Investigators have so far identified 13 different species of fish from the shoal that washed ashore dead or weak, including what is believed to be dolphins at different coasts of Ghana.
It was at the Osu Castle beach where the first dead fish stock were spotted on Good Friday, April 2, 2021 followed by the ones at Axim-Bewire in the Western Region on Sunday, April 4, 2021.
The authorities in Ghana are trying to find out what caused the over 120 dolphins to wash up at the Axim-Bewire beach and the different species of fish at the Osu Castle beach.
More than 120 dolphins and large numbers of different species of fish were washed ashore in the phenomenon said to be extremely rare.
A fish health expert and former Head of the Aquatic Animal Health Unit at the Fisheries Commission, Dr Peter Zeda who is part of the team investigating the cause of mass deaths disclosed in a radio interview monitored by Graphic Online on Accra based Asempa FM on Wednesday afternoon [April 7, 2021] that they have so far counted 13 species of fish.
He said they resorted to a headcount of the species of fish and got 13.
He clarified that they couldn’t have done a headcount of the individual fish stock but concentrated on the different species, “and that is why I said there is a cause for alarm, we should be careful. And that is why we came out with the initial statement that stress, and stress could happen any day, stress could be caused by anything, heat could cause stress, temperature could cause stress, heat change could cause them stress, that is the environmental factors.”
“Then when it comes to disease, any disease could cause them stress. So now we are waiting for the detailed histopathology report,” Dr Zeda said.
Officials have warned against eating the dolphins and various other fish species that have also washed up, as it is not yet clear what caused their deaths.
Samples have been taken for laboratory analysis.
Dozens of dolphins went missing from the Axim beach in the Western Region after washing ashore and it is suspected they were taken away by people who intend to sell their meat, Graphic Online gathered.
“We should be worried about what has been witnessed at our coasts. We should be worried because these things don’t just happen like that, there should be a cause for it,” Dr Zeda said in the radio interview.
"In aquatic animal disease management, there are two aspects of killing, when it comes to fishes, it could be environmental, it could be any other thing, it could be the normal sicknesses that they have, like you and I have. When it comes to dolphins too, the same thing,” Dr Zeda added.
Did they die from stress?
Dr Zeda said media reports suggesting that the Fisheries Commission had said the animals died from stress was a form of “mis-reportage.”
“When we were showing the thing [fish], we said that, I [Peter Zeda] pointed out particularly that, we took the fish, we need to do histopathology to confirm, but from looking at the gills [of the fishes under microscope], it showed that the fishes were really stressed, that was the statement I made, so if you mis-reported it, that is your problem,” he told the interviewer, Osei Bonsu, host of the 'Ekosii Sen' radio programme on Asempa FM.
He explained that he never said that the fishes died of stress when they are still investigating to find the cause of the stress.
“Any animal can die of stress but what is the cause of the stress. That is what we are still investigating now…, we are not done with the investigations, because we need to look at all possibilities.”
He said they can’t give timelines on when the investigations would be completed for now and that the public should wait for the report.
Don’t patronize the fishes
Dr Zeda said dolphins for instance are not meant to be traded all of the world, “but then people eat them underground. Whales are not eaten generally but the Japanese eat them, so they are trying to bring it on trade, which the world has refused. So they are not part of the traded aquatic animals.”
He intimated that those seen on video preparing the dolphins from Axim-Bewire could be arrested, “if there was proper law [in Ghana]."
Asked if there was no proper law now, Dr Zeda said: “I don’t know yet but they are endangered species which we are keeping.”
He, however, added that in the Fisheries law, there is something like that but it doesn’t specify the punishment.
Dr Zeda advised the public not to patronize the fish especially the ones picked at the Osu beach.
“Even the fish at Osu, nobody should patronize them, and luckily most of them are left at the beaches and we [Fisheries Commission] are collecting them and burying them.”
Something new in Ghana
He said in Ghana, something like this was witnessed sometime ago but not on the same scale as what was witnessed at the weekend.
He said some years ago, around the Lavendar Hill [in Accra], different fishes came there to forage “but that one, they didn’t die so the fishermen caught most of them.”
“I will also like to advise you the newsmen to try and understand us, then we also give you good information, because it looks as if you pick one word, then you speculate on it, which is very, very, bad for us, both as an industry and as consumers.”
“So, let us have patience and then we listen to what come out. Some, whilst we were doing residual search for some, we are doing biological search for some and then we are looking at the environmental possibilities so that we piece all together and then come out with a proper understanding of the whole situation.”
He appealed to people who have gone for such fishes to bring them back and desist from eating them.