Ghana's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says claims by the Fisheries Commission that activities of the oil companies are responsible for the recent deaths of the sea mammals along Ghana's coast are not true.
This follows statement made by the Fisheries Commission that 15 dead whales have been washed ashore between 2008 and 2013 in the Western Region alone, since drilling of crude oil started.
Another whale has been washed ashore the Nkontompo beach in the Western Region, bringing the number of such mammals washed ashore Ghana's beaches to four, in the last five days.
The Western Regional office of the commission has accused the EPA of failing to ensure that oil companies perform fisheries impact assessment before drilling Begins.
Responding, the Head of Public Relations at EPA, Mrs Angelina Mensah: "The incidence of whales being washed ashore is a global occurrence and not limited to Ghana.
"Within the last four months, 10 whales were reported to have been washed ashore in various locations in Asia, the Americas and New Zealand".
Possible reasons are injury from other predators, collision with maritime vessels, disease and old age. Some documentaries have shown killer whales attacking young baleen whales, Mrs. Mensah explained.
The definite reasons for the increasing incidences of whales being washed ashore in recent times have not been fully explained, and marine scientists in various jurisdictions are continuing investigations to establish the possible causes of the phenomenon.
She noted: "While the frequent washing ashore of dead whales on the country's beaches is of much concern to the Environmental Protection Agency, we find statements attributed to Mr. Emmanuel Ohene Marfo, of the Fisheries Commission, in the publication that most whales and marine life that were discovered dead were found near oil rigs, to be very inaccurate and very misleading. As a matter of fact, no dead whale has so far been found close to any oil rig in Ghana".
The PRO continued: "We are also dismayed that Mr. Marfo is purported to have said that oil drilling companies operating in Ghana did not undertake Fisheries Impact Assessment (FIA) before starting drilling operations as required by law".
Mrs. Mensah emphasised that the Ghana Environmental Assessment (EA) requirements demand that all offshore oil drilling and installation of offshore oil pipelines undertake full EIA. We wish to place on record that no permit has been granted to any offshore oil company in Ghana which has not satisfied that requirement, stressed.
Consideration of the potential impacts on marine fauna, including fish, is a cardinal requirement in all environmental impact assessment for permit to be granted by the Agency for oil drilling and well development.
The EPA reiterated the fact that no Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) for oil and gas operations has been accepted by the Agency as satisfactory, without consideration of impacts on marine fauna which include Cetaceans (whales), fish and marine turtles, as well as other benthic fauna.
All offshore oil companies operating in Ghana submitted satisfactory Environmental Impact Statements which adequately covered not only impact on fish but marine mammals including whales before being issued with environmental permit, she added.
According to her, during the actual operations of the oil companies, they employ a Marine Mammal Observer (MMO) on board of the vessels to watch out for the mammals. The MMO's duty on-board is to advise on how to operate without any harm to these mammals.
In the night, when it is impossible for the MMOs to observe the mammals; the companies deploy devices that are able to detect these mammals and are able to conduct their operations without harm to the mammals.
The EPA follows these requirements critically to see to it that the operators do not harm these mammals unnecessarily.
Mrs. Mensah told the Business Chronicle: "We wish to state that the Fisheries Commission has always taken part in technical reviews of all the Environmental Impact Statement submitted by the offshore Oil companies.
"The statements attributed to Mr. Marfo are, therefore, unscientific and unfortunate. They are clear misrepresentation of the facts and misleading to the public".
All Environmental Impact Statements, including those of oil and gas activities, are made public and are accessible in the relevant Metropolitan/Municipal/District Assemblies and EPA headquarters, Regional and District offices where applicable.
Prior to approval of these Environmental Statements, EPA advertises these reports in both the Prints and sometimes the electronic media and request comments from the general public as required by law.
She therefore assured the public that the EPA is committed to ensuring that all environmental assessment requirements are applied fully in all circumstances to ensure that our environment is maintained in a healthy state for continuous delivery of quality ecosystem goods and services.