Sustainable ocean economy must be pursued, speakers emphasise

23rd September 2021 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Creamer Media Reporter

There are a myriad of challenges facing the ocean economy, but these are not insurmountable, and can be mitigated and managed to ensure sustainable oceans.

This is according to speakers on the second day of the Sustainability Summit on September 22, during the Oceans Economy panel discussion.

African Women in Maritime president Jean Chiazor Anishere indicated that overfishing was one of the major issues facing ocean sustainability. She said that this led to degradation of oceans, as well as harmed other marine animals.

Another issue was chemical pollution, which includes, but is not limited to, pesticides, fertilisers, industrial waste and sewage.

Anishere also mentioned high carbon levels, with the amount increasing as more was released into the atmosphere from fossil fuels and deforestation, which was very concerning given that the ocean absorbed 30% of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

This, she explained, made the oceans more acidic, which impacted greatly on marine life. For example, shellfish and coral found it harder to build and maintain their shells or structures owing to this.

Anishere also highlighted habitat loss and damage as other issues facing ocean sustainability, emphasising that these must be addressed.

Moreover, she mentioned the impact of Covid-19, which had affected countries and economies globally, including those that depend on oceans for their livelihoods.

Another effect from this had been the increased use of single use plastic and the increased production of medical waste, a lot of which has ended up in the ocean.

Marine Stewardship Council (MSC) Africa, Middle East and South Asia senior programme manager Michael Marriot indicated the council was a global initiative that looked to address the global problem of overfishing, by setting an environmental standard for this and incentivising stakeholders to adhere. 

Despite this problem increasing over the decade, he said that there was a positive outlook, with proof that sustainable fishing was possible, with about 14% of fisheries now certified to MSC standards.

Marriot emphasised that in the long term, sustainable fishing was actually more productive than overfishing. 

Institute for Oceans and Fisheries Fisheries Economics Research Unit professor Rashid Sumalia indicated the ocean economy could be viewed from two perspectives, that of economic activities that depend on the living ocean, such as fishing, and that of economic activities that rely on the dead ocean, such as transportation. 

He emphasised the importance of keeping the living ocean going, owing to the number of benefits gleaned from this.

He noted that humans used the resources from the live ocean, and then ultimately returned it back as waste, which was not sustainable, and would lead to them killing the source of benefits.

Sumalia said that focus must be on how to use the resources to benefit as many as possible. For Africa specifically, he said that the continent must look to ensure that its fisheries actually worked for its people, rather than both the resources and money gained from it being taken away.

“The goal should be to help Africa manage its oceans sustainability, for its people,” he emphasised.

OceanHub Africa CEO and cofounder Alexis Grosskopf mentioned the importance of innovation, as this could provide a tool to ensure that polices around ocean sustainability were implemented, and could enable people on the continent to capitalise on the wealth of opportunities presented.