African Scientists Brainstorm on Emerging Ocean Problems

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African scientists brainstorm on Oceans acidification in Monrovia.

A steering committee of the Ocean Acidification (OA), which comprises a group of African scientists, under the banner of the Global Ocean Acidification Observing Network (GOA-ON), on Friday, March 22, met in Monrovia to discuss emerging aspects from the effects of OA with multi-stressors (multiple environmental factors), review global status and forecast capabilities as well as explore opportunities for capacity development.

Ocean acidification, often referred to as “the other CO2 problem,” is a major threat to marine ecosystems worldwide, and is the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.3, which to better understand ocean acidification’s impacts on industry, increase coordination across nations and stakeholders, and highlight the widespread recognition of the threat of OA to the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems.

Mrs. Nayrah Shaltout, said GOA-ON relies on international collaboration to share data, and understand the global ecological impacts of OA).

According to her, GOA-ON membership extends across disciplines, countries, socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity.

Madam Shaltout said that the Pier2Peer is a scientific mentorship program that matches senior researchers with early career scientists to facilitate an exchange of expertise, and to provide a platform for international collaborations.

She added, “Pier2Peer employs an adaptive and self-driven approach to capacity development with guiding principles to focus on user needs at the local, regional, national, and international level and to foster inter-regional and global collaboration.”

Madam Shaltout said the coastal and ocean systems are important for the economies and livelihoods of African countries, which are over exploitation of resources, habitat degradation, and loss of biodiversity.

According to her, the implementation and  dissemination of the indicator methodology (IOC-UNESCO custodian agency), provides guidance on how to carry out measurements following the best practices established by experts in the ocean acidification community, and explains how to report the collected information is at the core of GOA-ON and its activities.

Peter Swarzenski, who spoke on the UN SDG 14.3 process, said GOA-ON focused on providing actionable information for decision makers.

He said the scope of the session was to discuss how ocean acidification and ecosystem response information is currently used and how GOA-ON might improve access to information needed by decision makers.

On the global scale, Mr. Swarzenski said they welcome the contributions on development of GOA-ON products within the context of the UN SDG 14.3 target (2030 Agenda).

He said GOA-ON they will  support aquaculture and fisheries industries to adapt to and mitigate negative impacts and increase local knowledge to understand regional vulnerability to ocean acidification. “We welcome contributions on effective ways to communicate ocean acidification to enhance engagement,” Swarzenski added.

Sheck Sherif, Conservation International (CI) Marine Fellow and Consultant said, “we are here as African states – partners and stakeholders in recognition of the fact that our oceans, and the life they sustain, face threats more severe than at any time in our history. And as West African nations, it is critical that we lead the charge in advancing the responsible stewardship of our oceans and the sustainable management of our ocean resources.

“We are here because we owe a duty to our citizens – especially to the coastal communities. Not only to grow our economies and raise their standards of living, but to do one better and give full consideration to the impacts that our development has on our oceans and the life that they sustained.”

Sherif, who is a Liberian and Ph.D. Researcher at the School of Natural and Built Environment at Queen’s University Belfast, said any measure taken to make development more sustainable is ultimately in the best interest of any national economy and every global citizen.

He said the growing threat to “our ocean is affecting every person on earth, and the movement towards more “blue” economies is global.

“We need to apply that global perspective – that wealth of knowledge and experiences – to our own efforts to manage our oceans and marine resources in a more sustainable manner.

We need to find ways – together – to usher in new technologies, business models and industries that work to restore the health of our oceans and advance the objectives of blue economic development. But that is all part of a larger effort – the global effort – to reverse the steady degradation that has ravaged our seas and oceans for decades.

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