African scientists who make up the membership of the Ocean Acidification Africa Network and their guest scientists from Europe and America met in Monrovia on March 22, 2019 to identify priorities and opportunities to advance ocean acidification monitoring, biological and societal response studies throughout Africa. The Steering Committee meeting was hosted with support from the International Atomic Energy Agency Ocean Acidification International Coordination Centre (IAEA- OA-ICC) and The Ocean Foundation (TOF). The meeting also sought to discuss emerging threats of OA with multiple factors, review global status as well as harness capacity building opportunities.
The event brought together scientists and oceans experts including Mohammed Idrissi, National Institute for Halieutic Research (INRH) from Morocco; Adikunbi Falilu, Nigeria; Samir Bachouche, National Center of Research and Development of Fishing and Aquaculture, Algeria; Eric Okuku, Marine Biogeochemist, Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute Kenya; Professor Dr. Patrizia Ziveri, Professor of Environmental Research at Autonoous University of Barcelona, Spain; Alicia Cheripka, United States of America; Dr. Kai Schulz, Australia; Liberia’s Sheck A. Sherif, Co-Chair of the OA-Africa Network and PhD Scholar at Queen’s University Belfast; Peter Swarzenski, Laboratory Head, Radioecology Laboratory, International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA/OA-ICC); Nayrah Shaltout, National Institute of Oceanography and Fisheries, Egypt; Matthew O. Sulon, Maritime Safety and Administration Expert while Lina Hansson and other members of the organization participated in the meeting via Skype.
Speaking at the meeting, the Co-Chair of OA-Africa Network, Sherif said he was glad that the organization met in Monrovia to review work done over the years as well as look at plans to augment the organization’s research strengthen in dealing with ocean acidification across the African continent.
Ocean acidification, often referred to as “the other CO2 problem,” is a major threat to marine ecosystems worldwide, and is the focus of the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14.3, which to better understand ocean acidification’s impacts on industry, increase coordination across nations and stakeholders, and highlight the widespread recognition of the threat of OA to the health and sustainability of marine ecosystems.
In remarks, Mrs. Nayrah Shaltout, said Global Ocean Acidification Observation Network (GOA-ON) is working with like-minded organizations like OA-Africa Network to gather data and information that would policymakers and the public about the danger ocean acidification poses to the overall health of the planet since in fact OA is occurring at a global scale and there is an ardent need to elevate the local measures and observe the melee in order to track its drivers correctly.
According to her, GOA-ON membership extends across disciplines, countries, socioeconomic status, gender and ethnicity adding that the organization takes keen interest in peer2peer review exercises because insufficient observation and understanding of the marine environmental treat undermines any effort that would be directed towards robustly developing requisite skills to handle the impact of ocean acidification.
Madam Shaltout said that the Pier2Peer is a scientific mentorship program that matches senior researchers with early career scientists to facilitate an exchange of expertise, and to provide a platform for international collaborations.
She added “Pier2Peer employs an adaptive and self-driven approach to capacity development with guiding principles to focus on user needs at the local, regional, national, and international level and to foster inter-regional and global collaboration.”
Adding her voice to the discourse, Autonomous University of Barcelona Research Professor, Dr. Patrizia Ziveri lauded the move by OA-Africa Network to convene in Monrovia to discuss ways to build the institutional capacity of the group with the right technologies that will enable it deliver its objectives professionally.
Ocean acidification is a term used to describe the changes in the chemistry of the world’s seas, primarily as a result of burning fossil fuels.
The Earth’s carbon cycle, the exchange of carbon dioxide (CO2) between land, sea and air, is generally meant to be in equilibrium. Since the Industrial Revolution, there has been a sharp increase in atmospheric CO2 because of human activity, primarily from burning fossil fuels. But not all the unlocked CO2 remains in the atmosphere. Up to 50% of the emissions are absorbed by the ocean.
Commercial and recreational fishing, tourism, the protection of shorelines by carbonate reefs—all could be harmed by ocean acidification that is already well under way. Not to mention the hard-to-quantify-but-significant cultural and lifestyle changes that communities will have to make to adapt to changing marine ecosystems. In other words, ocean acidification is not just a problem for marine life. It has the potential to change the way humans feed themselves, earn their livings, run their communities, and live their lives.