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

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - BUSINESS - BY JOHN MU­TUA jmu­[email protected]­tion­media.com

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.

FRAN­CIS NDERITU | NA­TION

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.

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