The Gulf of Guinea Commission has made a strong case for concerted efforts on the part of the governments and citizens of countries within the Gulf of Guinea towards the protection of the region’s Blue Economy to forestall the devastating effects of the looming food insecurity in the region.

Executive Secretary of the commission, Florentina Ukonga, who spoke at the ongoing two-day seminar organised in conjunction with the Nigerian Maritime Administration and Safety Agency NIMASA in Lagos with the theme: ‘The Blue Economy in the interest of food security’, observed that the exploitation of hydro-carbon  resources with its earth-shaking changes has brought about unpleasant developments for the maritime domain of the region, which have dire consequences for the vast majority of the people.

She also observed that the exploitation of hydro-carbon has brought about pollution of the environment, killing of living marine resources, thus depriving the communities of their age-long first profession of being good fishermen, as there were virtual loss of marine resources.

According to her, increased sea transportation has also brought about piracy, as the heavy traffic of ocean liners with hydro-carbon and other goods have encouraged the development of other activities for those who found themselves either shut out from the increased riches of the region or those who wanted to be part of the new wealth, even if it is in an illegal manner.

These developments, she however regretted were worsened by the seeming sea blindness of those that are in government in the region, who encourage security measures on the land while neglecting the sea, which has made the maritime domain of the Gulf of Guinea region a safe haven for illegal activities of arms trafficking, illegal immigration, human trafficking, drug trafficking and other types of trafficking, among several other vices.

She therefore noted that it has become expedient for countries in the region to begin to take concrete and deliberate steps to develop, protect and harness the wealth embedded in the region’s Blue Economy, arguing that since 71 per cent of the earth surface is covered by water, no food security is sustainable without protecting the oceans.

“The Blue Economy is an economy based on legitimate economic activities carried out at sea, provided by the sea ans sustained by the sea. How then do we take full advantage of the vase resources of our region to improve the standards of living of the population?.

‘Fishing is an occupation practiced by almost all riverine populations. Artisanal fishing for maintaining self and the family and commercial fishing for providing other goods and services that may be needed. This can be developed to the level that no importation of frozen marine living resources from outside the Gulf of Guinea region will be necessary for consumption if our living marine resources are properly developed, harnessed, grown and controlled.

“There is strong evidence that major ocean assets have been in steady decline for many years, many of the living marine resources are in serious decline as a result of human activities at sea and there have not been any serious sustainable practices to deal with this serious threat in this part of the country.

“The Blue Economy is already faltering and not delivering anything like its full potential at a time when the population is on the increase and the need for food and resources from the ocean is also increasing. It has been projected that the population will continue to increase, which requires us to do more for the oceans’ sustainability in order to have food on our table, most especially, the people of the coastal states in Africa that rely so much on the nutrients, which they get from the living marine resources”, she also said.

Meanwhile, Director General of NIMASA, Dr. Dakuku Peterside, who was represented at the event by the Executive Director, Finance and Administration, Dr. Bashir Jamoh, restated that the Federal Government of Nigeria is committed to the development of the Blue Economy in Nigeria.