My attention was recently drawn to a statement credited to Minister of State for the Environment, Barr Sharon Ikeazor, and published in the Leadership Journal September 17, 20, p.14, captioned “Nigeria Lacks Areas marine protected despite 11,600 km 2 of coastline – Minister ”. It was further reported that the Minister observed that the lack of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) prompted the Federal Ministry of the Environment (FME) to initiate plans for a national mangrove restoration project to help fight against coastal erosion, restore polluted areas and protect marine animals.
The minister’s statement / lament is correct and well founded. What is incorrect in the minister’s statement, however, is the allusion to Nigeria having a coastline of 11,600 km2. This is incorrect for two reasons. First, Nigeria has a coastline of about 852 km and a sea area of about 170,400 km off the baseline. This represents about 18.5% of Nigeria’s landmass of 923,768 km2. It could also be correctly said that Nigeria’s maritime space is about one-fifth of Nigeria’s landmass, or that Nigeria’s land mass is about 5.4 times the size of its maritime space. All 3 representations of Nigeria’s land mass and sea area figures would be factually correct. Second, the unit of measure for maritime areas is nautical mile (nm), while the unit of measure for land areas is kilometer (km). A shoreline, as the name suggests, represents the length of the coast as a line. Although referring to a maritime stretch, km is often adopted against nm due to the land-sea interface along the coast. However, the unit “km2” is a product of the length and the width meaning the area of the delimited spaces, and not a line measure, as in the case of a coastline.
The fact of the non-existence of MPAs in Nigeria’s maritime domain became evident to me as I prepared to attend the First Global Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya in 2018, under the auspices of United Nations Development Program (UNDP). This discovery was made during the rapid study of British Admiralty map folios covering the maritime domain of Nigeria to identify and rank Nigeria’s MPAs in support of blue economy ideals, in preparation for the conference. Further consultation with experts from the FME and the Nigerian Institute of Oceanography and Marine Research (NIOMR) validated the observation that there are no MPAs or conservation lands similar to the loot or contaminated land mapped in Nigeria’s Inland Waters (IW) Jurisdictional Maritime Zones, Territorial Waters (TW), Contiguous Zone (CZ) and Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). Thus, the Minister’s claim is correct on this note.
In comparison, the MPA is to the hydrosphere what the Game Reserve Park (GRP) / Nature Conservation Area (NCA) is to the lithosphere. They must, by the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO) Chart Regulations, be designated and clearly indicated on large-scale charts covering the MPA location. This is because an MPA is no different from any other space on the high seas, unless it is studied and properly mapped so that mariners, especially fishermen / trawlers, stay outside the mapped area so that the flora and fauna of this protected ecosystem. to promote better yield, increased sustainability and avoid possible extinction of species.
According to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), an MPA is “a clearly defined, recognized, dedicated and managed geographical space, by legal or other means effective to achieve long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem and cultural services. values. “Ecosystem services refer to the 4 broad categories of benefits that humans derive from the natural environment and healthy ecosystems, namely provision, such as food and water; regulation, such as control. climate and disease; support, such as nutrient cycles and oxygen; and cultural, such as spiritual and recreational benefits.
The United Nations Protected Areas Database, which records MPAs submitted by countries, estimates that more than 17,000 MPAs protect more than 25 million square kilometers of ocean. This means that almost 7.5% of the ocean, an area the size of North America, is protected. However, the Marine Conservation Institute, in its Atlas of Marine Protection, provided 2.6% of the conservative ocean as being managed in true MPAs. Another important fact about MPA is that MPA is one of the ecological conservation tools known as Area Management Tools (ABMT) adopted for ocean sustainability. Different international maritime and sea-related organizations employ ABMT to administer different parts of the ocean as follows: Areas of Special Environmental Interest (APEI) adopted by the International Seabed Authority (ISA) for mining in the high seas of the Clarion Clipperton area (CCZ), Particularly Sensitive Sea Areas (PSSA) adopted by the International Maritime Organization (IMO) for global shipping routes, and the Marine Migratory Species Network (MMSN) adopted by the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) for the Convention on the Conservation of Migratory Species (CMS). Others are Ecologically or Biologically Significant Areas (EBSAs) adopted by UNEP for the Convention on Biodiversity (CBD), Vulnerable Marine Ecosystems (MVME) adopted by the Food and Agriculture Organization ( FAO) and regional fisheries management organizations (RFMOs) and World Heritage. Sites adopted by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). It is instructive to note that of all OGZs, only the MPA applies to jurisdictional maritime areas extending from internal waters to the EEZ.
