The Public Health Officers of the Accra Metropolitan Assembly (AMA) have arrested four women for persistently drying fresh herrings, popularly called ‘Keta school boys’, on the public pavement close to the Korle Lagoon.
The four: Cecilia Klottey, Regina Okinkoi, Okailey Norrah Ayi, and Mercy Tetteh were apprehended and their wares were confiscated last Friday after several cautions by the Metropolitan Environmental Health Officers (MEHOs) about the potential hygiene and safety issues posed by drying fish in such a public space close to the Korle Lagoon.
The practice according to the AMA exposes the fish to particles of smoke from vehicle exhaust, worn-out ties, and dust as well as causes a strong stench permeating the area, causing discomfort to pedestrians and nearby schools which is dangerous to public health and safety.
The Head of Public Affairs, Gilbert Nii Ankrah who disclosed this to the media said Public Health Officers of the Assembly had initially attempted to address the issue through a series of verbal and written warnings, outlining the health implications but the cautions were not adhered to leading to the decision to arrest and take legal action.
He emphasized that the exhaust emissions from the vehicles release a mixture of pollutants, including carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxides, and fine particulate matter, which can settle on surfaces such as the fish being dried, adding that particles from worn-out tires, a common source of microplastics, could also contribute to contamination which compromises the safety and quality of the dried fish, potentially affecting the health of those who consume them.
“According to environmental scientists, inhaling or ingesting these contaminants can pose health risks, especially for vulnerable populations such as children, the elderly, and individuals with respiratory conditions,” he said.
He assured that the Assembly would strike a balance between the cultural heritage and contemporary regulations stressing that efforts would be made to work with the fishmongers and other traditional businesses to find suitable solutions that respect both their practices and the city’s standards.
“Efforts are being made to educate traditional businesses about the potential risks associated with drying food in open, uncontrolled spaces and to encourage them to adopt safer alternatives…We intend to strike a balance between the cultural heritage and contemporary regulations, ” he said.
He expressed concerns over the broader environmental impact associated with such practices in an increasingly urbanized setting and urged citizens to report any such activities taking place in their neighborhoods to ensure swift and effective action.
He reiterated the AMA’s commitment to maintaining a clean, safe, and harmonious urban environment for all residents and visitors.
Jessica Tetteh, a resident who witnessed the arrest, shared her concern about the incident. “I’m glad the authorities are cracking down on this illegal activity. Drying fish in public areas is not only unhygienic, but it also creates an unpleasant and unsightly environment for everyone.”
The four fishmongers are currently awaiting their day in court, where they will face charges related to public health and safety violations.