The Petroleum Commission (PC) has entreated fishermen to stay away from safety zones of offshore oil and gas installations to prevent threats to their lives and the assets, as the country records 34,074 incursions in seven years.
Data released by the Commission yesterday revealed that since 2014, averagely 5,000 incidents of fishermen intruding the safety zones are recorded annually, with 5,621 occurrences last year and 1,986 since January, this year.
“These breaches do not only place fishermen in grave danger but unnecessarily put critical offshore facilities and infrastructure at risk,” Egbert Faibille Jnr, the PC Chief Executive Officer said during an online workshop on Safe Sea Access Framework (SSAF) and Cumulative Impact Co-management platform.
The workshop enabled stakeholders to deliberate on how to implement the SSAF which had been developed to ensure peaceful co-existence of oil and gas, fisheries sectors and other users of the marine space, and the Platform to enable stakeholders to jointly manage oil and gas activities.
It was attended by representatives of the Commission, Ministry of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Fisheries Commission, Ghana Maritime Authority, International Oil Companies, International Finance Corporation and National Canoe Fishermen Council.
Section 77 of the Petroleum (Exploration and Production) Act, 2016, (Act 919) states: “Every petroleum facility/installation and well shall be surrounded by a safety zone established by the commission, in consultation with relevant authorities.”
The safety zone is an area extending 500 metres from any part of offshore installations.
“Our country has been endowed with abundant natural resources which must be sustainably exploited for the collective benefit of all. In doing that a conscious effort must be made to ensure that there are no conflicts within, between or among various sectors of the economy,” Mr. Faibille Jnr said.
He said the workshop was in continuation of efforts by the Commission and other government agencies to engage the industry players, fishermen, and the local authorities to chart a new course in managing impact of oil and gas activities collaboratively.
“The era of lone ranger and isolated efforts is over. Cumulative impacts have to be collectively managed,” he said, adding that Safe Sea Access was one of several projects that would be rolled out this year as a manifestation of this initiative.
The Director of Petroleum of the Ministry of Energy, Ben Asante, said there was the need for co-ordination of activities in the sector to prevent interference and pledged the government’s commitment to support, facilitate the implementation of recommendations at the workshop.
A representative of the Fisheries Commission, Joseph Yeboah, said although some of the fishermen were adhering to the caution to stay away from the safety zones, others were still adamant.
He said further engagement with the fishermen would help them appreciate the situation while other concerns including the impact of the oil exploration on the fisheries, should be addressed.