Article Index

World Ocean Day in Apam, Ghana

As part of the World Ocean Day celebrations, on the June 8, 2021, Mundus maris organised a participatory dialogue and sensitisation among fisher folks and youth in Apam, a fishing community in the Gomoa West District of Ghana. The event under the theme ‘The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods’ aimed to raise the awareness on human connectedness to the ocean, why and how we must care for the ocean - with particular emphasis on the need to combat plastic ocean pollution.

As learning from traditional knowledge and local perspectives is crucial for any transformational change, participants were invited to discuss the topic in smaller groups to make sure that all voices were heard.

The gathering lasted for almost two hours and was attended by fifty-seven (57) participants including fishermen, women fish processors and traders, youth and other stakeholders in the community. It was facilitated by Prof. Francis K.E. Nunoo, a Fisheries Scientist and Head of Department of the Marine and Fisheries Sciences, University of Ghana, who led the discussion on the theme and provided the summary, including additional highlights.

The session was mostly organised as conversations in four groups, with each having average participants of thirteen (13) to discuss the following questions:

  • What are the importance of the ocean to human lives and livelihood?

  • What is not going well with the ocean?

  • How can we address these issues for a better ocean?

Regarding the benefits of the ocean to human lives and livelihoods, participants highlighted how it provides us with fish and other sea food, serves as a means of livelihood, particularly for them as coastal folks, foreign exchange from fish exports, promotes tourism and serves as a pleasant place for recreation (relaxation) and mental well-being. Summing up on the topic, Prof. Nunoo added how human lives are dependent on the ocean highlighting that the ocean produces about 50% of the world’s oxygen, regulating the oxygen concentration in the atmosphere.

In highlighting the issues that are harming the ocean, participants outlined the following: the use of poisonous chemicals for fishing, disposal of waste at the shore/ ocean as well as the dumping of plastic waste in the sea while on fishing expedition, the activities of Saiko (transshipment at sea), overfishing, the activities of mining companies at sea, poor sanitation at the shore with lack of toilet facilities leading to open defecation at the shore. The latter keeps the tourists away, who used to come in the past attracted by colourful activities in the busy fish landing area and in town.

On the subject of what can be done to improve ocean life, participants emphasized that it requires the active participation of all stakeholder including themselves (coastal folks) to save the ocean. They particularly highlighted the need for government and other regulatory bodies to intensify efforts to stop Saiko (transshipment at sea), and other forms illegal fishing (such as the use of light, dynamite), monitor fish catches before they are sold; admonish all fishers to embrace the fishing closed season introduced by Government of Ghana; called for sensitization programmes to educate fishers and other stakeholders on the dangers of dumping plastic waste and refuse in the sea or at the shore.

Again they called on the traditional authorities within fishing communities to act as custodians of the ocean, to check illegal activities among fisher folks and punish offenders; and community members to organize clean up exercises to improve sanitation at the shore and within the community. Lastly, they appeal to the government and other NGOs as well as the rich among them to help build a modern toilet facilites in the community to address some of the sanitation issues.

In a second session, owing to the recent disaster in the Community that lead to the drowning of twelve (12) children in the sea, the programme included sensitisation on safety nets to be undertaken both at the shore and at sea. Mr. Isaac Anaman, the District Fisheries Extension Officer, Gomoa West District of Ghana, led the session on the safety measures.

In concluding the program, Nana Kow Panyin, the Public Relations Officer (PRO) of the Chief Fisherman of Apam and one additional elder from the community took turns to thank Mundus maris and the organising team for the opportunity for such an engaging dialogue. They emphasised that participants should see this as a wake-up call to get involved as much as they can to protect the ocean, which is their major source of livelihood. Mr. Nana Kow Panyin particularly appealed to all participants to help in addressing the poor sanitation at the shore, the plastic pollution and the challenge of illegal fishing. They promised to take the matter up to the Chief Fisherman and other elders of the community to find ways to reinvent and enforce their past clean up exercises. They urged all participants to be obedient and participate when the call for such exercises are announced. This, he explained, used to be the case in the past, when members felt adamant to engage in such activities. It can be done again!

In the closing remarks, Ms. Sarah Appiah thanked all participants and especially all the elders for their contributions and proposed initiatives. She indicated Mundus maris' willingness to support such initiatives as the gathering for World Ocean Day was not an end in itself but an opportunity to galvanise improvements to problems identified by the community.

The local Nyce FM honoured the invitation to the event and aired the programme on the evening news on the 8th of June.


Text and photos by Ms. Sarah Appiah and Ms. Yaa Osei Mensah.