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AfricaMoney | August 18, 2017

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Ocean economy push: Africa must improve rules governing use of ocean & seas

Ocean economy push: Africa must improve rules governing use of ocean & seas

The government of Mauritius has declared the ocean economy as one of the main pillars of the economy, offering numerous opportunities such as a well-developed fisheries sector, innovating deep ocean water applications (DOWA), implementing commercial marinas, bunkering and aquaculture, amongst others. (Image: La Balise Marina)

Mauritius is likely to gain valuable insights on governance of its ocean economy from a recently released report by the Global Ocean Commission (GOC) that offers an opportunity for maritime stakeholders to improve the laws and regulations governing the use of the seas and oceans, especially for Africa.

Ocean governance is a crucial subject for Mauritius, where the government has declared the ocean economy as one of the main pillars of the economy, offering numerous opportunities such as a well-developed fisheries sector, innovating deep ocean water applications (DOWA), implementing commercial marinas, bunkering and aquaculture, amongst others.

What is especially positive for the island economy, and the continent overall, is that the organization GOC that is behind the report is co-chaired by former South African finance minister Trevor Manuel, who happens to be a strong advocate of improved ocean governance.

In this context, one of the points made by the GOC report, a proposal to scrap developed countries’ subsidizing of idle fleets of fishing vessels, is especially significant for Africa.

Africa has been struggling with the task of monitoring its territorial waters for criminal activities, and no regional or international organization has been able to help thus far.

However, the African Union has taken baby steps in that direction and the GOC report might give insights to the AU in terms of implementing its African Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS 2050) and enhancing Africa’s contribution towards robust ocean governance.

Accordingly, the GOC report starts on the somber note that the task of saving the global ocean is one that no government or company or individual can achieve alone but it is possible, even within the next decade itself, to reverse the degradation of the ocean.

“Our management of the oceans needs to change, and soon. Failure to do so will have a negative impact on human security and place health, food and environmental security under threat,” cautions the report.

The report postulates that to stop the abusive and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources and freedoms, and to restore ocean health, the world requires a coalition for change with a clear mission.

Mission Ocean is the name given to this call for action, which aims to prove to the world that not only is positive change possible, but also the present generation can leave the legacy of a healthy, vibrant ocean system to future generations.

The ocean governance regime envisioned by the GOC would occur through the creation of a UN Sustainable Development Goal for the Oceans, enhanced governance of high seas, ending the dumping of plastics in the sea and creating regeneration zones.

The GOC report, “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean” has ultimately been prepared for a renewed discussion on governing the oceans that will take place at the United Nations (UN) General Assembly later this year.

Although the ocean is often taken for granted, it is the world’s single largest ecosystem comprising 1.3 billion km3 of water and plays a central role in supporting all life on Earth.

Furthermore, one-third of the oil and one-quarter of the natural gas consumed in the world today come from underwater areas

Despite all that the ocean remains chronically undervalued, poorly managed and inadequately governed.

Developing improved policy is now a major challenge but hopefully, this time unlike the World Commission on the Oceans IWCO), which was sought to discuss the state of the oceans and recommended measures to ensure that current and future generations could make safe, secure and sustainable use of the oceans, the GOC report will not end up in a drawer or worse.

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