Conservation of coastal lagoons in Ghana: The traditional approach
The lagoons Sakumo and Djange are two of the many coastal lagoons in Ghana which provide valuable resources to the local communities and offer important roosting, nesting and feeding habitats for several thousands of birds. In the past, various rules and regulations including close seasons, sacred days and taboos based on religious beliefs and associated with lagoon fetishes protected the lagoon habitat and prevented overexploitation of the lagoon resources. The effectiveness of these traditional systems as conservation tools in modern times is examined. Most of the rules and regulations are no longer respected and the lagoon fisheries are heavily overexploited. The heavy fishing pressure has led to a reduction in the average size of the black-cheeked tilapia ( Sarotherodon melanotheron, the blue-legged lagoon swimming crab Callinectes latimanus and the mollusc Tympanotonus fuscatus in the lagoons; e.g. 95% of the tilapia sample collected in this study was below 10 cm in length, whereas the modal size class of a sample taken in 1971 was 10-11 cm. The population density of T. fuscatus was also extremely low in sites where the species was heavily exploited. Tabooed species were effectively protected. The need for scientific evaluation of the traditional beliefs and taboos and provision of legal backing for the enforcement of these traditions to ensure conservation of the coastal lagoons are emphasized.