I have been compelled to respond to the article in the Daily Graphic on October 28, 2019 (page 90), to set the records straight for fish farmers, fish consumers and other stakeholders in the aquaculture industry in Ghana.
Yes, it is true that in recent years the aquaculture industry is facing some challenges, particularly with fish health.
However, the seemingly insufficient management of aquatic health and poor biosecurity on most fish farms cause mass fish mortality.
A combination of factors causing in-equilibrium between the aquatic environment (water quality), caustic organisms (pathogen) and host (fish) may lead to the outbreak of diseases in fish.
I personally agree with the writer that fish health and, for that matter, aquatic health and biosecurity are poorly managed in Ghana, especially on the Lake Volta.
Although there is a global spread of Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV), I wish to state for the records that no Tilapia Lake Virus (TiLV) has been recorded in Ghana.
Clinical signs and laboratory analyses by various competent institutions within Ghana and in Europe, including one from the UK, did not diagnose TiLV.
Studies, commissioned by the World Bank (Mona et al, 2018) among other published reports, indicate that no TiLV was diagnosed in Ghana in 2018.
These studies conclusively indicate that the massive fish kills of tilapia on the lake Volta in 2018 could be attributed to the dominance of streptococcus agalactiae (type 261) and a combination of bacteria with other parasitic pathogens.
The recent occurrence of farmed tilapia mortality in 2019 was diagnosed as Infectious Spleen and Kidney Necrosis Virus (ISKNV), according to Ramirez-Paredes et al., 2019. ISKNV vaccines are ready for trial vaccination in selected fish farms across Ghana under a vaccination evaluation programme. Hence, the assertion by the author that TiLV was the cause of massive fish kills on Lake Volta in 2018 or any other year could not be factual, is ambiguous and thus misleading.
It is unequivocal that due to aquatic health challenges, some fish farms, including some large-scale producers had down-sized, or folded-up, or collapsed or, are operating under production capacities with related loss of jobs along the fish value chain.
However, all hope is not lost. The aquaculture industry is still viable and good business, as it is still the fastest growing sub-sector in the agro-industry, globally.
In Ghana, the government through the Fisheries Commission (Fish Health Unit) is doing their part but can do better. Research institutions such as the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) — Water Research Institute and the Food Research Institute (FRI), among other research partners in Ghana, are exploiting bio-control measures to minimise and control some tilapia diseases (using herbs, bacteriophage technology among others for safe fish).
Other pragmatic and proactive options are being searched for.
In the short term, we must practicalise the Ghana Aquaculture Standards and enforce the fish movement certification, among others, to safeguard the aquaculture industry.
Despite the TilV free-status of Ghana, prevention is key.
Thus, we all have to wake up from our slumber and contribute our quota to revamp the aquaculture industry as a profitable business.
Posterity will judge us if we maintain this status quo, that may jeopardise the ability of future generations to have our native delicious tilapia on their menu.
Dr Etornyo Agbeko (PhD),
CSIR-Water Research Institute,
Aquaculture Research and Development Centre,
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