The Abidjan Convention is a comprehensive umbrella agreement, which came into force in 1984, for the protection and management of the marine and coastal areas of the South-Eastern Atlantic Ocean from Mauritania to the western seaboard of South Africa. Pollution from the atmosphere and from ships, dumping, land-based activities, exploration and exploitation of the seabed are among its pressing concerns and issues which require control.
The Convention has also identified environmental management issues for which cooperative efforts are needed. These include coastal erosion, specially protected areas, combating pollution in cases of emergency and environmental impact assessment. The Convention also has articles on scientific and technological cooperation, liability and compensation.
Indeed, the marine and coastal areas within the Abidjan Convention area are under tremendous stress due to the activity of millions of people living along its fragile coasts and the enormous offshore hydrocarbon exploration and exploitation activity in the area. One offshoot of human activity is marine litter, which has now begun to pose a serious health threat to the tens of millions of people in 22 Abidjan Convention area countries; and threatens the viability of marine goods and services.
In an effort to protect marine ecosystem, the Convention organised a technical training workshop for national Geographic Information Systems (GIS) experts on database transfer. The event held at the Centre de Suivi Ecologique (CSE) in Fann, in the Senegalese capital of Dakar.
Speaking at the forum, Communication Assistant to the Abidjan Convention, Marylène Vanessa Ahouadjiro, said the objectives of the workshop is to fill database with geographic information produced by national institutions and harmonise the data presented with those available in the Trans-boundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA ) document of CCLME; Train GIS technicians in the use of the database designed by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography; transfer the database designed by the Spanish Institute of Oceanography to the Abidjan Convention Secretariat; and finally present the achievement of the modules to stakeholders.
According to the coordinator of CCLME at the Abidjan Convention Prof. Jacques Abe, the CCLME project provides vital food and economic resources for coastal populations bordering the Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) and for much of West Africa.
“It provides one of the largest fishing productions among African countries and it also provides important goods and services to coastal countries, including critical habitats for fish, wood from mangroves and spaces for coastal and marine ecosystems for agriculture, aquaculture, urban development, tourism and transportation,” he said.
Abe revealed that the project presents originality due to its strategic approach combining fisheries and governance in ecosystem management and it aims to enable participating countries to address priority trans-boundary problems of declining fisheries, associated threats to biodiversity and water quality through governance reforms, investment and management programmes.
Furthermore, it also aims to promote cooperation among countries and project partners in monitoring the state of CCLME based on the scientific results, he stated.
Participants drawn from Cape Verde, Gambia, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Morocco, Mauritania and Senegal all committed to working together in the project to fight against the trend of degradation of the large Canary marine ecosystem caused by overfishing, habitat changes, changes in water quality, and adopting an ecosystem approach.
They comprised GIS Specialists, Ocean Biogeographic Information System Experts and M&E Specialist representing central governments, research and civil society organisations in expertise areas of remote sensing, GIS, Data Management, mapping, databases and Monitoring and Evaluation.
At the end of the training, participants would be made familiar with the geo-referenced database and use it in the scientific output of their country, while Abidjan Convention would host the geo-referenced database accessible to all member countries.
The third component of the project, according to Ahouadjiro, promotes the strengthening of basic knowledge, capabilities and policies necessary for trans-boundary assessment, management of habitats, biodiversity and water quality which are essential for fishing.
Three results are expected at this component: the reduction of knowledge gaps in relation to critical habitats; biodiversity and water quality for the purposes of the TDA; and the Strategic Action Plan in designing activities of this basic geo-referenced data.
It will be recalled that the Abidjan Convention signed an agreement with the Spanish Institute of Oceanography for the implementation of this activity. The advantage of using or providing links to these databases is the automatic updating of these databases without the need for on-going maintenance.
By Sheikh Alkinky Sanyang (Dakar, Senegal)