Ghana needs to drive investment into ocean science

Executive Director, Blue Economy and Governance Consult, Richster Nii Armah Amarfio

Experts are calling for government to allow science lead policy when it comes to Ghana’s ocean management.

According to stakeholders within Ghana’s maritime sector, the hopes of a prosperous blue economy rely heavily on the use of scientific and historical data, the consistent application of modern technology, and a generally positive attitude toward taking care of the ocean.

This was the running theme of the recently held maiden edition of the National Blue Economy Summit, where government, industry and academia assembled for one cause – the health, prosperity and security of Ghana’s oceans.

The National Blue Economy Summit was aimed at mobilising transformative ocean action to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals.

The summit was also a fulfilment of Ghana’s responsibilities as a member of the Ocean Panel, a high-level panel for sustainable ocean economy made up of seventeen governments across the world.

Following the summit, pundits are asking government to walk the talk and place premium on driving investment into ocean science in the country’s bid to rake in the full benefits of her ocean territory while preserving it for future generations.

Speaking to Kennedy Mornah on the award-winning Eye on port programme on Accra-based Metro TV and Ghana Television, the Executive Director of the Blue Economy and Governance Consult, Richster Nii Armah Amarfio, rehashed the idea that Ghana has to right the wrongs of the past, and allow science to lead policy.

“Everything about the ocean is science. And I think that the biggest challenge we face as a country is allowing the policy to lead the science instead of the other way round. Until we turn that around, we may continue to hold a lot of talk shops without getting the full benefits of our ocean space,” he bemoaned.

He chronicled that historically, science had been applied by older generations through myths and rituals, leading to the preservation of the ocean’s health for the current generation.

Mr. Amarfio, who has served as the Secretary of the National Fisheries Association of Ghana and the Ghana Tuna Association, intimated that it is more incumbent upon government and industry to submit to the counsel of modern science for policy formulation and implementation.

“We no longer value the science we read in school. You will have scientists advising someone in a policy position but the latter views it from the perspective of how much votes that policy will garner. That is not sustainable,” he said.

He lamented the non-availability of a single research vessel in Ghana, stating that the opposite is true for more prosperous jurisdictions.

“If you go to Rhode Island, the state has a research vessel, the universities have research vessels and the New England region has its own vessel and they have been doing this for decades; so they produce scientific results which become the basis of decision-making. When they say our stocks are breaking, they know what they mean. They’re able to do proper trend analysis of what has happened over the period of time.”

Sadly, he said Ghana’s last research vessel was sunk in the 1990s, leaving the country to rely on periodic assistance from the Norwegians since then.

Adding his voice to the calls, the Head of the Marine and Fisheries Sciences Department at the University of Ghana, Professor Francis Nunoo, asked for increased impetus from government to drive investment into ocean science.

“The ocean is vast and has got a number of habitats. It has got mountains, valleys, very dark areas, untapped areas that are 20,000 kilometres below and a diversity of undiscovered organisms and plants. If you study the ocean, you realise it’s a wonderful place. The ocean is very dynamic, biologically and chemically. We derive a lot of minerals and vital nutrients in the ocean. The ocean also has a wide array of organisms that we know of and those we don’t know of. It’s out of the ocean that we get the fossils from which we derive our crude oil. If we have found oil in Ghana, then it means our ocean is very rich. We need various subsea equipment, those that can provide conductivity and depth measurements. We need technology and as a country, we are lacking in this – accounting for the poor management over the years.”

He said Ghana’s under-explored blue economy is a result of culture, lack of technology use, and unavailability of funds.

The academic, who is also the chairman of the Governing Board of the Fisheries Commission, proposed 1 percent of the national gross domestic product (GDP) to be dedicated to a fund for scientific research. He said this will help demystify ocean science and launch Ghana on a path of development so far as the blue economy is concerned.

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