Environmental pollution affects fish consumption – experts 

By Laudia Sawer 

Tema, April 27, GNA — Some experts in the marine sector have expressed worry that environmental pollution will affect the quality and quantity of fish people consume in Ghana if nothing is done about it. 

Mr. Richster Nii Armah Amarfio, the Executive Director of the Blue Economy and Governance Consult, and Dr. Jemimah Etornam Kassah, a Fisheries Scientist, speaking at a Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority (GPHA) media forum on fisheries sustainability, agreed that pollution was contributing to the dwindling fish stock of the country. 

Mr. Amarfio, who is also the vice president of the National Fisheries Association of Ghana (NAFAG), explained that fish live within an environment, adding that phytoplankton (microscopic marine algae) were all part of the food chain that the fish depended on hence any act of pollution, especially plastic, and pollution of the estuaries and lagoons contributed to the destruction of the country’s fish habitat and the entire food value chain of the fish. 

He explained that the sardinella stocks might eat the anchovies, and the tuna and the rest might also eat the sardinella, while red snappers and groupers may eat the sardinella, adding that the ultimate thing is that humans will also eat the fish. 

“So when the fish eat heavy metals and it gets into their tissues and you end up eating it, you end up taking in heavy metals into your system, so it’s not just the fish that is affected, but us, as end consumers of the fish products, suffer the consequences of our negligence on the land,” he stressed. 

He said Ghanaians had a responsibility to go beyond what the fishermen do to what everyone does at home, which has an impact directly on people’s health. 

“We seem to forget that, and we feel that it is a fisherman’s problem, but it is not so; it is a national problem; it is our problem that we have to treat our environment; we allow a lot of oiling on our water bodies and basically have turned our water bodies into some waste dump; most of them end up in the ocean; even if they don’t end up there, people have now developed the taste for cuttlefish and tilapia; they are also in the water,” he added. 

He said freshwater fish existed in the same water that the miners were polluting “so even if you avoid the ocean fish and go for tilapia, or cuttlefish, the consumer ends up polluting their body system.” 

He called on the public to ensure that the country’s water bodies were kept safe and free from pollutants so that everybody could get the right kind of fish to eat, as it is the cheapest and most healthy animal protein. 

Dr. Kassah, who is also a lecturer at the Department of Biology Education, University of Education, Winneba, said pollution and overfishing led to the number of key species dwindling, adding that they affected the food chain. 

She explained, “So we have our plankton being the small organisms that are floating in the water, which are fed on by anchovies, what we call amoni; in turn, the mackerel, which we call salmon, prefers the anchovies; and then from there, the tuna feed on the mackerel; and then you have the dolphins and the bigger billfish coming in.” 

She further stated that if a small pelagic, like anchovies, were overfished, it would have a domino effect down or up the food chain, which would eventually affect fish consumers. 

The fisheries scientist stated, for instance, that there was now a lot of silt and sediment from galamsey-affected rivers going into the ocean, adding that it also affected underwater, where some remnants of reefs or coral reefs or rocks served as places where lots of demersal, such as redfish, parrotfish, groupers, and others, spawned or laid their eggs. 

“But we are realising that as more and more layers of this fine sediment are going out, it’s smothering the eggs that these species are laying and making survival go down,” she noted. 

Dr. Kassah stated that with heavy metals, the potential impacts of the continual deposition of mercury, arsenic, cyanide, and other metals into the ocean over time would have levels of them accumulating in the country’s fish species, which could come with its own public health implications, both for the ecosystem and for humans as well.