in the Western Region in particular, were concerned about the country’s new offshore oil industry and its activities.

“They fear the potential devastating impact of an oil spill could have adverse impact on their livelihoods as it could reduce fish stocks,” she said.

The report, which was conducted by a United States (US)-based independent agency, Accon International, however, found that some of the concerns being raised by the fishermen did not appear to be directly attributable to the offshore oil exploration.

For instance, although fishermen from the six coastal districts of Western Region had earlier reported that the decline in fish stock and increase in alga bloom known widely as “Sargasum” were as a result of the activities of offshore oil industry, the report stated otherwise and attributed the situation to illegal fishing activities and overfishing.

Again, the report indicated that 24 whales had died in the last six years, with 20 of them having been washed to the coastal areas of Western Region.

Although the report did not emphatically state that the presence of the offshore oil industry at the coastal areas of the Western Region was the reason for the increase in the death of whales, it partly attributed the problem to their operations.

The study was sponsored by Kosmos Energy Ghana and performed independently in co-operation with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Ms Ayittey said in order to address the fisherfolks’ concerns, the oil and gas industry must co-exist with the fishing industry and harmoniously share the ocean.

“Protection and maintenance of the fishing industry, the fishermen and their communities should be a major priority for the oil and gas industry,” she added.

The President of Accon International, Mr Dean Slocum, said the rationale behind the report was to conduct an independent study of available information concerning public allegations that offshore oil and gas activities had caused degradation of the marine environment on the coast of Ghana.

“It was also to summarise global good practice in terms of addressing real and perceived challenges of offshore discharges on the marine environment and to engage key stakeholders in gathering and sharing relevant information,” he said.

According to Mr Slocum, it was also to provide an objective summary of the information, evidence and stakeholder views and facilitate an open but structured discussion focused on potential areas of consensus on the issue.

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