Despite several calls from civil society groups in the country, the Jubilee Partners drilling oil at Cape Three Points in the Western Region have ignored the obligation to conduct Fisheries Impact Assessment (FIA) as required by Ghana’s fisheries law.
The Fisheries Act (Act 625) of 2002 requires that an FIA be conducted even before the commencement of oil production.
Section 93 (1) of the Act stipulates: "A person or government department or other agency planning to conduct any activity other than fishing, which is likely to have a substantial impact on the fishery resources or other aquatic resources of Ghana, shall inform the Fisheries Commission of the plans prior to the commencement of the planned activity with a view to the conservation and protection of the resources."
Sub-section (2) further states that: "The Commission may make or require reports and recommendation by those conducting the planned activity regarding the likely impact of the activity on the fishery resources or other aquatic resources of Ghana and possible means of preventing or minimizing adverse impacts, which shall be taken into account by the person, government department or other agency in the planning of the activity and in the development of means of preventing or minimizing any adverse impacts."
"The requirement under this section shall be in addition to any other requirement of the Environmental Protection Agency," sub-section (3) of the Act underscored.
However, checks by this reporter at the Western Regional directorate of the Fisheries Commission indicate that the Jubilee Partners had failed to meet this requirement, as well as showing no interest to adhere to the obligation.
Civil society groups such as Civil Society Platform on Oil and Gas, Kasa, Coastal Resource Center (CRC) and Friends of the Nation (FoN) have all been stressing the need for the Jubilee Partners to conduct the Fisheries Impact Assessment (FIA) since that would form the basis to respond to the adverse effect of the oil production on the country's fisheries resources.
The Deputy Western Regional Director of the Fisheries Commission, Mr Emmanuel Marfo, in an interview with The New Crusading GUIDE said it was too late for the Commission to compel the Jubilee Partners to conduct an FIA since they have already started their operations, adding that the main document needed to be obtained by the Jubilee Partners before the commencement of the oil production was the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) which they already have.
But, he maintained that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) should have verify from the Fisheries Commission whether the FIA had been conducted before granting the EIA, saying that did not happened.
He also conceded that it was the mandate of the Fisheries Commission to ensure that the FIA was conducted, stating that the nation was in a rush to exploit the new oil found therefore paving way for such a critical requirement to be ignored.
"I think the whole thing was done in a rush because if we had taken our time, some of these problems wouldn't have emerged; but I must add that it was also good we scaled-up efforts to commence operating the field quickly because no one knows what would have happened because the Ivorians were also making claims," he said.
He also attributed the problem to lack of inter-institutional collaboration especially between the Fisheries Commission and the EPA.
Mr. Marfo noted that the Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Development, Mr. Nayon Bilijo, has engaged the Jubilee Partners in what he describes as a "gentleman's talk" to conduct the FIA.
He indicated that government was committed towards ensuring that the right thing must be done in order to protect the country's marine resource.
In an interview with this reporter, Mr. Solomon Kusi-Ampofo, Project Officer of FoN, said there was the need for an amendment of the Fisheries Act, stating that although the Act mentions the need to conduct an FIA, it did not spell-out how such an assessment should be conducted.
He called on civil society organisations to continue with the advocacy for an amendment of the Act and also to intensify pressure on the Jubilee Partners to implement the FIA.
Meanwhile, Ghana's fish stock is said to have declined of 10-12 percent per annum over the last ten years and government have still not find ways to address the deficit.
Source: Marlvin-James Dadzie (Takoradi)/New Crusading Guide/Ghana
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