Volta Lake for tilapia culture under threat
With 8,520 km2 of inland lakes and rivers, Ghana has a variety of investment opportunities in the inland fisheries subsector.
The fish farming subsector of the national economy comprises freshwater fisheries and fish farming or aquaculture.
According to the Ghana News Agency, as cited by vibe.com, the fisheries sector as a whole contributes some 4.5% to 5% of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Ghana over the past couple of years. However, production is still mainly for the national market. Total annual fish production from aquaculture currently stands at over 400,000 tonnes in most years.
The fresh water fishing industry in Ghana is located mainly along the banks of the Volta Lake, which is the source of about 90% of inland fish production in Ghana. The main fish species that is farmed is tilapia, which the fish farmers do mostly cultivate through cage culture.
Tilapia cage culture refers to the process of growing tilapia in cages made of nylon nettings, galvanized pipes and plastic drums which is either floated, submerged or fixed at the bottom of the water body.
The process utilizes bodies of water such as dams, rivers, lakes, bays and reservoirs. According to the Fisheries Commission, there are about 1,000 fish farmers working on over 2,000 ponds with a total surface area of 350 hectares.
The fish farming industry, in general, and tilapia culture in particular presents a strong opportunity for Government to realise its vision within the agricultural sector. However, for the fisheries sector to optimize their contribution to the national economy, it is imperative for government to operationalize their visions to reflect practicable measures that can be enforced to protect, invest and stimulate sustained growth in the fisheries sector.
The Tilapia fish species is also referred to as “the aquatic chicken”, due to a variety of reasons namely, their high growth rates, and adaptability to a wide range of environmental conditions including their ability to grow and reproduce easily in captivity.
Additionally the species is disease-resistance, can feed on a wide variety of foods and is able to tolerate poor water quality with low dissolved oxygen levels.
Because of these characteristics, tilapia has become an excellent choice for aquaculture, especially in tropical and subtropical regions such as Ghana. Anecdotal evidence is replete to show the popularity of tilapia culture as a strong alternative in the fish farming industry in Ghana.
Due to the natural suitability of the Volta Lake for tilapia culture, several individuals and organizations have taken advantage of this to invest in tilapia cultivation on the lake with the expectation of developing sustainable businesses through this venture.
Unfortunately, unregulated human activities along the banks and within the Volta Lake are threatening the viability of the business investments in aquaculture on the Volta Lake. In one particular incident, fish farmers on the Volta Lake lost tilapia that was valued at over six hundred and thirty two thousand and ninety-eight cedis, forty pesewas (¢ 632,098.40).
In a report on that “fish kill” incident, it was concluded that the “fish kill” was primarily due to the presence of certain toxic chemicals in the Voltat Lake water system coupled with the sudden change in water temperature.
Furthermore, a report from the Ghana Standards Authority on the same incident revealed loads of agrochemicals (Synthetic Pyrethroids- Fenvalerate), organophosphates (Chlorpyriphos) and the presence of volatile poisons in both water (Volta Lake) and meat (flesh) respectively.
The same report also indicated that the Volta system, which is made up of the Volta Lake and its tributaries, seemed to be loaded with chemicals as a result of run-offs and leaching of toxic chemicals from farms, and uncontrolled discharges into the river system form domestic and other industrial sources.
This situation is, of course, seriously affecting the investments of members of the Akosombo Fish Farmers Association (AZFFA) who have invested several hundred thousands of Ghana cedis in aquaculture on the Lake.
AZFFA members have to contend with several other forms of pollution and human activities both along and within the Volta Lake system, which are surprisingly being left unchecked by regulatory institutions in the fisheries sector such as the Fisheries Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency, Water Research Institute and the Ghana Standards Authority.
There are laws, legislative instruments and regulations which control the fish farming activities in Ghana. These laws include the following:
• Fisheries Act of 2002, (Act 625)
• Water Resources Commission Act, 1996, Act 522;
• Environmental Protection Agency Act, 1994, Act 490;
• Environmental Assessment Regulations, 1999, LI 1652 and its Amendment;
• the Ghana Investment Promotion Centre (GIPC) Law of 1994 (Chapter III (2) (iii)(d))
• Plants and Fertilizer Act, 2010, Act 803;
• Food and Drugs Act 1992, PNDCL 3058;
• Irrigation Development Authority Act, 1977, SMCD 85
All of these legislations contain sections that either partly or wholly apply to fish farming in Ghana.
Unfortunately, just as the status quo is in many sectors of the Ghanaian economy, relevant regulatory policies and laws are not efficiently enforced due to a combination of constraints on the part of institutions that are legitimately mandated to supervise activities in these sectors.
Besides the issues of poor enforcement of regulations on pollution of water resources in Ghana, there are other pertinent issues crippling the fish industry, such as difficulty in accessing credit at rates that is suitable for the fish farming industry, inadequate supply of fries, and the high costs of inputs for fish farming.
Others are the use of crude and unscientific methods of counting fries at the points of sale, the use of sex reversal hormones, high cost of fish feed and the lack of large-scale commercial storage facilities (Cold Stores) along the Volta Lake.
All these myriad of challenges are threating the investments of AZFFA members in fish farming on the Volta Lake.
It is against this backdrop that the Akosombo Fish Farmers Association carrying out this advocacy campaign to compel all action targets such as the Fisheries Commission, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Water Resources Commission as well as the Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development to join forces with the members of AZOFFA to develop a strategy for the protection of the Volta Lake from pollution from activities both along and on the lake.
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