Agencies responsible for food safety, the environment and fisheries have confirmed that fish stock from the country’s ocean is safe for consumption.
The assurance comes after the agencies moved swiftly to prevent dead fishes found on shores in the Greater Accra and the Western regions from entering the market.
Their timely action was important to forestall any disaster on households from the consumption of any of the fishes.
The Fisheries Commission, the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA), the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Police Service and their sector ministries said they had acted in unison to bring the situation under control.
“Working together, we have ensured that the fishes do not end up on the market. We have met with chief fishermen and market women on the situation. We have also checked the fish on the market to look out for traces of those we found on the beaches. So far, none has been on the market and fishermen and traders have been cooperative,” the Chief Executive Officer of the FDA, Mrs Mimi Delese Darko, told the Daily Graphic.
She said the organisations also worked with the local assemblies and the security agencies to bring the situation under control and gave an assurance that food safety and that of the sea had not been compromised.
Fishes wash ashore
More than 120 dolphins and large numbers of different species of fish were washed ashore at Axim-Bewire in the Nzema East municipality in the Western Region and Osu in the Greater Accra Region.
Expert teams noticed that there were 10 species of small dead pelagic and demersal fishes at Osu, while in Axim, dolphins were found dead, with some alive but weak.
The FDA, the Marine Police Unit of the Ghana Police Service and the Fisheries Commission had to stay late into the night to ensure that people did not pick the dead second largest marine mammals for processing.
There were reports of a similar situation along the shores of Dzelukope in the Keta municipality in the Volta Region last Sunday evening, a claim the Volta Regional Canoe Council has denied.
The Ghana Navy, in support of the agencies, has deployed its vessels for surveillance from Accra to the Jomoro municipality.
The dead fish found at Osu have been buried under the supervision of the security agencies, local assemblies and the agencies.
The Daily Graphic gathered that the investigation will also determine if the dead fishes were dumped on the beaches by trawlers or vessels.
The agencies have also alerted their offices across all coastal towns to be on the lookout for similar situations.
The Executive Director of the Fisheries Commission, Mr Michael Arthur-Dadzie, urged members of the public not to go near any dead fish or take it home.
He said teams from the Fish Health Unit and the Fisheries Scientific Survey Division of the commission had been dispatched to the affected areas.
“We assure everyone that we are working hard to ascertain the actual cause of mortality of the fish,” Mr Arthur-Dadzie said.
He explained that samples of the fish and the dead dolphins had been collected for critical examination at the laboratory, adding: "Sea water samples have also been collected at the beach at Osu and Axim for further analysis.”
Sea and temperatures
He assured the public that examinations would be carried out on the fish gills, while other histological examinations would equally be conducted to ascertain any pathological cause.
Mr Arther-Dadzie said sea water samples collected would be analysed for physical, chemical and other biological parameters, and gave an assurance that “the colour of the sea and the temperature are normal”.
Asked if there had been such a situation in the country in the past, Mr Arthur-Dadzie said: “We have had instances of some minimal number of octopus washed ashore, and that could be attributed to climate change, changes in their natural habitat or the turbidity of the water and other factors.”
He said in the current situation, with its high mortality, “we cannot just conclude; we have to ensure that thorough examination and analysis are carried out to establish the cause”.
“We have also urged those in the coastal communities who happen to be our greatest stakeholders and fishermen currently returning from fishing expeditions to report any change to our officers through the established channels,” Mr Arthur-Dadzie said.
Officials of the Fisheries Commission and environmental health directorates, with support from the EPA in those areas, had a hectic time preventing members of the public from consuming the fish or having close contact with them, since it was still not clear what was killing the fishes and causing them to wash ashore.
At Dzelukope, the Chief Fisherman, Mr Seth Kedey, told the Daily Graphic that pictures on social media depicting fishes washed ashore in Keta were not true, as that area did not experience that situation.
“What happened was that some fishermen from Keta returned to shore at Dzelukope with a great catch about 5:30 p.m. and people took pictures of it and circulated it,” he said.
The Western Regional Director of the EPA, Mr George K. Diawuoh, warned against any household taking in some of the dolphins.
He explained that Ghana’s dolphin population shuttled regularly between Keta-Ada and the west, and that they suspected that on such expeditions, the dolphins might have encountered the contaminated fish on their way to the west, resulting in the situation in Axim.