With fisheries and aquaculture emerging as transformational forces for African economies, more needs to be done to mitigate the impacts of climate change and illegal fishing.
Article continues below
This was the key message FAO Director-General José Graziano da Silva delivered to leaders at the African Ministerial Conference on Ocean Economies and Climate Change in Mauritius today. The conference will identify opportunities to enhance Africa's ability to build climate-resilient ocean economies.
"Healthy and productive oceans are critical for combatting rural poverty, ensuring food security, improving nutrition and achieving Zero Hunger," he said.
"Stakeholders from fishing, shipping, energy generation and tourism, to list a few, require responsive and innovative solutions to turn climate change impacts into opportunities," according to Graziano da Silva.
African nations are increasingly realizing the critical need to diversify beyond land-based activities and build their country's often rich relationships with the sea, the FAO leader said. But that relationship is becoming less and less predictable due to environmental changes.
"Coastal communities are already being affected by a combination of ocean warming, rising sea levels, extreme weather events, salt-water intrusions, ocean acidification and subsequent changes to the resources they depend on for food and livelihoods," Graziano da Silva noted.
And yet, attention to climate change impacts on the ocean has lagged behind concerns for impacts on land and atmosphere.
This will have to change in order to unlock the full potential of blue growth in broader marine and maritime economies, and prevent others from losing their existing livelihoods, Graziano da Silva said.
The FAO Director-General underscored the disproportionate impacts on Small Island Developing States, saying that "For SIDS countries, this has become a fight for survival."
In these countries, coastal communities are not only more dependent on natural resources but also less able to adapt to change - particularly those in Africa, he said.
Climate change is not the only challenge to coastal nations seeking to unleash their true blue potential.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing puts additional stress on oceans and marine resources, siphoning off billions worldwide in government revenue in the process.
For this reason, FAO has been urging governments to sign on to the international Port State Measures Agreement that recently entered in to force and will play a key role in combatting illegal fishing and improving fisheries management. ■