The theme of this year’s World Oceans Day tagged “The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods”, raises global awareness of the benefits humankind derives from ocean and our individual and collective role to use ocean resources sustainably without jeopardising the livelihood opportunities of the future generation.
World Oceans Day is being observed on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
The ocean covers over 70% of the planet. It is our life source, supporting humanity’s sustenance and that of every other organism on earth. The ocean produces at least 50% of the planet’s oxygen; it is home to most of earth’s biodiversity. Oceans are one of the most important resources to mankind providing sustainable livelihood, jobs or employment opportunities, largest carbon sink for mitigating climate change, global food security, groundwater recharge, tourism etc.
Despite all its benefits, our oceans are threatened by human-induced activities including unsustainable over-exploitation of ocean resources, coastal sand dredging, ocean conversion to land for building, lost and discarded fishing nets continue to lethally snare fish, seabirds, and marine mammals as they drift. Oil spillage and garbage dump by ships which may transport critters to alien habitats, turning them into invasive species. Mangrove forests are cleared for homes and industries. Our plastic waste chokes the seas, creating vast garbage patches. Fertiliser runoff from farms turns vast swaths of the ocean into dead zones.
The Government of Nigeria through the Federal Ministry of Environment is committed to protecting the ocean, supporting live and livelihoods of our people in the coastal areas, through:
- Signing and ratifying to the Convention for Cooperation in the protection, Management and Development of the Marine Environment and Coastal area of the Atlantic coast of the West, Central and Southern African Region (Abidjan Convention)
- Joining the High Ambition Coalition for Nature and People and Global Ocean Alliance (HAC-GOA), with the aim to protect at least 30% of the global lands and seas, calling for more protection in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) and Other Effective area-based Conservation Measures by 2030.
- Consenting to the Commonwealth Blue Charter – The Blue Charter helps Commonwealth countries to work together on a fair, inclusive and sustainable approach to ocean protection and economic development. Nigeria signed the following Commonwealth Blue Charter Action groups; Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, Mangrove Ecosystem and Livelihood Action, Marine Protected Areas, Ocean and Climate change and Sustainable Blue Economy, all towards ensuring sustainable ocean management.
- Joining the Blue Leaders Campaign which calls for 30% protection of the global ocean to be ‘‘fully protected” from extractive or destructive activities, or “highly protected,” where only light extractive activities, such as local community fishing, are allowed and other impacts are minimized to the extent possible. The preservation of our oceans is imperative to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions but it is also vital to the economic development of the African continent and to food security worldwide. Nigeria is committed to the protection and the restoration of marine and coastal ecosystems.
In order to avert ocean crisis, scientists’ evidences suggest that effective protection of at least 30% of the global ocean will help to reverse adverse impacts, preserve fish populations, increase resilience to climate change, and sustain long-term ocean health.
If we continue the wave of natural destruction, we jeopardize our resilience to climate change. We must act swiftly and boldly to ensure sustainable ocean management and deliver urgently needed solutions to climate change and these solutions are nature based. We are at a decisive turning point for the future of the world as we know it and our priorities must align to give our natural world a fighting chance.
As we all strive to be a part of the solutions for nature by being powerful agents of positive change for people and planet, I urge us to live in harmony with nature and adopt the One health approach which recognizes the interconnection between people, animals, plants, and our shared environment.
One world, One health!
By Sharon Ikeazor, Environment Minister of State