Concerns raised on economic viability of water resources
With rising use of high seas to transport narcotics and global warming, the future seems gloomy, warn experts
The just concluded Blue Economy conference in Nairobi, highlighted the growing stature of marine resources, particularly their sustainable use, on the global economies.
Oceans, seas, lakes and rivers are crucial in provision of food and livelihoods as well as major means of transport and logistics for international trade. However, concerns surrounding their sustainability mainly arising from over-fishing, pollution and the adverse effects of climate change that is threatening the coral life, has compelled the world to pause and reflect on how these vital resources can be conserved for posterity.
Besides, the rising use of high seas to transport narcotics and other contrabands, denying countries billions in revenue is also a threat to the economic viability of our water bodies. Understandably, this was one of top agenda items that the forum sought to address.
During the conference, President Uhuru Kenyatta led other heads of state and leaders of government delegations in committing to join hands to conserve marine resources, boost security in the high seas and tightly regulate the fishing industry.
“We have paid inadequate attention to the impact of human action on the health and productivity of our waters. Many of the ocean systems are under immense stress. We have convened here today to commit to innovative and transformative ways of using and sustaining our oceans, seas and rivers,” President Kenyatta said when he opened the three-day conference.
Sweden led other countries in pledging their support for the newly formed World Bank trust fund aimed at helping developing countries especially in Sub-saharan Africa to manage marine litter.
The European nation pledged Sh3.3 billion to the fund that is set to help Kenya and other African countries to conserve their oceans, seas and marine resources.
Illegal trade on the African waters costs the continent billions of shillings with Kenya alone losing about Sh10 billion a year to foreign boats fishing without permission, according to government data.
Experts say while water transport remains a convenient way of moving huge cargo across the globe, the vast distances across the high seas call for increased corporation between countries in order to effectively police the channels and curb rampant illicit trade while enhancing global commerce.
Kenya has signed a military deal to share intelligence with France, Madagascar, Seychelles, Djibouti, Tanzania and Somalia in efforts to curb illegal fishing as well as narcotics and contraband along the Indian Ocean.
The marine security deal came a week after the launch of the historic Kenya Coast Guards Service highlighting the country's resolve to curb illegal fishing and narcotic trade. Experts say African countries that are yet to have their own coast guards are left exposed to the threat of pirates intercepting ships in the high seas, a phenomenon that has in the past led to losses running into millions of shillings.
A report by The Contact Group on Piracy off the Coast of Somalia said the war against pirates cost about Sh140 billion last year.
The report further showed that the economic cost of piracy caused by groups in Somalia increased to $1.7 billion (Sh170 billion) in 2016, from $1.3 billion (Sh130 billion) in 2015.
Another hot topics at the conference was the issue of food and livelihood, especially relating to the fishing industry, which has faced a number of hurdles. About two million Kenyans depend on fishing with over three billion people globally relying on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods.
In Kenya, one of the challenges that has always been cited is under-sized fishing nets around the Lake Victoria basin. This has continued to damage fish stocks, especially smaller immature ones. It is a major threat to the sustainable use of our fish resources, as Kenya together with its counterparts on the continent lose trillions of shillings every year to the vice and destruction of mangroves.
Data by the UN Economic Commission for Africa shows that Africa loses Sh4.3 trillion annually to illegal fishing and logging of mangroves along the coast.
Over-exploitation and un-regulated use of these resources coupled with the climate change, however, threaten the future generations, with World Bank warning of a bleak future.
Greenhouse gas emissions from the world's factories and industries are leading to high temperatures of the ocean and sea, killing the coral life which is a key source of food for fish.
Ms Saddia Koro from Tana River County stands next to a display of various foodstuff during the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference at KICC in Nairobi on November 28.