Participation of students from Calabar University, Nigeria, in the Mundus maris Awards to celebrate World Oceans Day this year triggered a spike of interest also among researchers and faculty at the university. That offered a welcome opportunity to our Vice President, Prof. Stella Williams, and her colleague in Calabar, Prof. Francis E. Asuquo, to explore what to do together about promoting ocean literacy and engagement for conservation and sustainable use. That resulted in a one-day Seminar on Ocean Conservation and Sustainability with some 230 participants.

Organised by the Faculty of Oceanography and the Institute of Oceanography in Collaboration with the University of Calabar Centre of Teaching and Learning Excellence on Tuesday, 9th October, 2018 at the Senate Chamber. The event marked the start of the 2018/2019 programme of the Platform of Marine Atmosphere and Coastal Ocean Research Network (MACORN) - a non-profit Ocean conservation network based in the Faculty of Oceanography.

From left to right: Prof. Stella Williams with Prof. Uche Amalu (DVC, Academic) rep. of the VC of University of Calabar, Prof. Francis Emile Asuquo (Coordinator, MACORN-UNICAL), Prof. Paul Ajah (HOD, Fisheries and Aquaculture) and Prof. (Mrs.) Grace Eno Nta (Director, Centre for Teaching & Learning Excellence, University of Calabar, Nigeria).The seminar aimed at raising ocean literacy among the wider public to create understanding for the role of the ocean in essential life support mechanisms and services and trigger more engagement for study and protection. The opening ceremony was graced by high-level academics acknowledging the important role of ocean research and sustainable use.

Prof. Asuquo, the Coordinator of MACORN, UNICAL led the substantive presentations by enumerating the activities of the network, its global visibility and international awards won by the Diploma students in Marine Science. He enumerated the objectives and ativities of MACORN which include
- Monitoring and surveillance of coastal and open ocean degradation and contamination,
- Engagement in ocean literacy campaigns,
- Participation in world ocean symposia and World Oceans Day activities,
- Establishment of marine observatory in West Africa,
- Fast-track staff-students exchange programmes,
- Engagement in Ocean Conservation and sustainability programmes worldwide and
- Support to the implementation of SDGs 13 and 14, adopted by the UN as a pathway to make the world a better place by 2030.

The establishment of youth clubs on ocean conservation and sustainability is one of the means of implementation.

Prof. Stella WilliamsThe high point of the Seminar was the presentation by the Guest Speaker and Vice President of Mundus maris asbl, Brussels, Prof. Stella Williams on “Connecting with the Oceans”. Prof. Williams elaborated on the vision and mission of the organisation, which focuses on investing in people, connecting to the ocean and building bridges between global agenda and local work experiences. She underlined that Mundus maris is committed to providing easier access to scientific and relevant indigenous knowledge and encourages artistic expression of the sea to promote its restoration, conservation and sustainable use. That requires study and understanding aquatic ecosystems and cultural diversity and collaboration based on mutual respect and trust.

The presenter took time to appreciate the work of Prof. Sieghard Holzloehner of the Institute of Oceanography, especially in the area of human resource development e.g. through support for young Nigerian scholars through pursuing studies in Germany. The slides are available here.

At the front row are (from the left) Prof. Eyo E. Antai (HOD), Biological Oceanography Department, Prof. Francis Nwosu of the Biological Oceanography Dept, Faculty of Oceanography and Prof. Sieghard Holzlohner of the Institute of Oceanography, UNICALAt the end of the Seminar the participants agreed on the following:

  1. That Mundus maris asbl and the MACORN of UNICAL should collaborate strongly through joint activities on Ocean conservation; the two organisations were invited to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU)
  2. That Mundus maris asbl and MACORN UNICAL, should collaborate with the Nigerian Conservation Foundation to incorporate Ocean conservation into programmes and activities of the Nigerian Conservation where they are currently lacking.
  3. That MACORN UNICAL grow her membership both within and outside the university by encouraging ocean lovers to register and financially contribute to activities of the network
  4. That MACORN UNICAL bring the awareness on ocean conservation to the grassroots through networking with young stars in the primary and secondary school levels by way of Ocean conservation clubs and actions
  5. There was also a call for a close collaboration between Science and Arts for a multi-disciplinary research for better understanding and appreciation of the ocean as a living entity that can spell doom or die if badly managed.
  6. Finally, a strong call was made for government to intervene more pro-actively in ocean governance through enforcement of regulations and laws on ocean resource conservation including fisheries.

Prof. Francis Emile Asuquo, Coordinator MACORN with the students representatives of MACORN and Mundus Maris asblAbout 230 participants from relevant faculties and departments of the university as well as government ministries, parastatals and agencies in Calabar. Prominent participants among them were the Vice Chancellor, represented by the Deputy Vice Chancellor (Academic), Prof. Uche C. Amalu, Deans of Faculties of Basic Medical Sciences, Oceanography and Social Sciences, Prof. Eyong U. Eyong, Prof. A. Ekanem and Prof. Ayara respectively, Director, Institute of Oceanography, Prof. E.R. Akpan, and Heads of Departments from the University among whom were Prof. E.E. Antia, Prof. E.E. Antai, Prof. P.O. Ajah, and Dr. J.D. Nanjwan of Physical Oceanography, Biological Oceanography, Fisheries and Aquaculture, and Special Education departments respectively. Others were Prof S. Holzloehner of the Institute of Oceanography, Mr. Biodun Oluwadare of the Federal Department of Fisheries, Mrs. Maria Oga Ojugbo, Director, Fisheries Development Division, Ministry of Agriculture, Calabar, Cross River State, Nigeria and Mr. Emmanuel Owan of the Nigerian Conservation Foundation, Nigeria. 

The Communique at the end of the seminar was presented by Prof. E.E. Antai and vote of thanks given by the Director, Institute of Oceanography, Prof. E.R. Akpan.

We particularly thank Prof. Francis E. Asuquo for tireless efforts in ocean study and conservation and promoting national and international cooperation. We look forward to developing this collaboration further as recommended by this meeting.

Students active in MACORN and having participated in the youth contest for Mundus maris Awards to celebrate World Oceans Day 2018 and some of their academic teachers.