Ghana’s Ocean in danger – Professor of Ocean Studies raises alarm

A professor of Coastal Ecology and Interdisciplinary Oceans Studies, Prof. Denis Worlanyo Aheto, has expressed grave concern over the dire consequences Ghana’s ocean stands to suffer following the indiscriminate disposal of plastic waste into the ocean. 

According to him, the pollution of the ocean has an overwhelming bearing on staple food and the over two million Ghanaians whose livelihoods depend on it.

“Significantly, fishermen are catching more plastic than fish. No one seems to care about the ocean even though we all like fish. Ghana is the number one fish-eating nation in Africa. The average Ghanaian eats about 25 kilograms of fish per year far above the global average of 15 kilograms per year,” he continued.

Prof. Aheto made the remarks while delivering his inaugural lecture on the topic: “Our Oceans: Securing our Common Future through Transformative Research.”

The event was attended by some past Vice-Chancellors of the University of Cape Coast,members of academia, marine life and ocean experts, students, researchers, civil society organisations, members of the diplomatic corps and other personalities.

The lecture, which was held at the School of Medical Sciences Auditorium, also saw in attendance the strategic partners of the Africa Centre of Excellence in Coastal Resilience (ACECoR) of the University of Cape Coast, including World Bank, the Association of African Universities, and the Ghana Tertiary Education Commission.

Prof. Aheto being robed by the VC-UCC, Prof. Nyarko Boampong and Prof. Blay. Looking on are members of the College of Professors-UCC

Continuing, he observed that there were untapped opportunities to secure the common future of the ocean and underlined the need to build human capital, as well as increase in human development index to meet the goals of the African Union (AU) Agenda 2063. 

The AU Agenda 2063 is a strategic framework that focuses on achieving inclusive and sustainable socio-economic development over fifty years.

He opined that the ocean’s health and productivity were declining at an alarming rate, and posed a threat to humanity

Prof. Aheto maintained that Ghana’s coastal and marine resources face significant threats in the form of pollution, biodiversity loss, ocean dumping, overfishing, and other marine threats including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU), piracy and trafficking.

In addressing the challenges, he called for structures to be put in place to help position the country to take advantage of the immense opportunities that would come with the blue economy.

Prof. Aheto being congratulated by Prof. Rashid Sumaila of the University of British Columbia (UBC)-Canada. Looking on is Prof. William Cheung also of UBC.

As a result, Prof. Aheto proposed to government to create a Blue Economy Authority, instead of a ministry, to serve as a strong coordinating unit and provide technical capacities aimed at halting the pollution of the sea and other water bodies, including the destruction of marine life.

He noted that the blue economy holds solutions to employment, food security and enhanced socio-economic well-being if properly harnessed.

Quoting explicitly from the World Development Report, he expressed worry that the Sustainable Development Goal 14, which is life below water, was the least funded among the 17 goals.

He said Africa needs a new ocean agenda anchored on the recognition that the blue economy should be a catalyst for sustainable development.

In line with SDG 17, Prof. Aheto called for partnership to promote sustainable practices and management of fishery resources to improve the ocean.

The inaugural lecture was chaired by the Vice-Chancellor, Prof. Johnson Nyarko Boampong.

Prof. Aheto with faculty, administrative staff and students of the Centre for Coastal Management-UCC

At a glance: Prof. Denis Worlanyo Aheto

• Born on 1 April, 1972 at Nsawam in the Eastern Region
• Hails from Adutor in the Volta Region
• Completed O’ Level in 1990 at St. Martins’ Secondary School, Nsawam
• Had A’ Level in 1992 at the Pope Johns’ Secondary School, Koforidua
• Obtained Bsc. (Hons) Degree in Biological Sciences and a Diploma in Education in 1998 at the University of Cape Coast (UCC)
• Worked as a Teaching Assistant at the then Department of Botany at the UCC from 1998-99
• Served Ghana Education Service as a Biology Teacher at the St. Augustine’s College in 1999
• Completed his master’s degree in Rural Development Studies at the Swedish Agricultural University in Uppsala in 2002.
• Had MSc. Degree in International Studies in Tropical Aquatic Ecology at the Centre for Tropical Marine Ecology in 2004
• Obtained a PhD Degree in Environment Environmental Science at the Center for Environment and Technology at the University of Bremen, Germany, in 2008
• Appointed as a lecturer at the Department of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences (DFAS) at UCC in 2009
• Appointed as Casford Hall Tutor in 2010
• Promoted to Senior Lecturer in 2012 and appointed as Head of DFAS in the same year
• During his term of office as Head of DFAS, he led the formal establishment of the Centre for Coastal Management in 2013 and was appointed its first Director in 2016 till date.
• Published over 50 peer reviewed academic papers in reputable journals over a period of 14 years
• His standing as an accomplished academic is further demonstrated in the number of organisations interested in funding his research and these include World Bank, among others
• Staunch Catholic and his hobbies include music, travelling and family leisure time
• Married to Mrs. Cythia Aheto and they are blessed with a son, Arnold Sefa Aheto
• Promoted to Associate Professor in 2017
• Promoted to full-fledged Professor in 2020
• Delivered inaugural Lecture on the topic: “ Our Oceans: Securing Our Common Future Through Transformative Research” on Thursday, 9 November, 2023.

Source: Documentation and Information Section-UCC