WHALE SEASON TO START – REPORT ABOUT WHALE INVESTIGATION STILL OUTSTANDING

It is August, and the migration season for whales has yet started again. After the alarmingly high number of whale deaths along Ghana’s coastline during the last migration period (August to February), Friends of the Nation (FoN) urges the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish their report about the findings and to implement solutions.

In February of this year 2014, the Ministry of Environment, Science and Innovation (MESTI) commissioned the EPA to set-up a committee investigating the whale deaths after directives from the Office of the President. Extensive campaigns by NGOs in the Western Region such as FoN had preceded the investigations. Although the committee was expected to report back to the EPA by the end of February, no findings or recommendations have been published yet. The committee is made up of representatives from Ghana Maritime Authority, Fisheries Commission, EPA, CSOs and research institutions.

According to contacts at the EPA, the committee has sent a first draft to the EPA for comments. The final report is to be expected in the middle of August – after a long delay. However, FoN hopes that the report be made public and the recommendations be implemented to ensure the safety of whales in Ghanaian marine waters starting this season.
The increased rate of whale deaths is of great concern to the general public in Ghana. While traditionally, the washing ashore of a whale is seen as a sign for bumper harvest, the high number of dead whales rather worried citizens as they see it as a bad omen. Local communities very often depend on fishing as their livelihood and are now afraid that possible causes for the whales to die will affect them as well.

Mostly humpback and sperm whales pass by the Gulf of Guinea on their migration route. Between August 2013 and February 2014, over 20 whales had washed ashore in Ghana, mostly on the beaches of the Western Region. There are multiple possible causes for the death of marine mammals, such as collision with vessels, pollution of the sea, seismic exploration conducted by petroleum companies, net entanglement, and others. Friends of the Nation underlines the importance to find out the causes to find lasting solutions to the problem.