By Nana Kow — Ever since oil exploration started in Ghana on the Jubilee Fields at Cape Three Points of the Western Region(Province), fishermen have been banned from fishing close to the oil rigs.
This is because Tullow-Ghana Oil and its partners have earmarked a radius of 500 km from the oil rigs as a restricted enclave for fishing activities.
According to the Ghana Statistical Service, Ghana’s 550 km coastal stretch has a population of 2.4 million people or 10 percent of the country’s population who are dependent mainly on fisheries resources for their livelihood. Therefore, barring them from fishing in certain portions of the ocean would hamper their ability to cater for their families.
Fisheries resources contribute 4.5 percent towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of the West African country’s economy, while many Ghanaians depend on fish for their protein and other nutritional needs.
Therefore, restricting fishing activities because of the oil exploration could result in conflicts between the fisher-folk and operators of the Jubilee Fields in the near future.
A deputy director of Ghana’s Fisheries Commission, Emmanuel Marfo, told Xinhua in an interview on Friday in Takoradi that since the commencement of oil exploration, the number of supply vessels on Ghana’s territorial waters had increased.
This situation, the official said, had resulted in some occasions when foreign vessels destroyed the nets of some Ghanaian boats and canoes without paying any compensation to them.
Marfo observed that such negative aspects of oil exploration on fishing in Ghana could result in an oil curse and, therefore, entreated fishing regulatory bodies such as the Ghana Marine Authority and Environmental Protection Agency to check the activities of these foreign vessels.
What’s more, when oil and gas were discovered in commercial quantities in Ghana’s deep-sea and subsequent exploration at the last quarter of 2010, ocean mammals such as whales died mysteriously close to the Jubilee Oilfields, resulting in some environmentalists in the West African country raising concerns about the safety of marine life.
The situation prompted some environmental nongovernmental organizations and civil society groups in Ghana to call for a fisheries impact assessment on the oil fields by the oil companies.
This, according to them, would help ascertain the impact of oil exploration activities on marine life and take remedial measures to rectify the problem.
Some fishermen in the six coastal districts of the Western Region (Province) namely, Shama, Sekondi, Takoradi, Ahanta West, Ellembelle and Jomoro told Xinhua that ever since oil exploration started about two years ago, they had experienced poor catches even during bumper fishing season in August.
They said the activities of oil companies on the oilfields were scaring fish stocks away from Ghana’s territorial waters to neighboring countries.
The fisher folk lamented that this situation had affected them economically since they could not get money to pay their children’s school fees and meet other social responsibilities.