Oilwatch Ghana, an environmental non-governmental organisation (NGO), has called on government to urgently establish the correlation between the country’s oil industry and the increasing mortality of marine mammals.
The NGO said the surge in the death of marine mammals, particularly whales, should serve as a source of worry because it signals the gradual breakdown in the health of the ecosystem, and if left unchecked it would hold negative outcome for biodiversity, livelihoods and food security.
A statement issued in Accra on Thursday by Noble Wadzah, Coordinator of Oilwatch Ghana, observed that since the country embarked on oil exploration and production it had witnessed an unprecedented rise in the death of whales.
It said from 2007 to 2010, 11 whales were reported to have died and washed ashore in the Western Region and recently four more have been discovered ashore.
Mr Wadzah said although there is no empirically basis to establish a link between the death of the whales and oil production, complaints of the death of the mammals coincides with the commencement of oil extraction.
“This…establishes a relationship between the two events making it a sound reference point for any form of investigation. Already coastal populations including fisher folks blame these incidents on oil extraction activities.”
Mr Wadzah said although the environmental impact assessment of the Jubilee field predicted minor residual impacts on marine mammals and proposed several measures to counter the effect, the frequency with which whales are washed ashore raises issues over who is ensuring that such mitigation measures are implemented.
“Whist life forms including whales could be subject to the laws of nature including death, the surge in the death of these marine mammals should serve as a source of worry to all.
“The rising death rate of the whales primarily signals a gradual breakdown in ecosystems health and when go unchecked portends negative outcome for biodiversity livelihoods and food security and can undermine climate resilience function of marine ecosystems.
“This development should urge our interest in establishing the root cause of the incidents, given the far reaching socio –economic cultural and biological implications these dying mammals has for man and nature.”
Oilwatch has also proposed the establishment of an inter-ministerial committee to work in collaboration with existing institutions established to govern the oil and gas sector production, including the Fisheries Ministry.
It urged Parliament, specifically the select committee on environment, to tackle the issue with the urgency it deserves.
The organisation seeks to minimise the negative socio-economic, political and environmental impacts and in the process curtail the conflict potential of oil’s discovery and extraction in Africa.