Windhoek — Minister of Fisheries and Marine Resources, Berhard Esau, has reiterated that Namibia is committed to a regional approach in achieving a healthy ocean.
Esau made the remarks in Berlin, Germany, on Wednesday, when delivering the keynote address during the closing plenary session of the Marine Regions Forum, which comprises experts on ocean matters from across the world.
The forum is considering options for enhancing a regional approach to ocean governance, with a view to achieving a healthy global ocean.
"We are in this together, this is not an issue of them versus us, the health of our oceans affects all mankind. Let us work together to save the health of our oceans," Esau told the gathering.
An Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Report on the Ocean, released on 24 September warned that the world's oceans are in danger, specifically from effects of climate change caused by greenhouse gas emissions, leading to acidification, rise in sea surface temperatures, increase in dead zones, loss of biodiversity, migrations of fish and other marine life, and rising sea levels. The oceans are also in danger from loss of biodiversity caused by illegal, unregulated and unreported (IUU) fishing and overfishing, especially due to harmful fishing subsidies by distant waters fishing nations. Furthermore, the oceans are also in danger from pollution with plastics, dumping of nutrients and toxic substances.
Said Esau: "I think that part of the reason why we do not have many concrete actions to save the oceans across the world is because politicians like myself, and indeed the common person on the street, do not understand the message coming from the scientists on the oceans' dire situation. I think scientists and ocean experts need to talk less with each other, and more with the policy makers, or rather politicians, ordinary people on the street, and in the villages, on this matter. Instead of telling them that the ocean is 'undergoing acidification', which they do not understand, let's say that 'the ocean is turning to something like soda water'. Let us go beyond the concepts of 'migration of fish and dead zones in the ocean', and talk about food security, how much economic value will be lost, and how many livelihoods will be affected by the changes in the ocean. This is the language that policy makers understand, and also the person in the village, who is a voter and hence matters most to politicians." He added that in view of the oceans' inter-connectivity, it is only natural to work in a regional way to address the challenges facing the oceans as no one country can address the problems of the oceans alone, not even the ocean problems located in one exclusive economic zone.
Esau stressed that countries and regions must work together to avoid the dire global impacts of climate change on oceans.
He suggested that work to conserve the oceans should start with regional fisheries management organisations (RFMOs), despite their current weaknesses. "Let us consider a regional definition wider than RFMOs, maybe to include ocean ecosystem blocks, in line with current research on ocean current flows, and perhaps regional economic blocks, considering that high seas are a heritage to all mankind," Esau proposed.
He noted that Namibia believes that ocean sustainability issues are regional and global, and are hence best solved through international collaboration.
"We therefore support the initiative by Germany and the EU to encourage a regional approach towards achieving a healthy ocean," Esau stated.