Ghana has been experiencing huge whale deaths in its territorial waters since the start of oil production in 2011. The latest was washed ashore in the morning of Sunday, September 17, 2017 increasing the number of whale deaths so far to about 31, the highest number recorded in six years.
The latest whale beached at Nkakaemu, a suburb of Axim in the Nzema East Municipality of the Western Region.
The cause of death of the marine mammal is unknown but fishermen, chiefs and environmental watchers have attributed the deaths to the offshore oil exploitation.
Their belief stems from the fact that the phenomenon became rampant from 2009 at a time oil exploration at the Jubilee Field had intensified.
This latest death at Nkakaemu seems to be resurrecting community sentiments and the demand for the cause of deaths.
“What at all are they hiding from us? So are we saying that as a country, we don’t have the capacity to investigate thoroughly and find the cause of these deaths?”, Kofi Essel, a fisherman at Axim, quizzed.
According to George Buah, another fisherman, “the inability of the country to determine the cause of deaths, poses serious threat to the safety of our fisheries”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Mike Abakah Edu, Western Regional Secretary of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (GNCFC), has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to move quickly to the scene and evacuate the carcass since the stench from it was causing discomfort for the community
Fisher folks in the Western Shores of Ghana close to the oil rig have blamed the operators of the Floating Production Storage Offload, that’s the Jubilee Partners for the death of the whales in Ghana. According to The Chief Fisherman and the Head of Fishermen Association the western Region, Nana Adams ,The huge oil extracting tankers offshore Ghana are responsible for killing the whales since the lights on board attract such mammals at nights . He noted that the vessels slash the whales when they move around them during the night in search for other fish species that also gather is the same area as a result of the lights.
However, The Chief Executive of Tullow oil Ghana, Mr Charles Darko, in an interview with this reporter debunked the allegation that the whales were killed by the oil Vessels. He stated that since Ghana began recording whales deaths, the Lead Operators of the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah, Tullow oil Ghana, has been collaborating with the Environmental Protection Agency to identify the reasons behind their death and “we are yet to know”.
“We have tried to know what is behind the death of the whales and we are yet to identify those behind the death of the whales”, he stated.
When informed about the complaints by the fisher folks that their huge vessels at high see are responsible for the death of the whales, he debunked the assertion describing it as mere speculation. So far about 30 whale deaths have been recorded since 2011 on the shorelines of Ghana.
Interestingly, Dean A. Slocum, President of Acorn International, a civil society organization, in a statement said that an independent study conducted by his organization indicated that the dead whales that recently washed ashore in the Region were decomposed, an indication they did not die at Ghana’s territorial waters and might have died in neighboring countries such as Cote d’ Ivoire and Liberia who are also exploring oil, and washed ashore in Ghana’s territory. His study recommended further study of marine noise impact on the lives of whales.
Kojo Agbenor-Efunam, Deputy Director in charge of Oil and Gas at the Environmental Protection Agency also in an interview said, the Agency has acquired a research vessel and in collaboration with the Marine Police, are undertaking a research with regard to the activities of oil and gas exploration and its effects, on marine life . Meanwhile, The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is predicting more deaths of whales in Ghana’s waters after recording the 30th death last month.
Last month, a dead whale was washed ashore at Atuabo in the Ellembelle District of the Western Region.
The whale was found in between the Ghana Gas Company and the Atuabo cemetery.
The EPA however cited a possible collision of a vessel or target killing by fishermen as two main possible reasons for the death of the whales.
Kodjo, Agbonome Esinam indicated in an interview that Ghana as a country does not have whales in its territorial waters.
According to him there has not been any baseline survey done on whales in Ghana to determine if the country has whales it can call its own.
“The surveys we have done did not cover whales. Taking baseline survey of whales is very difficult because whales are migrating species.
We don’t have Ghanaian whales but we have responsibility of their safety or welfare until they leave our waters. There are few countries that have the resources with dedicated vessels and scientists to monitor the whales like South Africa.
What happens in Ghana is that when the whales are cited offshore they are documented and we receive the reports from the vessels for analysis. It is estimated that the coastal waters of Ghana harbors about 150 whales out of which 30 have already been killed through oil production activities. The number is expected to sink further as Ghana operates 3 huge FPSO offshore with other huge supporting vessels.
Ghana is likely to lose all its whale population and species in the next ten years if the trend of killing continues without government intervention or regulation. Besides, no institution has been held responsible for the death of the endangered marine species.
The head of a panel set up to investigate the whale and dolphin deaths on the contrary claim that local people are undertaking a ‘targeted slaughter’ of whales and dolphins. Professor Ofori-Danso, from the Oceanography Department of the University of Ghana claims that local fishermen catch dolphins and whales and preserve them for sale.
Meanwhile, Friends of the Nation (FoN), a socio-environmental Non-Governmental Organization (NGO) has called on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish its interim findings on the death of whales and implement solutions to forestall their deaths during this migration season.
The Communications Officer and Environmental Advisor to the FoN, Ms Elisabeth Wagner said the EPA has reneged on its promise to meet it deadline of the first quarter of the year when it promised to release the report. The FoN urged the EPA to make the report public and implement the recommendations to ensure the safety of whales in the country.