The Executive Director of Friends of the Nation (FoN), a non-governmental organization, Mr. Donkris Mevuta has appealed to the Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture to give greater attention to the high incidence of cetacean bycatch and other forms of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) fishing.
He said the alarming marine mammal bycatch in recent times called for a concerted effort from all stakeholders to abate the nuisance in Ghana’s marine waters.
Mr. Mevuta expressed these sentiments in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Takoradi.
He said as part of a decisive action, FoN with stakeholders in the marine space such as the Center for Coastal Management (CCM) of the University of Cape Coast (UCC) with support from the Oceans Associated Incorporated (OAI) and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in collaboration with the Fisheries Commission (FC) was making a strong case to design a database of marine mammal bycatch to improve data, monitoring and reporting from the year 2022 going forward.
“The database is intended to cover selected hot spots on the coast to afford Ghana the opportunity to access the number of mammals captured as bycatch to inform policy going forward.”
The Executive Director said the marine mammal database when completed was expected to assist Oil Marketing Companies (OMCs) in Ghana offshore oil and gas production space in terms of data on marine mammals and incorporate that into the environmental data plans to reduce the possible incidence of collision of vessels with marine mammals.
He explained that increased offshore activity could come with increased frequency of collision with marine mammals and urged the government to expedite action on the 2020-2026 Marine Fisheries Management Plan to improve the governance of the fisheries sector.
Mr Mevuta asked that marine mammals captured as bycatch alive must be released into the sea in compliance with the law.
A Project Officer with FoN, Mr. Eric Mawuko Atsiatorme, also told the GNA that section 90 of the Fisheries Act 2002 (Act 625) explicitly mandates fishers to release the mammals captured alive with minimum injury immediately to sea.
He called for a robust enforcement regime to strictly enforce the law and reminded fishers that the mammals were key to the food chain as they protected the pelagics from sharks .
Mr Atsiatorme said efforts were being made to reduce marine mammal bycatch by 50 percent by 2022 as envisaged in the 2020-2026 Marine Fisheries Management Plan.
The Project Officer disclosed that FoN and its partners were in the process of reaching a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with Fisheries Ministry to inform regulators on a policy action plan.
Mr Atiatorme stressed the need to engender discussion on marine mammals as an Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) issue.