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African countries urged to work on conserving ocean, marine resources

By EDITH MUTETHYA in Nairobi, Kenya | China Daily | Updated: 2020-06-11 09:58

As the world celebrated World Ocean Day on Monday, African countries were called on to take bold and innovative actions toward promoting, developing and implementing a sustainable conservation of the ocean and its marine resources.

The African Development Bank said with its 38 coastal states, the African continent has countless assets to take advantage of the blue economy.

The bank said African oceans are among the richest environmental resources in the world, and potentially offer sources of income to populations. It however said many obstacles remain to be overcome to achieve the ambitious objective.

Barry Faure, Seychelles' secretary of state for foreign affairs and the blue economy said humanity's fate has always been intricately tied to that of the ocean.

He said Seychelles has always attached great importance to the ocean as its people have a direct dependence on the ocean resources for their identity, sustenance and livelihood.

"Both tourism and fisheries, our traditional economic pillars, have thrived on the ocean," Faure said in a webinar organized by the European Union on Monday.

With tourism brought to its knees in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Faure said people have been forced to pay greater attention to the ocean in ways which will maximize benefits.

He said the ocean is already under pressure from overfishing, illegal fishing, threats to maritime safety, and the impact of climate change.

"As responsible members of the global community, it is incumbent upon us to take bold and innovative actions to coordinate our moves to promote, develop and implement a sustainable conservation of the ocean and its marine resources," Faure said.

"Whether it is within national jurisdictions, the borders beyond national jurisdictions or on and below the sea bed, we need to be coherent in our actions."

Faure said Seychelles has shown the world that it is possible to achieve a critical balance between marine conservation and development, especially in actively promoting the Blue Economy concept, and at the same time continue to exert its role as custodians of the marine ecosystem.

He said Seychelles has banked on innovation, with the Seychelles Debt for Nature Swap and the Seychelles Blue Bonds, being two unique financing mechanisms to drive its blue economy.

Bridge the gap

"It is only through finding the exact balance between economic growth and protection of our marine environment that we can hope to truly save our oceans. Bridging the gap between the needs of our people and clean and sustainable oceans should therefore be the commitment of our governments," Faure said.

"As the ocean has been instrumental in our sustenance and growth, we should now strive to ensure its preservation."

The South African department of environment, forestry and fisheries, said that over the last five years it has partnered with the department of science and innovation to develop South Africa's Ocean and Coasts Information System.

The system relies on several government agencies contributing their specialized data or information to a central platform that creates products that can be used by the shipping, fishing and aquaculture industries.

The system can track vessels around the South African coast to assist in vessel operations, pollution incident management, search and rescue as well as monitoring fishing by larger vessels in offshore marine protected areas.

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