A research conducted by the Oilwatch Ghana, an environmental non-governmental organisation, has established that although both the oil and the fisheries sectors are critical to the country’s socio-economic development, oil exploration is having adverse impact on the fisheries sector and fishing communities.
The study, which was done in collaboration with theFriedrich Ebert foundation, is, therefore, calling for a national conversation on how to ensure the peaceful co-existence and sustainability of both sectors for sustainable socio-economic development.
The research, its findings and recommendations have been put into a book titled, Understanding the oil and fisheries interface: perspective from Ghana.
The book was launched in Accra yesterday.
The 68-page book is authored by, the Coordinator of Oilwatch Ghana, an environmental non-governmental organisation, Mr Noble Wadzah, in partnership with the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung.
The research findings mentioned growing decline in fish catch which it attributed to the noise from the heavy machines and the chemicals discharged into the sea during oil exploration.
According to the research, the noise scared the fish, causing them to move to distant locations.
It says attempts by fisher folks to catch more fish meant covering long distances which cost them more financially, coupled with harassment from navy officials deployed to provide security for oil installations.
Other challenges include high cost of living in oil production fishing communities due to the increasing middle income population and migrants' intrusion into the oil communities triggering high demand for goods and services.
In terms of social impact, the research found out that oil production had become a stimulant for migration into oil exploration communities and districts, putting pressure on accommodation, land, health facilities, schools and other goods and services in fishing communities.
“The positive expectations that came with the oil find are yet to be met, but the negative aspects have mostly taken place. Expected positive effects of the oil on the local economy appear to have been a mirage while the fear of a decline in fishing activities has become a reality,” the book stated.
The research has, therefore, made a number of recommendations, including the government to deliberately initiate a national multi-stakeholder discourse on the impact of oil exploration on fishing to find solutions to current and potential challenges.
It has underscored the need for sensitive and rich fishing grounds to be made free from oil production and the need for seismic activities avoided during sensitive fishing seasons.
“Policies, institutions and regulatory bodies pertaining to oil and fisheries must be critically examined to identify gaps and address them,” it recommended.
It has recommended that the expectations of local communities be managed carefully as it can generate protracted conflict which is a common occurrence in oil producing countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
A researcher at the University of Cape Coast, Dr Samuel Tenkorang, said continuous research was very critical to the development of any sector and the overall socio-economic development of the country due to changing trends in various phenomenon.
He stated that building on existing research provided new perspectives to responding to development issues and provided better understanding to national issues.
Mr Wadzah said he took interest in the research topic because of the critical role both sectors played in the socio-economic development and the need to ensure their sustainability and peaceful co-existence.
He explained that although oil contributed more, it was not a renewable economy such as the fisheries sector and, therefore, both should be managed appropriately without one affecting the other.