Dr. Nathaniel Blama, executive director of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has called on stakeholders to exercise their willpower in combating climate change and protecting the marine ecosystem.
Blama who chaired the National Steering Committee of the Blue Ocean Conference stressed the need to monitor and address climate change and marine pollution.
He made the remarks on March 22 at the end of a two-day Blue Oceans Conference organized through a joint effort of the Government of Liberia, the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia and Conservation International (CI) with funding from the Swedish Government.
“We are going to examine innovative means to mitigate the flow of pollution from land to ocean, and we will continue to outline further plans for the West African community to come together to preserve our fish stocks and prevent illegal fishing,” Blama said.
To achieve these goals, Blama said, requires the collective effort, and the willpower by decision makers.
“The bottom line is that none of what we are working towards is not beyond our capacity. This is not a question; what we do is a question of the willpower to do what we know we can do better. And if we make the right choices by setting the right priorities to respond timely to the same understanding that saving our ocean is not just an option, but an absolute necessity. Therefore, we will get there,” he said.
Blama said the conference came at a time the country is combating a plethora of environmental phenomenon, including climate change that is resulting to rising ocean tides, and leading to rapid sea erosion; compounded with human induced environmental shenanigans such as marine pollution caused by disposal of toxic waste, ocean acidification and illegal fishing.
“Beaches in Monrovia and other settlements are often used as latrines and dump sites where non-biodegradable substance such as plastic, fishing nets and other chemicals are disposed. The conference “offers an opportunity to raise awareness, increase care and concern, fund-raise for and develop partnerships around improving Liberia and West Africa’s ocean space,” he said.
Acting Swedish Ambassador to Liberia Elisabeth Harleman, pledged her government’s support to Liberia and noted that Sweden has committed to support the country with more than US$130 million for the period 2016 to 2020 toward peace and nation building, including strengthening public institutions and natural resource management.
She said further that Sweden’s effort in promoting a blue economy and the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals #14, includes supporting and organizing of the New York 2017 conference.
CI-Liberia Country Director, Jessica Donovan-Allen, said that the organization is bringing its global expertise to work in ten coastal communities in Liberia to create sustainable livelihoods, fisheries, and mangrove conservation. “We are working to reverse harmful cycles and find sustainable alternatives,” she said.
She said that as a daughter of a fisherman, she is aware of the value of Coastal Conservation, adding, “my family’s livelihood rose and fell with the tide, but it was—and it remains—the action or inaction of businesses, governments, and policymakers that most affect the relationship between oceans and the people connected to them through their livelihoods.”
Mrs. Donavan-Allen noted that Liberia has one of the last remaining in-tact coastal ecosystems in the region and called for a concerted effort in conserving it.
She lamented that “as Liberia’s beaches are used as dump-sites and bathrooms, as plastics wash ashore, as fish stocks are decimated by chemicals, dynamite, and mosquito nets, if we lose these natural resources, how do we not also lose ourselves?”
She then pledged CI support to Liberia’s fight in conserving and ensuring a blue ocean and added that all stakeholders have an imperative to reverse mismanagement. “We need to find and scale alternatives that are currently unavailable to 70 percent of Liberia’s population living along this coastline. It must act on national policies for sustainable development.”
At the end of the conference, the Government of Liberia and its Partners adopted a Call for Action, based on the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) of the United Nations 2030 Agenda, the UN Ocean Decade, the 2015 Paris Agreement, and Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy (AIMS) to preserve the coastal and ocean environment.
This, according to them, will strengthen partnerships for development, to help end poverty, and to enhance maritime viability for a prosperous Liberia and West Africa.
“We recognize that water covers more than two-thirds of the earth’s surface and affects life everywhere. Our ocean supplies nearly half of the oxygen we need, absorbs one-fourth of the carbon dioxide we produce and plays a vital role in the climate system and water cycle,” one of the panelists who read the “Call for Action” statement on behalf of the BOC steering committee.
The committee also called on the governments, regional bodies and other relevant stakeholders to commit Liberia and other West African countries to tackle illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing, by acceding to and implementing the Port State Measures Agreement and implementing monitoring control surveillance (MCS) activities.