The fishing and oil industries are intertwined in a complex relationship around the world. Oil is a blessing for national treasuries, and a curse when offshore drilling and spills damage fisheries and fishing communities.
The oil industry offers jobs to fishermen. Oil revenues and royalties bolster the economies of fishing communities. Even at the height of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, many residents along the Gulf of Mexico stood by the oil industry.
In December 2010, Ghana, a nation of 24 million people, became the latest African nation to join the petroleum club. Its Jubilee field, approximately 60 km. (40 miles) off Ghana’s coast, is the first of what will likely be several deep-water oil development projects. Drilling off Ghana over the next 20 years may be worth as much as $20 billion in export revenue, but the government has pledged it will succeed where many developing countries have failed and beat the so-called “resource curse.”
In Nigeria, for example, oil development in the Niger Delta has gone on for over 50 years with negligible participation of local fishing communities and disastrous impacts on the Delta ecosystem.
Ishac Diwan, the World Bank country director for Ghana, believes the country can manage and benefit from its oil. The International Finance Corporation, the private financing arm of the World Bank Group, provided funds for Jubilee field partners. Opening the Jubilee wells required an investment of about $3.4 billion. U.S. firms Kosmos Energy and Anadarko Petroleum are part of an operating consortium headed by U.K.-based Tullow Oil PLC.
“Keep in mind that Ghana knows nothing about oil,” Diwan said. “This is new, so they’re catching up. There are various agencies in the government that need to step up and learn how to deal with oil. One is the environmental agency.”