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Celebrating World Ocean Day 2023 in Lagos, Nigeria

Collaboration gives strength. On this strength tested last year, Fish Party Nigeria, Mundus maris and the Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technologies (FCFMT) in Victoria Island celebrated World Ocean Day online again to enable participation from a large area without increasing CO2 emissions.

Never an easy technical undertaking under current conditions, Mrs. AyoJesutomi Abiodun Solanke from Mundus maris and FCFMT ably moderated the event not to be thrown off course by temporary electricity hick-ups. And a nice event it was under this year's UN motto 'Planet Ocean: Tides are Changing'. We all hope they are changing for the better after several important wins in the last 12 months.

These concern, primarily reducing harmful fisheries subsidies through a treaty at the World Trade Organization (WTO), where negotiations are still ongoing for a second round to close some gaping loopholes. The other major ones are about stopping the on-going species mass extinction through protecting biodiversity on 30% of the land and 30% of the ocean by 2030 - known to many as the 30x30 agreement. They cover national exclusive economic zones (EEZs) and the High Seas - the latter is the famous BBNJ (Biodiversity Beyond National Jurisdiction).

All successfully negotiated treaties now need urgent ratification and implementation. Last, but not least, the ongoing negotiations to curb ubiquitous plastic pollution aiming at a binding international treaty by end 2024 is making progress, despite the challenging practicalities which should be dwarfed by the urgency to protect nature and public health from the harmful effects e.g. of microplatic now in all food chains and more.

Participants constituted invitees from Federal College of Fisheries and Marine Technology (FCFMT), Victoria Island, Lagos, industry experts from Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF), stakeholders in the fisheries industry. Besides, all ocean enthusiasts and interested people were welcome and several registered via the Eventbrite website.

Dr. Stella Williams, Vice-President of Mundus maris and on assignment in Argentina sent her warmest greetings in an introductory statement.

The first speaker, Mr Oladoye David, a medical student who is also an aqua-culturist, marine enthusiast and a member of Fish Party Ng., delivered a lecture on the theme of the day. He reminded the audience that the idea for an ocean day dated back to the Rio Earth Summit in 1992. The UN General Assembly in 2009 officially established it to be celebrated each year on 8 June.

He enumerated the importance of the ocean as a major oxygen provider, a climate regulator; impacting the weather and climate, as an economic hub for harvesting living resources, precious non-living resources, and maritime trade and commerce. Mr. David warned that many forms of irresponsible and unsustainable practices were starting to come back to haunt humans as a result of diminished nature services and concerns for public health. “Micro plastics consumed and stored in tissues of smaller fishes end up on the plate of humans causing severe conditions,” he emphasized. The lecture encouraged everyone to recycle plastics rather than dumping them, to advocate and enlighten others while we push for legislation and enforcement for mitigating the dangers and realize a "positive changing tide."


For the second lecture, the organisers were pleased to have an industry expert on board, Mr. Dotun Adekumisi, a Fisheries officer of the Monitoring, Control and Surveillance Division at the Federal Department of Fisheries in Lagos. He focused on the Menace of Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) Fishing in the context of the Blue Economy. Blue Economy according to the World Bank is the sustainable use of coastal and marine natural resources for economic growth while sustaining the costal and marine resources. In the Gulf of Guinea, it is reported that USD 200 million are lost to IUU fishing. The goal of fisheries management is to ensure sustained economic benefits from the country’s waters. To ensure this, the Sea Fisheries Act was enacted in 1971. Its version reviewed in 1992 is still in use till today even though conditions have changed since.

The speaker attributed the causes of IUU Fishing to the growing demand of fish and seafood products, difficult economic and social circumstances, weak legislation and regulatory systems, lack of proper monitoring, control and surveillance activities, and lack of political will. IUU Fishing exacerbates food insecurity, loss of livelihoods and state revenue, fish stock depletion and weaknesses in management data. It's an issue with wide-ranging ramifications for Nigerian citizens and the authorities and needs concerted and sustained efforts to reduce the incentives as well as strengthening law enforcement.

Mr. Francis Emmanuel Mautin, a student of FCFMT, concluded the panel with a lecture on marine pollution. Sources of marine pollution are for example land runoff leading to algal bloom, direct discharge from sewage, industrial and mining activities, atmospheric pollution, shipping activities and deep-sea mining activities. Like the previous speaker, he also highlighted ways to help the ocean with recovery and preventive measures.

Following on from a lively Q&A Session, Mr. Idowu Huyinbo, convener of Fish Party Assembly, gave the closing remark. He invited participants to consider the three key challenges of the ocean, overfishing, climate change and pollution, as a shared responsibility, and not leave it solely to regulatory agencies or the government to address these. Civil society organisation should engage in advocacy online and where ever their members may find themselves.

He advocated the need for an Ocean and Resources Improvement Project to include restoration, protection and responsible use of fisheries resources including data collection, analysis and research for assessments, monitoring, information dissemination, regulation and enforcement. 

All in all some 45 participants benefited directly from the event braving the network difficulties and strengthening their resolve to keep working for healthy seas and healthy people.