By Leya Musa
Over the last few years the number of whales and dolphins that are dying along the coast of Ghana have increased. Locals claim that deaths started to happen following oil drilling in the region while the country’s Environment Protection Agency (EPA) is claiming that local are killing the creatures and smoking them for sale as fish.
The latest whale to wash ashore in the Western region of Ghana brings to a total of 21 whales since 2010 and 26 since 2008. The locals claim that the whale deaths have increased since the Jubilee Oil Field was opened and it is the drilling which is causing the large number of deaths. Oil was first discovered in 2007 with production of crude oil beginning in 2010.
The head of a 9 man panel set up to investigate the whale and dolphin deaths though claim that local people are undertaking a ‘targeted slaughter’ of whales and dolphins. Professor Ofori-Danso, the head of a 9-member committee sanctioned by the EPA is claiming that local fishermen catch dolphins and whales. They then smoke the meat and pass it off as smoked fish. Dolphin meat is also used as bait for shark fishing.
He has warned people in Ghana to be careful of what smoked fish they buy in case it is dolphin meat.
The other reason that the panel has put forward for the increase in whale and dolphin deaths is the surge in use of plastics in the country. Much of the plastic eventually makes its way to the seas and this causes problems for the dolphins and whales. The panel also suggested that ship strikes and entanglement in fishing nets could be the cause of the deaths.
The report, published this week, states that more research needs to be done before any blame can be put on the oil field developments.
The panel say that the peak year of whale and dolphin deaths so far has been 2013 when 12 whales deaths were recorded. The whale deaths become highlighted globally in that year after local fishermen of Domunli held a funeral for a humpback whale that had been found stranded.