Green-Green in our Western waters
By Mark Fenn
TAKORADI, Ghana, 13 Sept - For as long as many elder fishermen in the Ghanaian districts of Jomoro and Ellembelle remember, there have been outbreaks of a green filamentous plant called ‘Green-Green’, beginning in December and lasting two months on average.
Green-Green, also known as “cotton” in neighbouring Cote d’Ivoire, disrupts very near-shore fishing, notably those using beach-seine. Fishermen say it is a serious threat to their livelihoods as they spend money on fishing trips only to return with the nets clogged with algae and no fish. One unidentified fisherman described the Algae bloom as “the biggest problem” they face. The bloom usually occurs during the dry season (December to March), which coincides with the fishing season.
“This year it began in January and has not left. We cannot go to sea to feed our families when there is Green-Green. Our children are hungry,” he said.
Children swimming in algae infected waters at Half Assini
The algae bloom is also a severe constraint on tourism development in the extreme western coastal areas as beaches are green and the water is unsuited for swimming. Prior to the bloom problem, the gleaming white sandy beaches at Beyin attracted huge numbers of tourists. Now the shore-front is a mat of algae and the tourists have vanished.
Outbreak of this marine plant is not a yearly phenomenon and its intensity varies between years. When outbreaks were pronounced (1991, 1997, 2000, and 2006) government agencies conducted studies that identified the algae as Enteromorpha, which is usually a symptom of higher than normal concentrations of nutrients in the water. Usually, these nutrients come from terrestrial sources of pollution such as domestic waste, agricultural run-offs and untreated industrial waste.
During 2009 the Enteromorpha bloom was the greatest observed, in terms of geographic coverage from shore out to sea and in duration. In fact, the bloom and the algae are still present some eight months later and to date in the Jomoro District.
Algae on the beach of Jomoro District, western Ghana.
Nutrient sources are yet to be identified - whether these are from the Aby Lagoon in Cote d’Ivoire; or from run-off associated with human and industrial waste, agricultural products, or from a change in the upwelling off the coast. Due to the impact the bloom has had on the livelihoods of fisher-folk and local communities, there is momentum within Ghana and Cote d’Ivoire to solve the problem and thus restore socio-economic wellbeing of fishing communities.