Ophelia Mensah Hayford (inset), Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, addressing the World Ocean Day celebration in Accra. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA
Ophelia Mensah Hayford (inset), Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, addressing the World Ocean Day celebration in Accra. Picture: ELVIS NII NOI DOWUONA

Collective action needed to protect Ghana's ocean — Minister

The Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation, Ophelia Mensah Hayford, has called for a collective effort to protect Ghana's oceans and marine resources. 

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This is because, despite the numerous benefits, Ghana’s ocean faces numerous threats, including pollution, overfishing, illegal fishing, coastal erosion and lack of education and awareness.

"The ocean covers 70 per cent of our planet and provides food, medicine, shelter, livelihoods, energy, recreation, education and many more benefits," she said. 

Ocean day

Speaking at a dialogue as part of activities to mark the 2024 World Oceans Day, the minister emphasised the critical role the ocean plays in the country's health and well-being.

The global celebration was on the theme; "Awaken new depths” while the theme for the dialogue organised by the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Agency was “Balancing Act: Integrating science, tradition and policy for ocean conservation in a changing climate”.

Ocean conservation

Ms Hayford highlighted the need for a shift in humanity's relationship with the ocean, emphasising the importance of research, conservation and sustainable practices. She noted that Ghana had made significant progress in ocean conservation, including the development of a National Integrated Ocean Policy and the implementation of the Fisheries Act 2014.

World Ocean Day celebration in Accra

World Ocean Day celebration in Accra

However, she stressed that more needs to be done to address the challenges facing the ocean. "We need to awaken a new depth of excitement towards cherishing and protecting our oceans and the entirety of our blue planet," she said.

The minister called on individuals, institutions, communities, and government agencies to unite in exploring new ways to manage, protect and sustain ocean health. She emphasised the need for ocean awareness campaigns, eco-friendly innovations, marine conservation efforts, community involvement, sustainable tourism, collaborative research and policy changes.

"We can do better than we have been doing," she said. "Let us use this day as a call to action for social change to underscore humanity's connectivity to the ocean, illustrate its cross-sectional potential, explore and awaken new debt to chart the path of a cleaner, healthier, and sustainable ocean for both us and for posterity's sake."

Stewards of the sea

The Deputy Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Ransford Sakyi, also stressed the need for collective action to address the challenges facing Ghana's marine environment.

"We need to come together to find solutions to combat plastic pollution, climate change and other threats to our oceans," he said.

He noted that the ocean provided numerous benefits to billions of people and supported a wealth of biodiversity, but remained in grave danger due to human activities.

Despite the ocean's importance, he noted that only about 10 per cent of it had been explored, and much remained unknown about its health and the impacts on human activities.

He also emphasised the need to further research marine biodiversity and explore ways to use indigenous traditional and local community knowledge in managing marine resources.

Panellists

Later, a panel comprising a senior lecturer at the University of Ghana School of Law, Godwin Djokoto; a lecturer with the Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences, College of Basic and Applied Sciences, University of Ghana, Dr Winne Sowah; a natural scientist and an environmental safeguard officer, Jewel Kudjawu; a marine environmental science researcher and consultant, Prof. Elvis Nyarko and a senior Naval Officer, Ghana Armed Forces, Commander Philip Odoi-Narh addressed the importance of ocean conservation, science-driven policy, plastic waste management, maritime security and integrating traditional knowledge and science in conservation.

They all agreed on the need for all stakeholders to act now to mitigate the harmful effects of human activities on the environment and ensure a sustainable future for all.

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