Who I am
I am an up-and-coming marine biologist and conservationist with a focus on rays in Ghana. My career goal is to develop research and conservation programmes geared toward the long-term survival and persistence of rays and sharks in Ghana and West Africa. My parents came from coastal villages in Ghana and I have been fascinated by the biodiversity of the ocean since childhood. I visited my parents’ home villages regularly and enjoyed the delicacies that came from the sea. However, I was not aware of the detrimental impacts of our actions until I specialised in wildlife and range management and volunteered on conservation projects. The awareness and experience garnered during these projects stimulated my interest in ray conservation. The ray fisheries in Ghana are declining fast and the marine ecosystems where rays occur are threatened. The African wedgefish, giant guitarfish and other guitarfish species are on the verge of extinction. The situation is dire, as data on these species and other rays are lacking. Therefore as part of my role as a researcher and conservationist, I focus on assessing the current populations and the dynamics of harvesting and trade in the species. In addition, I collaborate with the Fisheries Commission and Ghana Wildlife Society to raise awareness about them and to educate coastal communities and fishers about their conservation. The goal is to provide the data needed to develop a conservation action plan for the wedgefish and the guitarfish species in Ghana. Furthermore, my PhD studies will focus on extensive research into the ecology of the species, as such information is not available in Ghana. My vision is to develop a national conservation action plan for rays and their habitats that includes researchers, traditional authorities, members of coastal communities and government officials.
Where I work
I am the project coordinator at the Institute of Nature and Environmental Conservation (INEC Ghana). The institute is a local NGO with a mission to protect critically vulnerable species and ecosystems, based on sound science and evidence; to choose sustainable approaches to conservation; and to ensure that the needs of communities are taken into account. In addition, it recognises that saving nature for future generations is an enormous task that cannot be achieved without the help and cooperation of many different institutions, including governments, law enforcement agencies, universities, donors, local and international NGOs and, above all, religious and traditional leadership. INEC Ghana collaborates with these institutions to achieve the results needed. It has projects on the conservation of the freshwater Endangered butterfish Irvineia voltae and the marine Critically Endangered blackchin guitarfish Glaucostegus cemiculus. Twelve coastal communities have received education about the conservation of these species.
What I do
As the project coordinator, I develop research and conservation projects, organise fundraising and am involved in the monitoring and evaluation, implementation, and documentation and reporting of projects. I also train young conservationists and assist with the development and implementation of their projects. Furthermore, I develop conservation advocacy programmes and organise stakeholder forums to solicit collaborative support for ongoing projects. As the leader of this particular project, I facilitate the execution of all objectives and their associated activities to ensure its success. The project aims to assess the African wedgefish population by conducting surveys at landing sites and markets; evaluate the dynamics of harvesting and trading the species; raise awareness of the need to conserve it; and educate fishers on fisheries regulations to safeguard the species’ survival within the study area. We will foster a strong relationship with traditional authorities, participants in trade and community members to create grassroots support that will ensure the lasting conservation of the African wedgefish. Data from the project will be used to develop a conservation action plan for the study area.