The creation of MPAs is one of the essential characteristics of the existence of the blue economy in a given national maritime domain. Other essential elements are the establishment of ocean sustainability strategies, marine spatial planning (MSP) and credible maritime security (MS) in designated maritime domains. It is in recognition of the central place of MPAs in the sustainable development of the oceans, that the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal 14 (UNSDG 14) has labeled “Life under water”, established goals 14.2 and 14.5, requiring the protection and conservation of at least 10% of coastal and marine areas by 2020. Similarly, IUCN, which is an international conservation authority, has recommended the protection of at least 30% of ocean by 2030., as well as IUCN validate the creation of MPAs as a credible strategy for ocean conservation.
Nigeria is a signatory to the UNSDG and is expected to create MPAs under the obligations of the signing treaty. Meanwhile, some of the African signatories to the UNSDG have since established their MPAs. For example, Seychelles, with a coastline of 491 km and an EEZ of approximately 1.37 million km2, has established over 40,000 km2 of MPAs. This area is considered an area larger than Germany or twice the size of Great Britain, and represents 30 percent coverage of the Seychelles maritime domain. Likewise, South Africa, with a coastline of approximately 3,900 km and an EEZ of approximately 1.5 million km 2, has established 42 MPAs representing 5% of its maritime domain. In addition, Kenya, with a coastline of approximately 536 km and an EEZ of 142,000 km2, has established 14 MPAs, of which 4 are fully / highly protected, while 10 are less protected / unknown. However, Nigeria, with around 852 km of coastline and 170,600 km of EEZ, must have an MPA, in violation of its obligations under the UNSDG treaty. It should be noted that these 3 countries have adopted the blue economy as a national strategy for sustainable development. Thus, it may be appropriate to infer that the non-existence of MPAs in Nigeria’s vast maritime domain is an indicator of the non-adoption / implementation / existence of a blue economy in the country.
The lack of knowledge and awareness of the potential economic value of existing marine resources in the maritime domain, called maritime wealth blindness and prevalent in most developing African countries such as Nigeria, is largely responsible for the absence of MPAs in the country’s maritime space. . Indeed, high seas research, which is extremely expensive and requires advanced technology, is necessary to create awareness of maritime wealth through targeted research and innovation. This has been the bane of NIOMR research over the years.
Therefore, NIOMR has not been able to adequately produce the species composition of Nigeria and spread in the maritime domain of the country. It was also unable to provide data on economically important ecosystems such as seamounts, hydrothermal vents, cold seeps and cold water corals which are rare and vulnerable, but rich in deep seabed minerals and marine genetic resources (RGM). RGMs have great utility value in existing and future biotechnology applications in the pharmaceutical, chemical and cosmetic industries.
To establish MPAs in Nigeria’s maritime space, all relevant stakeholders including NIOMR, Federal Department of Fisheries (FDF), FME, Nigerian Navy (NN), Administration and Nigeria Maritime Security (NIMASA) and coastal communities, among others, need to be involved. In addition to its statutory functions, the NIOMR should identify, through sustained research, relevant ecosystems in need of conservation, while the FDF should determine the economic aquatic constituents of the ecosystem. Likewise, the FME should have access to the environmental impacts that the non-conservation of such spaces would have on the nation, thus providing justification (s) for its protection, while NIMASA should monitor pollution within the MPA. . In addition, the NN should monitor, map, ensure security, and enforce conservation compliance, just as the NPA should notify shippers of declared MPAs in port areas, if applicable. Finally, coastal communities should be involved to provide support through their membership in declared MPAs and the provision of local intelligence. There is a cultural dimension to the creation of MPAs, and this often resides in coastal communities.
In a blue economy, the Marine Spatial Planning Authority (MSPA), designated by government policy and credible legislation, coordinates all of the aforementioned activities aimed at establishing a functional MPA within jurisdictional maritime spaces. However, there is currently no designated MSPA in Nigeria, hence the frequent and unwarranted struggle between different government ministries, departments and agencies to exercise ultra vires control over the country’s maritime space. Nigeria has yet to achieve a blue economy through the formulation of appropriate policies and accompanying legislative enactment. This, in part, could be responsible for the lack of MPAs in the country’s maritime domain.
Atakpa wrote via [email protected]