Authorities in Ghana are investigating the deaths of hundreds of dolphins and fish that washed up on beaches in Ghana in recent days, with growing fears that contaminated fish have been sold to customers.
Dead sea species have littered beaches in Accra and near the capital’s shoreline since Friday. Officials said close to 100 dead dolphins had washed up on Axim beach, while videos posted on social media showed scores of varying species including eels and several fish species.
Ghana’s fisheries commission said it had taken laboratory samples of the animals and waters in recent days while the cause remains unknown.
An official at the commission, Dr Peter Zedah, told local media on Wednesday that investigations were ongoing but initial findings showed “environment” and “stress factors” had caused the deaths. Some of the fish studied “looked good, so it gives you the impression that maybe some environmental factors may have caused their death,” he said.
Officials on Tuesday pleaded for people who may have consumed the fish to come forward as part of their investigations and Ghana’s minister of fisheries and aquaculture, Mavis Koomson, asked fishers in Accra “to cooperate with the Fisheries Commission and FDA as they investigate the incidents of dead fishes washing up on our shores.”
Fears have also emerged for the fate of some sea mammals, such as the Atlantic humpback dolphin, an endangered subspecies along the coast of west Africa.
Workers from the OR Foundation, an NGO researching the impact of secondhand clothing waste on Ghana’s marine environment, had seen several fish on the beaches since Friday, with many still washing up dead on Tuesday evening.
“When we went yesterday there were still fish coming up on the shore,” said Liz Ricketts, the group’s co-founder. “Rays, lots of eels. In the morning we saw over 20 eels on one part of the beach. We walked the beach again in the evening and basically within a 100-metre spot, it was 82 fish and eels, mostly eel, and those were not there previously,” she said.
Poverty in fishing communities had led to many fishers making difficult decisions on whether to go out to sea in recent days, she said.
“These are artisanal fishing communities. They struggle again for many reasons, because of the [sea] waste and also because of the development happening in the area and how that impacts their livelihood,” Ricketts said. “And so you throw this on top of it and it’s not really an option for them not to go out at sea.
“We saw a couple of bags full of fish where people had clearly come to gather the fish and then changed their mind,” she added.
In the past year, similar mass dolphin deaths have occurred on other parts of Africa’s coastline.
In February, 111 dolphins were found dead in Mozambique, which officials said were probably killed by a low tide after a cyclone.
Last year, 52 dead dolphins were also found dead on the coast of Mauritius due to barotrauma, a condition caused by exposure to pressure changes resulting from sonar, explosions, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.