Ghana Wildlife Society in collaboration with its partners conducts first ever shipboard-monitoring on marine mammals and sea turtles in Ghanaian waters (inshore and offshore)
There is increasing awareness of the integral importance of marine mammals to healthy marine ecosystems, and of growing threats that a variety of human activities pose to these animals and their environments. Until recently, the cetaceans (whales and dolphins) of the Gulf of Guinea, including Ghana have remained unstudied. Periodic monitoring of artisanal fisheries for bycatches in Ghanaian artisanal fishing ports and landing sites from 1996-2004 provided photographic and specimen evidence to validate the occurrence of eighteen species (17 odontocetes and 1 mysticete) in Ghanaian waters (Van Waerebeek et al., 2008). There has been remarkable increase in the incidence of the beaching of cetaceans on the coast of Ghana between 2009 and 2013. Threats to Sea turtles in Ghana includes entanglement in nets, ship strikes from increased ship traffic, ingestion of marine debris, targeted fishing for the meat of dolphins a bait for catching sharks for the growing shark-finning industry and possible acoustic disturbances from air guns deployed in petroleum exploitation along the shores of Ghana (EPA, 2014).
The Gulf of Guinea is an important habitat for sea turtles, using this area as feeding grounds, migratory routes, and nesting sites (Jubilee field EIA, 2009). The Olive ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea) Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata) have been confirmed in Ghana (Jubilee field EIA, 2009). Human activities such as pollution of beaches, sand mining, collection of sea turtle eggs and their eggs remains the key causes of Sea turtle decline (Antwi and Agyekumhene 2013).
Ghana has enacted legislation intended to foster the conservation of biodiversity and protection of the environment. Some of these include the Wildlife Conservation Regulations, 1971 (LI 685), The Fisheries (Amended) Regulations (1984), Biosafety Act (2011), River, Lakes and Beach Law (under review). These pieces of legislation also provide for the protection and conservation of Marine Mammals and Sea turtles therefore in part meet the requirement for the obligations under the International conventions and treaties UN/CMS, UN/CITES, and UN/CBD) to which the country is party.
Areas of these monitoring falls within inshore Eastern part of Ghana (Area of Influence of the New Port Expansion Project) and the second Offshore Cape Three Points, Western parts of Ghana (Area of Influence, Sankofa oil field).
AIMS AND OBJECTIVES
The aims of the monitoring are to increase the level of understanding of the species (Marine Mammals and Sea Turtles) that occupy the Projects Area of Influence (AoI) and validate the applied mitigation measures. The objectives set to reach these aims include the monitoring of the frequency of their occurrences and their behaviours and record any changes over time.
Standard protocols Adapted from Joint Nature Conservation Committee for monitoring Marine Mammals and Sea turtle are used within the monitoring areas.