Some fish processors in the Nzema East Municipality in the Western Region have resolved to process the dead melon-headed whales that were washed ashore recently, ignoring the warnings from experts about the public health implications should processed carcasses of the fish make their way onto the market.
The warning from the experts followed the re-emergence of dead melon-headed whales in communities in Nzema East after officials of the Fisheries Commission and Environmental Protection Agency had seized and buried 25 of the dead melon-headed whales as well as carcasses that had already been chopped into pieces. The experts also released about 38 of the fish into the sea.
A community of fish processors at Axim claimed they bought the mammals from fishermen who sold it to them at prices ranging between GH¢1,500 and GH¢4,000.
Meanwhile, chopped pieces of the dead melon-headed whales processed for the market are selling for GH¢200 each.
According to the fish processors, information on the danger to public health did not get to them early and so they would have to sell the processed fish in their custody to cover their cost.
They said they were not against the recall of the mammals for destruction but they had a challenge in recovering cost they had incurred.
They said when they heard the news on Sunday that fishermen had made a good catch, they were happy since that had always been their prayer. And as traders, when the dead melon-headed whales were offered to them for sale, they willingly obliged and bought them.
The fish processers and fishmongers contended that the melon-headed whales were very expensive on the market and were difficult to come by and, therefore, having them washed ashore was a good thing.
They were, however, unhappy that the authorities were calling on them to return the mammals.
Some of them said they were ready to return both the processed and unprocessed mammals but were calling for compensation, in view of the cost they had incurred in purchasing and processing.
“We did not know it is forbidden and that it has to be subjected to examination, so we should be pardoned,” they said.
By late Sunday, many fish processors in the municipality had had the melon-headed whales smoked in kilns, preserved and made ready for the market.
It is the fear of health officials that if the fishmongers are not stopped from getting them onto the market before test results proved they are poisoned, it would spell disaster.
When contacted, the Municipal Environmental Health Officer, Mr Kwabena Dramani, said the situation had been brought to his attention and that an environmental health team would be sent to go on a house-to house search to retrieve what they could find.
He said there was an undisputable truth that some fishmongers still had meat from the dead mammals in their custody, smoked and ready for the market.
“Even after a large number of the mammals had been retrieved and buried by security personnel, some people still have them which means there is still work to be done,” he said.
The acting Regional Director of Fisheries, Mr Alhassan Arafat Salifu, said a team from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Food and Drugs Authority (FDA) and the Municipal Environmental Health Office would ensure that the mammals in people’s custody were retrieved and buried appropriately.
“One thing must be made clear. We have not recommended that the mammals be consumed when we do not know actually what caused their death,” he said.
At the break of dawn last Saturday and late Sunday afternoon, there were reports that more than 120 dolphins and a large number of different species of fish had been washed ashore at Axim-Bewire in the Nzema East Municipality in the Western Region and also at Osu in the Greater Accra Region.
Source: Daily Graphic
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