Women fish processors and development actors-including representatives from the fisheries commission, traditional leaders, local assembly, ministry of food and agriculture have joined forces to undertake mangrove restoration activities at Tsokomey in the Ga East municipal assembly to boost oyster production.
The mangrove restoration would take place at the Densu Estuary Ramsar site-protected wetland of international importance under the International Convention on Wetlands at Tsokomey, heading towards Bortianor, around the Bojo beach resort, says the assemblyman for Bortianor Electoral Area, Charles A. Armah.
In this regard, a committee was formed during the 2nd Stakeholder Dialogue on Oyster Management Plan-Densu Estuary, organised by the Development Action Association (DAA), a farmer based organisation and implementing partner of the USAID Sustainable Fisheries Management Project (SFMP) to spearhead the mangrove restoration activities.
A management plan for the area was developed in 1999 but did not make reference to oyster harvesting activities. Oyster stock is in decline due to over exploitation and loss of habitat. There is theretherefore critical need to protect, improve habitat and subsequently manage harvest rates, according to the DAA.
“We are Proposing to plant mangroves so that oysters can have that abode to grow faster and bigger. We have information centres around to inform everyone about the activity. We will form a task force if possible acquire canoe for monitoring,” the assemblyman says.
The mangrove restoration forms part of the SFMP, a programme funded by USAID to restore fisheries stock in Ghana.
Mangrove, a tree, shrub, palm or ground fern, generally exceeding one half metre in height, normally grows above mean sea level in the intertidal zone of marine coastal environments and estuarine margins, but predominantly along the coastline of Ghana tend to be associated with coastal lagoons and estuaries. The distribution is sparse and mangrove populations have also been degraded through over-cutting and conversion of mangrove areas to salt pans.
Even though mangroves play a central role in transferring organic matter and energy from the land to marine ecosystems, researchers say many countries in Africa, Latin America, and Asia are now estimated to have lost at least 50% of their original mangrove area.
Mangroves have been widely assumed to provide nursery habitat functions for juvenile fishes and decapods to support local fisheries. The importance of mangroves as nurseries has been one of the reasons advanced to support the conservation and management of mangroves and to stem their rapid loss. Mangrove habitats along the Ghana coast also tend to host a wide variety of fauna species such as oysters, gastropods, crabs, invertebrates, birds and fish. They also play an important role as nursery areas for many species of fish and crustaceans.
Andy Agyekum, Wildlife Division Manager Site Manager at Forestry Commission in Winneba says mangrove is essential for oysters because it provides a point of attachment, specifically in the roots of the mangrove.
“If the mangrove is there it helps to reduce the evaporation of water which may affects oyster. It also helps in the reproduction and food for oysters and that is we are bringing mangrove restoration as a major component of the project,” he states.
According to Mr Agyekum the area used to have mangrove but has been degraded that it is not able to support oysters anywhere which has accounted for dwindling of oysters.
“The restoration is aimed improving the ecology of the area and bringing back the proportion of the oysters,” he explains.
Olivia Horvey from the Fisheries Commission, Ga South Municipal Assembly says the formation of the committee will motivate people about what is going on and will inculcate the activities in her outfit action plan and see how best fisheries can help in achieving the objectives of the committee. “Education will be done to ensure that people do not cut down the mangroves. Without the mangroves you cannot have enough oysters,” she adds.
Emelia Nortey, the DAA Fisheries Training Centre Manager says there is the need for the dialogue because the Densu estuary that passes through Bortianor and Tsokomey area has a lot of oysters but people have travel long distance to sea by canoe, which was not the case 30 years when the oysters were at shore based on participatory appraisal done.
“This means that the habitat of the oysters have been destroyed and so they are harvesting less every day and go further the stream to get oysters. So when we realised and they realised that also it was the destruction of the habitat that has led to the oysters moving away, then if we come with a dialogue and co management plan of the estuary to reinstate as it were before.
“That also means that the mangroves that have been destroyed would have to be restored for the oysters to have a place to breed before they pick them to boost nutrition and livelihood.
“The mangroves need to be planted because the oysters thrive better in the mangroves, and also protect the river and oysters too. Even some of the fish from the sea cross over into the river to breed, lay their eggs and go back. When the eggs hatch, they swim back into the sea, so those habitat need to reinstated for more fish to spawn,” she said.
Although oyster harvesting is a common among fish processors in the country, it is not regarded as a significant source of income. Women oyster harvesters’ are confronted with many challenges such as inadequate working gear, unsustainable fire wood for boiling oysters, low price of fresh oyster, no access to external markets and no value addition of the fresh oysters.
Patricia Aidoo, livestock officer with the ministry of food and agriculture at the Ga South municipal assembly says the women would be trained on good agricultural practices in planting the mangroves.
“So we would offer training on how to take care of the mangroves so that they can grow to have oysters and teach them the technical know-how in terms of application of fertilisers, and planting of cover crops,” she adds
Peter Oblitey Amui, secretary to the Sukumortsoshishi family in charge of the river says: ” We will work on a plan and share with people along the river to prevent them from cutting down the mangroves and involve the chief priest to perform traditional rites as a deterrent to people who may illegally cut down the mangroves.”
Veronica Fomevor, a fish processor mentions that cutting down of the mangroves reduce oysters but planting of the mangroves is a way to ensure oysters grow bigger and faster to improve their livelihoods.
Source: Samuel Hinneh