Fishing canoe incursions into the country’s offshore oil fields have increased, with some fishermen mistaking the partial lockdown in Accra and Kumasi as a result of the coronavirus disease, to mean oil and gas activities on the country’s three independent oil fields are also on hold.
The fishermen are also accused of transporting family and friends from neighbuoring Cote d’Ivoire and other countries owing to the closure of the country’s borders.
Following the developments, the Western Regional branch of the Ghana National Canoe Fishermen Council (W/R-GNCFC) has warned that any fisherman caught fishing close to the offshore oil installations or transporting people via sea would be arrested and prosecuted.
The Regional Chairman of the GNCFC, Nana Odwiri, gave the caveat and said “I want to tell the fishing community that we have heard reports of the incursions, and I want to let you know that, oil and gas activities are still ongoing, the fields are producing.”
He said there are several interactions that have specified the rules of engagement within the maritime domain and the safety zones needed to be observed and respected by the fishing community. “The Council wants to let you know that any deliberate attempt to go closer to the production platform offshore would lead to prosecution”, he warned.
Nana Odwiri acknowledged that “Activities of the fishing industry as well as oil and gas are important to the country, therefore, in the partial lockdown our industry was exempted, therefore let us work within the laws and rules to ensure we coexist with others within the maritime domain.”
“We cannot continue to fight over these, it’s important we respect the rules and know that the FPSOs are still producing hence the need to respect the rules. I have given directives that anybody engage in such acts be reported to the Council”, he said.
On the issue of fishermen transporting people from neighboring countries in the face of COVID 19, he pointed out that practice is dangerous saying, “W/R-GNCFC working with all chief fishermen, have directed that any canoe arriving from the neighboring countries to any of the coastal communities be reported and occupants marched to the hospital.”
“We have resolved that anybody from other countries – Cote d’Ivoire, Liberia, Senegal, Togo among others carrying Ghanaians or other nationals be directed to our health facilities for temperature check and other processes,” he said.
At Axim, Nana Kofi Bentli, a chief fisherman called on the operators of the three oil fields – Jubilee, Tweneboah, Enyenra and Ntomme as well as the Sankofa Field to ensure sustained communication.
He said the lead operator of the Jubilee and TEN are doing well with the regular interaction and “we wish others will support the engagement and dissemination of information about their operation.”
Oil production is ongoing
“I must say that we have some fishermen going to the field, thinking the oil and gas activities are also on hold, which we find unfortunate,” he said.
He commended Tullow Oil Ghana, the Marine Police, and the Fisheries Commission for swiftly moving to use the community public address system to engage the fishermen and especially those in Axim, Dixcove and set to engage all communities.