The Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development joins the world to commemorate this year’s world ocean day. The day is set aside by the United Nations to sensitize and educate the global community on the health and challenges of the ocean and its extraordinary rich biodiversity. This year’s theme is tagged “innovation for sustainable ocean”. The theme is expected to lay the foundation for the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, which will run from 2021-2030. The decade would be used to strengthen international cooperation and scientific research, and innovative technologies that will connect ocean science with the needs of the society.
Evidence exists that ocean huge biodiversity has the solution to various health risks and environmental challenges faced by mankind – yet land-based human activities constitute the major destroyers of ocean life. It is interesting to note that benthic organisms are used to speed up the detection of COVID 19. Yet, not much is being done to secure the oceans bottom ecosystems that provide solutions to virtually every health and environmental risks faced by our societies.
As a nation, Nigeria’s efforts to protect and conserve the marine ecosystem remain extremely weak. The efforts range from legislation to human behavior in the different communities across the nation. There are numerous land-based practices that compromise the integrity of our 853 km Atlantic Ocean coastline to provide ecosystem goods and services that support human existence. They also alter the physico-chemical properties of the ocean environment that makes it function maximally. The human activities which include chemical fishing, indiscriminate dumping of waste, open ocean defecation, sewage disposal amongst others, are daily occurrences that distort ocean life. Also, within the Niger Delta region, oil and gas activities significantly impact ocean life. Numerous oil spills and untreated effluent discharges from industrial and artisanal refining sites delimit fisheries and other ocean lives, some of which are core livelihood structures in our communities; thereby worsening the poverty situation in the region. Uncontrolled discharges from industrial and artisanal refining infrastructures poison the food chain and affect food security. A classic example is the massive fish kill that occurred last month on the coastline of some Niger Delta states of Rivers, Bayelsa, Delta and Akwa Ibom. Health risks posed by such incidence affect final consumers of fisheries and make the ocean environment toxic.
CEHRD is calling on relevant authorities particularly the federal and state government to develop innovative technologies for addressing land-based waste that ends up in the Atlantic Ocean. Government should develop ocean resource management strategies that would contribute to attaining the sustainable development goal 14 (life under water). Lastly, and most importantly, government should prioritize scientific research to conserve and encourage sustainable exploitation and conservation of ocean resources. It is through research that new methods, ideas and innovative system for ocean conservation and protection, in our context, can be identified, tested and domesticated. CEHRD will continue to sensitize and educate local communities on the benefits of sustainable fishing, ocean protection and conservation, mangrove restoration and contribute to the policies and legislation that will sustain our collective efforts towards sustainable ocean management.
Kabari Sam (PhD)
Head, Environment and Conservation
Centre for Environment, Human Rights and Development (CEHRD)