Africa: Liberia to Host West Africa's First Blue Oceans Conference

The Government of Liberia in partnership with the Embassy of Sweden in Monrovia and Conservation International will hold a Blue Oceans Conference in Monrovia from March 18 - 21, 2019.

According to a release, this is the first environmental and marine conference in West Africa, representing a historic moment for the country.

"This conference provides a platform to identify ground-breaking solutions to ensure the sustainable management of our ecosystem. Protecting our beaches, coastal and marine resources are key to our survival as a nation and it's in direct alignment with Liberia National Development Agenda; the Pro-Poor Agenda for Prosperity and Development there is no time for excuses." said Nathaniel Blama, the Executive Director of the Environmental Protection Agency, speaking on behalf of the government's Steering Committee which he chairs along with Liberia Maritime Authority (LiMA) and the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA).

The ocean has a large depository of plastic debris and other pollutants including riverine discharges, agricultural, sediment, solid waste and agricultural run-offs. In addition, coastal and marine habitats and resources are under threat from pollution, over-harvesting of resources, inappropriate development in the coastal zone, and poor inland and land-based management.

Most of the Liberian population lives within 30 miles of the coast where they are increasingly vulnerable to climate change. Challenges associated with climate change and ocean acidification require enhanced vulnerability and impact assessments, mitigation and adaptation plans, resilience building and disaster risk reduction strategies. The conference will build on the impact being made thus far and increase the likelihood of furthering the policies needed to address climate change.

West Africa is rich in marine resources but often much of the potential benefits from fisheries do not flow back into the region. The fishing sector must be built on thriving, diverse ecosystems and governance structures and fisheries management must support the interests of Liberians.

The call for a "Blue Economy" will focus on the decoupling of socio-economic development from environmental degradation. Two particularly significant pieces of current and future blue economic growth across in Liberia are tourism and shipping. We will continue to work on using the ocean as a key resource for Liberia's economy.

This conference comes at a great time as Liberia is looking towards diversifying the economy for broader growth. "Building off the momentum of the conferences in both New York and Nairobi, we are excited to take the conversation forward and look at practical next steps for West Africa's Ocean Conservation. This is a major opportunity for Liberia to join global efforts to conserve our oceans," said Conservation International Liberia Country Director, Jessica Donovan.

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