Death of whales not linked to oil drilling – EPA

Oil RigThe Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Thursday said the incidence of whales being washed ashore was a global occurrence and not limited to Ghana.

“Within the last four months, 10 whales were reported to have been washed ashore in various locations in Asia, the Americas and New Zealand.

“Indeed, from February 2011 to September 2, 2013, over 120 different types of whales have been reported washed ashore at various locations around the globe”, a statement from the Public Affairs Department of the EPA said.

The statement issued in Accra and copied to the Ghana News Agency (GNA) said various reasons might be responsible for the phenomenon of dead whales being washed ashore or beached (becoming ‘grounded’).

It gave possible reasons as injury from other predators, collision with maritime vessels, disease and old age. “Indeed, some documentaries have shown killer whales attacking young baleen whales. The definite reasons for the increasing incidences of whales being washed ashore in recent times have not been fully explained, and marine scientists in various jurisdictions are continuing investigations to establish the possible causes of the phenomenon,” it added.

The statement further explained that the Ghana Environmental Assessment (EA) requirements demanded that all offshore oil drilling and installation of offshore oil pipelines undertook full Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) and said no permit had been granted to any offshore oil company in Ghana which had not satisfied that requirement.

“Consideration of the potential impacts on marine fauna, including fish, is a cardinal requirement in all environmental impact assessment for permit to be granted by the Agency for oil drilling and well development. We wish to reiterate the fact that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for oil and gas operations has been accepted by the Agency as satisfactory without consideration of impacts on marine fauna which include Cetaceans (whales), fish, and marine turtles as well as other benthic fauna,” the statement stressed.

All offshore oil companies operating in Ghana submitted satisfactory Environmental Impact Statements, which adequately covered not only impact on fish but marine mammals including whales before being issued with environmental permit.

The statement further explained that during the actual operations of the oil companies, they employed a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) on board of the vessels to watch out for the mammals. The MMO’s duty on-board “is to advise on how to operate without any harm to these mammals”.

“In the night when it is impossible for the MMOs to observe the mammals, the companies deploy devices that are able to detect these mammals and are able to conduct their operations without harm to the mammals. The EPA follows these requirements critically to see to it that the operators do not harm these mammals unnecessarily.”

The statement said the Fisheries Commission had always taken part in technical reviews of all the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the offshore Oil companies.

“All Environmental Impact statements, including those of oil and gas activities, are made public and are accessible in the relevant Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assemblies and EPA headquarters, Regional and District offices where applicable.”

Prior to approval of these Environmental Statements, EPA advertises these reports in both the Prints and sometimes the electronic media and request comments from the general public as required by law.

It said the incidence of whales being washed ashore, underscored the need for global attention to be given to the state of the world oceans and marine biodiversity in the era of climate change and global warming.

The EPA assured the public of its commitment to ensuring that all environmental assessment requirements were applied fully in all circumstances to ensure that the environment was maintained in a healthy state for continuous delivery of quality ecosystem goods and services.

Source: GNA

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