Danger! Tonnes of tilapia die

BY: Severious Kale-Dery & Benjamin Glover
Some of the dead fish being transported to a site for destruction
Some of the dead fish being transported to a site for destruction

There is a looming health hazard at Asutsuare in the Shai Osudoku District in the Greater Accra Region following the death of more than six tonnes of fish (Tilapia) on the Fujian Fish Farm, a Chinese firm.

The fish which died under strange conditions have been buried near the company’s premises under the supervision of the Director of Natural Resources of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Mr Carl Fiati.

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The stench around the burial place near the Volta Lake is unbearable.

Residents of Asutsuare and surrounding communities fear that some of the dead fish have found their way already onto the market, considering the time the fish died and when the incident was reported to the EPA.

Their fears are grounded on the fact that although officials of the National Disaster Management Organisation (NADMO) managed to prevent the dead fish from being sold on the market, some residents and traders managed to sneak the fish out to neighbouring communities to either sell or consume them.


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Assurances

But some officials of the EPA, in collaboration with NADMO, who were on the company’s premises calmed the nerves of the general public that they were closely monitoring the situation to ensure that none of the dead fish found its way onto the market.

A team of reporters from the Daily Graphic visited the premises of the company and some areas of Asutuare to ascertain the facts of the dead fish story.

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During the visit, the team observed that officials of the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the Standards Authority and the EPA were at the scene and had taken samples of the dead fish and water from the fish farm for thorough investigation and analysis to ascertain the cause of death.

There were visible dead fish littered along the Volta Lake, where the fish farm is located.

A number of security personnel had been deployed at the company to prevent any eventuality while the officials of the Chinese company were tight-lipped.

Although the EPA, FDA and Standards Authority are yet to establish the cause of the death of the fish, there are suggestions that the incident could be due to pollution, shortage of oxygen, intensive stocking, high temperature or poor house-keeping measures.

Briefing the EPA officials, the Shai Osudoku District Coordinator of the NADMO, Nana Asante Boateng, confirmed that some market women rushed to the scene to pick the dead fish ostensibly to go and sell.

However, he said, NADMO quickly moved to the scene to seize them for destruction and directed the management of the company to ensure that the dead fish were properly buried.

Fish on market

In an interview, the Director of NADMO at Lower Manya Krobo, Mr Zakariah Abdul-Kadri Adam, expressed worry over the incident, where some local people secretly went to the precincts of the fish farm to smuggle the unwholesome fish to process as salted fish for sale.

He expressed the fear that some of those fish products could find their way to other parts of the country.

Mr Adam said NADMO had mounted surveillance at the barriers at Asutsuare, while it was collaborating with other agencies to conduct a search in markets and homes to ascertain whether some individuals had smuggled the unwholesome fish into their homes for sale or consumption. He, however, said so far no arrest had been made.

Investigations

Addressing journalists after a tour of the farm and collection of samples, Mr Fiati said the EPA was expected to receive a full and final report on the incident within two weeks after water samples from the lake and the fish had been analysed at its laboratories.

Mr Fiati said they received a letter from the managers of the Chinese fish farm that there was a suspected poisoning of their fish stock on Thursday, October 18, 2018.

He said EPA immediately despatched investigators to the site yesterday to gather the necessary evidence to help it establish the cause of the death of the fish.
Mr Fiati said it was the first time the EPA had received reports of the death of fish of that quantity.

Responding to concerns that some locals believed to be fishmongers from neighbouring communities such as Volivo, Alabonya and Aveloenye, near Asutsuare were reportedly carting the dead tilapia for processing as dry salted fish locally known as ‘koobi’, Mr Fiati tasked the managers of the farm and the Shai Osudoku District Assembly to act promptly to prevent fish mongers from selling the unwholesome fish to the unsuspecting public.