Accounting for about 70% of the earth’s surface, oceans provide a critical lifeblood across the planet. In addition to being home to a rich yet still largely unknown marine biodiversity, oceans significantly contribute to human development and equally play a key role in regulating the ecological balances of the earth.
In West Africa, coastal and marine resources are the bedrock of economic and social development at the country level. As a matter of fact, coastal areas contribute nearly 56% of the region’s GDP, with annual catches from legal fishing in West African waters amounting to more than 1.6 million of tons, to which must be added the significant income generated through sea ports operations, agribusiness activities, tourist sectors and offshore oil platforms.
Yet, in spite of such sizeable benefits, 40% of oceans remain severely affected by human activities. This situation is particularly alarming in West Africa. The overexploitation of fishery resources, the discharge of plastic waste, chemical pollution, the introduction of invasive species, the destruction of habitats and the acidification of oceans are so many threats affecting the health of oceans and degrading the quality of services they provide to people.
Coupled with this are the effects of climate change, such as coastal erosion and floods, two phenomena whose consequences are compounded by unplanned urbanization.
In the face of these challenges, the international community resolved, through the Sustainable Development Objective (SDG) 14 dealing with oceans, to “conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development”. The oceans integrated management policy being developed region-wide for the Abidjan Convention captures a vision which is based on “clean and healthy oceans for the benefit of current and future generations within the Abidjan Convention region”.
The significance of the issue of healthy oceans is such that it requires particular attention in West Africa countries where livelihoods are largely dependent on access to coastal and marine resources. It is therefore important to undertake an awareness-raising work for all stakeholders in the region in order to ensure that coastal and marine resources are sustainably managed.