Accra, June 8, GNA - The Department of Oceanography and Fisheries, under the Faculty of Sciences, University of Ghana (UG), has been renamed Department of Marine and Fisheries Sciences (MAFS).
The Department established in 1962, commenced its academic programmes in 1988, and is currently Ghana's foremost and only centre directly concerned with oceanographic research and training of fisheries scientists among sister institutions of higher learning in the country.
The academic programme of the Department was initially focused on the award of Master of Philosophy and Doctor of Philosophy degrees in both Fisheries Sciences and Oceanography, until during the 2002/2003 Academic year when the Department commenced a combined undergraduate degree programme in Oceanography and Fisheries.
With the change in name, the Department would now serve as a Regional Centre for Marine Productivity and Biodiversity in Ghana.
Ms Sherry Ayittey, Minister of Environment, Science and Technology (MEST), who unveiled the name at a durbar in Accra on Friday, said the change, presented the Department with renewed challenges to enhance its performance both in the teaching, learning as well as research into oceanography and fisheries sciences.
She underscored the timeliness of the durbar, which marked this year's World Oceans Day on June 8, and being celebrated globally on the theme; “Building the Requisite Human Capacities of the Youth for Sustainable Exploitation of Marine and Fisheries Resources”.
Ms Ayittey said the Day, was an opportunity for the world to reflect on the importance of the oceans to the sustainability of humanity and recognised the numerous challenges related to the oceans and together look for solutions.
She commended the University Council for the initiative, but appreciated the numerous challenges of the Department such as the low level of qualified teachers and researchers as well as inadequate funding for research activities.
Ms Ayittey suggested that stronger partnership and collaboration be forged between the Department and the private sector to attract funding for the academic as well as research activities.
She enumerated the enormous benefits of the ocean, notably socio-economic activities such as fishing, shipping, ports and harbours, salt-making, tourism and recently the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities within the country's maritime domain.
However, challenges resulting from negative human activities have contributed immensely to ocean pollution and continue to pose a major threat to the aquaculture as well as the diminishing of the country's coastlines.
The Sector Minister stated that scientists had warned about the gradual rising in the sea levels which posed a major threat to the sustenance of current coastlines and would further reach dangerous levels within the next two decades if negative human activities along coastlines were not checked.
She said negative activities such as poor environmental sanitation by settlers and communities around the country's coastlines had been found to have contributed immensely to current increases in plastic and other forms of liquid waste pollution into the ocean, while factors such as climate change, sand winning, rise in the acidity of the ocean, as well as over fishing had played negative roles in the nautical insecurity.
Ms Ayittey called for a change in human attitude towards the marine eco-system and an inter-sectoral approach and collaboration with all stakeholders in dealing with the issues and finding sustainable solutions.
Dr Elvis Nyarko, Head of Department, MAFS, thanked the University Council for approving the new name which was spearheaded by Professor Ernest Aryeetey, Vice-Chancellor, UG and indicated that the Department had introduced a new programme in Marine and Offshore Technology to help provide skilled manpower for the upstream oil and gas industry.
“This is to be done through collaboration with the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom, under the British Council scholarships,” he said.
Dr Nyarko said the Department would benefit greatly from the collaboration as experienced lecturers would be visiting at regular intervals for further capacity enhancement of their Ghanaian counterparts.
He said some of the courses to be run as surveying of ships and offshore installations, advanced marine engineering design, ship production and management, leadership and management skills and law for marine engineers.
Dr Nyarko said the Department had carried out extensive review of its courses at the undergraduate and postgraduate levels to meet national and international development demands, while plans were underway to introduce short courses and long vacation programmes.
He said the opportunities and challenges outlined call for scientific and technological intervention through the training of professionals in the maritime and freshwater sciences to enable effective and sustainable utilisation of aquatic resources while providing sound scientific basis for integrated management of these resources to fulfill national goals.
Dr Nyarko said the proposed architectural designs had been approved by the University Council, for the construction of a modern building to accommodate the increasing number of students, and appealed for financial support from all stakeholders to enhance the quality of training by the Department.