Marine Menace: Africa loses billions in illicit trade


Nairobi – With revelations that Sub-Saharan Africa loses close to US$1 billion annually due to illegal fishing and other illegal marine trade, the international environmental community has joined hands to call for global comprehensive and integrated ocean governance. 

The unregulated and unreported fishing and human-induced activities are widely understood to have significant ecological, economic and social impacts on ocean and marine life. The trade is also linked to human rights and labour violations when illegal vessels facilitate trafficking of people, drugs and weapons.

The marine menace was addressed during the United Nations Environmental Assembly (UNEA) held in Kenyan capital Nairobi from June 23 to 27, where key players voiced their concerns over the protection of marine environment and curb the alarming human-induced dangers.

Over 1 065 participants from 163 member states noted that West African coastal regions have some of the world’s highest reported rates of illegal and unreported marine violations with a third to half of the catch affected.  

An award-winning environment activist, Prince Albert of Monaco as well as José María Figueres, former president of Costa Rica and Co-Chair of the Global Ocean Commission and Executive Director of UN Environmental Programme (UNEP) Achim Steiner joined Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta’s global call to urgently address pollution, overfishing ad increase climate change.

They noted that an estimated 350 million jobs around the world are linked to oceans and as much as 40 percent of the world’s population lives within 100 kilometres of the shoreline – hence the urgent call.

Human impacts have destroyed an estimated 20 percent of mangroves and 30 percent of sea grass beds, and threaten 60 percent of the world’s coral reefs – a major source of income for some 850 million people globally.

Land-based human activities have also resulted in more than 500 oxygen poor dead zones, which cover an estimated 245 000 square kilometres of coastal zones. Greenhouse gas emissions are raising sea-levels and threatening the very existence of some island states.

Prince Albert said: “The earth marine environment provides humanity with a number of important services, ranging from the air we breathe to food, security and storm protection. These in turn underpins life and livelihoods around the globe.

“Our proposals offer an integrated rescue package and now all of us here at the UNEA must pioneer its delivery. The scientific, economic and moral case for action is clear.”

He added that, ““However, with pollution set to rise from seven billion today to nine billion by 2050, threats to ocean – including pollution from land based sources, overfishing and unmanaged coastal development – are likely to intensify. 

The international community must build on the future we want, adopted in Rio-2012 and seize the opportunity of a blue economy. Here cannot be social economic development without resilient and productive oceans.”

Achim said that despite the oceans importance as major drivers of economic growth, the world’s oceans are not a bottomless resource. “There is significant evidence that we are at risk of overstepping the safe operating space within which irreversible environmental changes to the world’s oceans remain avoidable.

“It’s high time the international community adopt a truly ocean-based economy, one which adequately values our oceans and the products and services they provide.”

According to UNEA, illegal fishing can be combated by stricter adherence to existing ocean governance mechanisms such as the Port State Measures agreements of the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO). The agreement requires parties to exert greater control on foreign-flagged vessels thereby keeping illegally caught fish out of the world market. 

At UNEA in Nairobi, the global Ocean Commission called for upon the participants to commit to taking action on their proposals such as ratifying the Port State Measures Agreement. 

Further, the commission through Global Ocean Commission head Figueres calls for the ratification and implementation of International Maritime Organisation treaties securing the safety of life at sea for workers on industrial fishing vessels, the removal of harmful fishing subsidies and the reduction of the greenhouse gas emissions which, he said are causing not only climate change but ocean acidification.

July 2014
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