The Ministry of Fisheries and Aquaculture has deepened surveillance across the country following a mystery tilapia death at Asutsuare in the Greater Accra Region.
So far the cause of death is unknown as wild claims surface over a possible outbreak of the Tilapia Lake Virus.
Speaking to JoyBusiness the Minister for Fisheries and Aquaculture, Elizabeth Afoley Quaye, said her outfit had so far shut down the Chinese fish farm in which these deaths were recorded but also cordoned off the entire stretch of the cage farm.
“We have cordoned off the place and taken samples of the fish to some research laboratories to find out what might have caused the death of the fish. Some samples will also be taken to Norway to find out what has happened. At the moment, we have closed down the farm,” she said.
Elizabeth Afoley Quaye has also addressed claims that some death fish may have been smuggled to other local farms. According to her, the ministry can’t confirm if this is the situation.
“National Security, NADMO, EPA, the Fisheries Commission have all gone there to take certain steps to protect Ghanaians and ensure people do not trespass,” she stated.
Meanwhile, the president of the Aquaculture Association of Ghana, Jennifer Sodgi has called for calm amidst concerns by local tilapia farmers. Speaking to JoyBusiness, she assured that tilapia is still safe to eat.
The cause of tilapia mortality is not yet known. But some reports indicate that the tilapia died because they may be a strain of a Genetically Modified Organism (GMO) that could not survive conditions in the fish ponds in Accra. Persons with insights into fish farming also say they suspect that there was a toxic residue in the pond due to “massive organic loading”.
This “organic loading”, according to experts, can be caused by excessive feed input per unit volume of water, poor water exchange per the expanse of installed cages and the cool surface temperature due to extended cloud cover caused by persistent rainfall. Tilapia is a popular Ghanaian delicacy. Banku and tilapia is a common dish on the long list of cherished Ghanaian cuisines.
The Ministry has given assurance that it will follow up with capacity building and awareness creation programmes at different levels to farmers, hatchery operators, extension officers, and consumers and the general public to support the implementation of simple farm-level biosecurity programmes.
The virus is responsible for the decimation of some populations of tilapia and was discovered only recently.
Though not a human health risk, Tilapia Lake Virus has a large potential to impact global food security and nutrition.