President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo has asked experts in the marine life and oceans to propose policies that will help protect Ghana's, including Africa's oceans and marine life.
The ocean, President Akufo-Addo emphasised, "is the life blood of our planet, covering some 70% of the earth's surface" and generates half of [the world's] oxygen supply, drives the global economy through transport and trade, and provides food and livelihoods, as well as "cultural and recreational value for billions of people around the world."
That, he pointed out was imperative all was done to preserve and protect the ocean and all its resources.
Speaking on Wednesday, 31 May 2023, on the theme; "Our Ocean's Health, Our Prosperity, Our Planet's Security" at the National Blue Economy Summit held in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said the ocean, however, was changing" because "it is under increasing pressure from unsustainable fishing practices, pollution, marine debris, habitat loss, ocean acidification and of course, climate change".
The consequences of neglecting the ocean, he stressed are dire not just for the millions of people who depend on it for their livelihoods, but also for the health of our planet.
"We need to take decisive actions now to safeguard the oceans capacity to regenerate and continue to deliver substantial economic, environmental and social value for our development" President Akufo-Addo told participants of the summit.
State of Ghana's Ocean
Touching on the importance of the ocean to Ghana, President Akufo-Addo said country's "coastline is some 550 km, extending to some 200 nautical miles sea-wood, making up a total exclusive economic zone area of some 218,000 square kilometres," and its costal area home to some 7.5 million people'.
Like many other coastal African countries, the blue economy provides Ghanaians with food, employment and income. For instance, some 10% of the country's workforce is employed in the fishing sector which also accounts for 4.5% of the country's GDP.
Additionally, 70% of Ghana's trade is carried by sea through the ports of Tema and Takoradi. We are well positioned to benefit from the ocean resources if sustainably managed," President Akufo-Addo said.
Sadly, the President said Ghana's coastal and marine resources faces significant threats from pollution, biodiversity loss, ocean dumping, over fishing, and other marine threats, including overexploitation, illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing, piracy and trafficking" he added.
The threats according to President Akufo-Addo "are avoidable" and as the nation fails to deal with challenges, "the livelihoods of many people, food security prospects, critical infrastructure, important ecosystems the security and stability of the entire region" would be seriously threatened.
Five-point Ocean agenda
To this end, President Akufo-Addo proposed a five-point agenda for urgent action at the both the country and continental levels, in order to protect the ocean, the planet and the wellbeing of all.
"Firstly, we have to prioritise sustainable management of our oceans. This means establishing and enforcing a robust regulation to prevent over fishing and promote responsible fishing practices.
"We must work closely with our international partners as well to establish marine protected areas, safeguarding critical habitats and promoting biodiversity conservation.
"Secondly, we have to deepen our strategic partnerships and build a progressive coalition for enhanced ocean health and the accelerated development of our communities and country at large. The central role of the private sector, academia, civil society organisations and community leaders including community leaders is key in this regard.
"Thirdly, we must be deliberate in ensuring greater and smarter investments into ocean action. Ghana's ocean scape is financed largely through public philanthropic resources while Ghana's private capital investment landscape in the past decade has seen significant growth, not much of capital is deployed to the blue economy. To attract private capital into more sustainable marine based projects, we must encourage private, public partnerships.
"Fourthly, we have to invest in research and technological advancements and innovation. The challenges facing our oceans are vast and complex, from the warming of our planet to the degradation of marine ecosystems, we are witnessing the consequences of human activity. By harnessing the power of research and innovation, we can navigate these challenges and pave the way for a brighter future.
"Lastly, we have to recognise the interconnectivity of our global community and the need for international collaboration. The challenges facing the ocean transcends borders and no single nation can tackle them alone. By fostering international cooperation, sharing data and research findings, and collaborating on joint projects, we can leverage the collective wisdom and expertise of nations worldwide".
"Together, we can drive innovation, develop sustainable solutions and address the pressing issues that threaten the ocean. The ocean is the life source of our planet, a health ocean, human wellbeing and sustainable ocean management are inseparably interconnected" the President remarked.
The National Blue Economy Summit is aimed at mobilising transformative ocean action to achieve the United Nations (UN) Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The NBES also aims to provide an opportunity to bring national attention to the importance of ocean action for achieving the SDGs.
Organisers are also seeking to engage with key stakeholders to mobilize action to sustainably manage 100% of Ghana's national waters and to foster entrepreneurship and innovation to drive smart solutions to the challenges facing the ocean.
The summit organizers expect an outcome document that will drive the mainstreaming of ocean action in national development, bridge the gap between academic research findings and industry and establish an annual summit in Ghana.