Accra, Feb. 17, GNA - Mrs Gladys Asmah, Minister of Fisheries, said on Friday that Ghana needed to protect her source of supply of energy from attacks because of the increasing interest of the western world in the Gulf of Guinea.
She observed that current unstable developments in the Middle East, a source of oil supply to the developed world, indicated that the attention of countries like the US, China and some European countries was being diverted towards the Gulf of Guinea whose strategic importance as an alternative source of energy, had been latent. "Therefore, as Ghana is doing all in its power to find oil and gas from her Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the resultant oil and gas rigs, pipelines and barges, such as the West African Gas Pipeline and the Osagyefo Barge at Effaso, which are intrinsically vulnerable to attacks need to be protected", she noted.
Speaking at the closing of a two-week maiden EEZ management and operations course that was organized by the Ghana Armed Forces Command and Staff College (GAFCSC) at Teshie, near Accra, Mrs Asmah said in view of the situation, countries in the Sub-Region should consider their obligations for controlling the EEZ more seriously.
She reiterated that Ghana had sovereign rights for the purpose of exploring, conserving and managing the natural resources, but noted that the nation's responses to some of the challenges posed in its EEZ had not been the best.
However, she noted, the Government was doing all it could, within the limit of the nation's scarce resources, to address most of the concerns to reap the benefits and also to face the challenges of the EEZ squarely.
The EEZ has enormous opportunities and challenges for the country. These include the recognition of the exclusive rights for the exploitation of the extensive sea areas of 64,000 square nautical miles for Ghana.
The EEZ extends sovereignty up to 200 nautical miles for the exploitation, conservation and management of natural resources. The concept empowers coastal States like Ghana to take authoritative fishery management decisions which control not only the behaviour of the country's nationals but that of all other States as well.
Available records indicate that 90 per cent of all fish currently caught in the ocean were harvested within 200 nautical miles off shore, well within the EEZ, with more than 80 per cent of the world's known and estimated hydrocarbon reserves being found in this zone. Mrs Asmah stated that any littoral State desirous of accelerated growth and sustainable development could not afford to relegate to the background issues concerning the opportunities and challenges that the EEZ presented.
Mrs Asmah lauded the introduction of the course, saying: "It is very relevant and appropriate because it would ensure more professional and holistic understanding of EEZ management and operations by all stakeholders and further engender the political will needed to consider favourable decisions affecting the effective and efficient protection of the enormous resources in the EEZ."
She said the programme was a rare opportunity for stakeholders to appreciate the complexity, interconnectedness and enormity of the issues involved in the EEZ She entreated the course participants to take matters of the ocean more seriously in order that the nation maximized the opportunities in EEZ.
The course, the first of its kind to be run by the GAFCSC, was organized in partnership with the British Military Assistance Training Team in Ghana.
It was aimed at providing stakeholders with a better background knowledge and understanding of the issues involved in EEZ management and operations required by professional maritime practitioners, affiliates, as well as other important decision makers.
It brought together key actors in EEZ management to gain skills to increase their efficiency and effectiveness in the management and exploitation of the resources offered by the EEZ. Participants were drawn from Parliament, the Ministry of Justice, Attorney - General's Department, Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Fisheries.
The others were from General Headquarters of the GAF, Navy, Air Force, Police, Customs, Excise and Preventive Service, Immigration Service and Tema Oil Refinery.
The rest included the Ghana Ports and Harbours Authority, Environmental Protection Agency, Ghana National Petroleum Corporation, GAFCSC Naval and Air Force students, Ghana Bar Association, National Media Commission and Department of Oceanography of the University of Ghana, Legon.
Major General George Aryiku, Commandant of GAFCSC, said he was confident that participants had been sufficiently sensitized to practice effective planning, coordination and management of Ghana's EEZ within the confines of the Constitution and international laws. He implored the management of the newly created Ghana Maritime Authority (GMA) to serve as the nerve centre for the efficient management of Ghana's EEZ.
The Commandant entreated the GMA to put in place measures like EEZ Legislation or Act, a Policy on EEZ operations and Management, an integrated operation system, logistical support, training for key personnel and the provision of funding, in order to address the issues of EEZ management in Ghana.
Participants at the end of the course recommended that the GMA sets up a committee to co-ordinate the activities of stakeholders in the maritime industry whose responsibility would be to effectively and efficiently manage the nation's EEZ.
They recommended that a conscious effort should be made by the Government to acquire the necessary assets; including a multi-purpose fishery protection vessel, maritime patrol aircraft, coastal surveillance systems, pollution control equipment, search and rescue assets, to complement what was already in existence. The participants called on the Government to initiate a system of information exchange among countries in the Sub-Region to share information and collaborate in the areas of search and rescue, oil spillage response, disaster relief, fisheries protection and to ratify the necessary Conventions and protocols.