Human-made carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions have taken residence in the ocean at significant proportion and causing unprecedented changes to ocean chemistry by reducing the water’s pH level, leading to a collection of chemical changes dubbed ocean acidification.
With continuous CO2 emissions, scientists predict that the menace will intensify to the detriment of marine ecosystems and the services they provide to society, particularly coastal communities. This is a risk, scientists from across Europe, Africa and the United States are working to avert by holding a side event in Monrovia virtually and in-person on the weekend of January 8, 2021, to promote awareness and remedy research gaps in Africa- a continent proven to lack technical resources that would enable it to face this fastest-growing threat.
Ocean Scientists from the International Atomic Energy Agency Ocean Acidification International Coordination Center, Ocean Acidification Africa Network, The Ocean Foundation, Future Earth Coasts, and other international stakeholders joined about fifty national policymakers and industry practitioners including the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) of Liberia to raise awareness about ocean acidification and research at the Ocean Acidification Day of Action side event hosted by NaFAA and EPA in cooperation with the IAEA OA-ICC and OA-Africa Network. Mr. Sheck A. Sherif, convener of the event, a PhD Candidate at Queen’s University Belfast, Co-Chair of the OA-Africa Network, and Focal Person of the Abidjan Convention in Liberia.
Making the opening remarks, Sheck Sherif said the January 8 event was first held in Washington DC, the United States in 2018 representing the average pH level of 8.1 of the oceans. He added that the event, like the one in 2021, was meant to ensure that the message about the threat posed by ocean acidification is communicated to policymakers by scientists.
Mr. Sherif further informed attendees that the OA-Africa, a Pan African network comprised of about 700 scientists from across Africa, is working towards promoting ocean acidification awareness and research in Africa.
According to Sherif, the event chose to engender national policymakers and industry actors’ input into global efforts to mitigate ocean acidification’s negative consequences through research and awareness.
Speaking at the event, the Director-General of the National Fisheries and Aquaculture Authority (NaFAA), Emma Metieh Glassco indicated that as scientists, industry actors and policymaker gathered at the side event, there is a prospect that 2021 would be an essential year for the ocean given the fact that new impetus from the international community to address the current opportunities and challenges that ocean acidification present. “African countries, including Liberia, are facing a serious decline in ocean health. In addition to ocean acidification, marine pollution, overfishing and Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated (IUU) continue to threaten ocean resources,” she emphasized.
The Liberian Fisheries Boss is optimistic that these discussions would continue as scientists search to remedy the evil twin to climate change- ocean acidification.
The Environmental Protection Agency Executive, Professor Wilson K. Tarpeh, through his Technical Advisor, Mr. Benjamin Karmoh stressed ocean acidification’s enormity to biodiversity. He mentioned that Liberia is a significant partner to efforts being made to protect marine ecosystems. The country has a 570-kilometer coastline with nine (9) of its fifteen (15) counties along the coast. “Our territorial water is more than land space. The acidic nature of the ocean is not good for marine life. So, we have to take concrete action to protect the ocean,” he noted.
Alexis Valauri-Orton, Program Officer of The Ocean Foundation via a video address said the Ocean Acidification Day was established three years ago as a way of not only to showcase the incredible work that the ocean acidification community is doing across the world but also to help raise awareness about the issue as well as get new partners that would allow the international community to understand the problem.
The Ocean Foundation emphasized that despite this significant risk, those communities most vulnerable to ocean acidification – such as small islands or low-income coastal areas – have no infrastructure in place to monitor and respond to the issue.
The OA-Africa side event’s objective is to promote and facilitate a community of awareness around ocean acidification to communicate, develop, and facilitate international activities on ocean acidification, including science, capacity building, and communication.
There were presentations from Dr. Peter Wolfgang Swarzenski from the IAEA and Dr. Sebastian Ferse, Executive Director of Future Earth Coasts.