One day as we sit at the table waiting to enjoy our usual delicacy, tilapia, the waiter will walk sadly and whisper, “we do not have tilapia.” Why?, we will ask. The farmers have stopped producing, and the lake is empty”. The ponds breed fishes no more; the fishes are gone. The farmers wished they could have stayed in business yet they had no help. As they struggled and struggled to stay in business, mortality accelerated at the speed of light and at the clink of glasses in lounges of the big fat pets and under the shade of the umbrellas, the fishes vanished into thin air.

Over the past few years (just about 4 years or so ago) about 53 Ghanaian owned fish farms in a single zone of the many zones, have collapsed — whose remains cannot be traced — leaving the multinational farms who are also in the state of desaturation. The root cause analysis found nothing than their usual lamentations which authority and past and present governments paid death ears to diseases. I should state unequivocally that, Fish health management has been poorly approached. There’s total anarchy in the system, right from the offices of government, professionals and the farmers as a whole. But in all, the government, represented by the Fisheries Commission tops the hierarchy of problems.

Fish health or aquatic medicine, is not only a professional mandate. It’s so specialised and complex that, without a holistic and mutual understanding of stakeholders including, government, professionals (aquatic veterinarians and biologists), farmers, feed producers etc., the system will usually and surely progress into limbo. In fact there’s total lack of co-operation between industry and the government. No one seems to understand the need of the industry and the farmers have been left to struggle on their own.

Just recently, after the farmers have struggled to manage Streptococcosis largely by themselves, the sensational Iridovirus also known as Infectious Spleen and Kidney Necrosis Diseases (ISKND) has become their next headache. Not forgetting the massive fish die out in 2018 as a result of the outbreak of Tilapia Lake Virus (TLV) infection which government allegedly reported to have been a bacterial infection, yet farmers (industry) stood alone at the battlefield,  hired private professionals, fought and knocked out the disease all alone. Authority sat down, with chins in arms, and under their watch saw nothing, found nothing and heard nothing. And again, Argulus the monster, the freshwater fish louse just surfaced from nowhere. We had better learnt from the Norwegian sea lice experience before it’s too late.

Kudos to the private veterinarians and MSD Animal Health, Singapore, who stood by the farmers and even at the peril of their own resources kept the confidentiality of their clients (farmers) as an utmost priority and felt no obligation to blow the whistle. And who even says private veterinarians are obliged to report diseases of this nature to authority? Nothing binds them though! Not when laws that govern the veterinary profession can be traced to the colonial era. And even the more recent yet outmoded Veterinary surgeons law which has few clauses therein to protect and direct 21st century veterinary medical practice dates to 1992 without any amendment. Meanwhile, an Animal Health Service Bill has no place on the Parliamentary floor for discussion. I don’t even think the document can be found.

Back to Queen Elizabeth’s jurisdiction anyway, the Ghana Aquaculture Standards that was written to protect the industry is lying down in the Fisheries Commission without being implemented. The National Fish Laboratory is there without staff and is now being used as a food safety laboratory. The professionals who were trained in Norwegian Veterinary Institute in Fish Health Management came back and for a whole year was not engaged to work. And guess what, they all fled for greener pasture elsewhere. I observed farmers smuggle vaccines into the country as a result of their desperation to prevent and control diseases. We allowed vaccination of fishes without any Vaccination Evaluation programme and of course the system has gone haywire with lack of control. All we know as a country is to organise conferences, training and workshops and after that the implementation is left to God. When we think a Commission of this nature should be manned by a lawyer instead of professionals with the technical know-how and then defend our appointment as just a mere leadership and management position. Yes it is about leadership but without technical know-ow, I am sorry. Queen Elizabeth please wake up!

He who has ears, let him listen to the voice.