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Gambia celebrates World Ocean Day

Jun 13, 2012, 2:40 PM | Article By: Yai Dibba

The Gambia yesterday joined the rest of the world to celebrate the International Ocean Day with the Department of Forestry joining efforts with the Department of Parks and Wildlife Management and the RAMPAO Network to mark the day on the theme: “Youth: the next wave for change”.

The World Ocean Day is said to be one of the big cerebrations held every June, and this year it has been staged to reach young people in the communities to inspire them.

In his opening remarks at the event held at the Abuko Nature Reserve headquarters, the Director of Parks and Wildlife Management (DPWM), Alpha Jallow, said the world ocean and coasts are crucially important to humankind, as the goods and services they provide have underpinned human activity for more than a millennium.

“Ocean and coasts are some of the most productive ecosystems on earth, providing food and livelihood to millions of dependent local communities, sustaining local and national economies and supporting cultural services to human communities,” Dr Jallow said.

He said the Ocean services were once believed to be infinite but the past decades have proved that marine ecosystem and resources are limited, vulnerable and becoming increasingly degraded.

According to him, as early as the late 19th century, there were many local examples of fisheries that have collapsed as well as estuarine and coastal degradation.

“Over the last century, the degradation and overexploitation of coastal and marine ecosystem and resource has continued and intensified.”

He said today ocean and coasts are among the most threatened ecosystems of the world.

He analysed the current extent of human impact of marine ecosystem and showed that no area of the ocean is unaffected by human influence and 40% of the ocean is strongly affected by multiple drives, with the highest impact concentrated closer to shore.

He said The Gambia has been shaped by our surrounding ocean, adding that today, more than ever, greater and more innovative effort must be protect to maintain biodiversity and ecosystem structure, function and processes, as anthropogenic and natural threats continue to escalate.

According to Dr Jallow, without the effective protective areas at the village or community level there can never be successful global protected area system.

He said the use of protected areas to facilitate the maintenance and recovery of biological resource has been practised by Pacific Island communities for centuries in accordance with customary practices and spiritual beliefs.

For his part, the deputy permanent secretary of Forestry and the Environment, Mustapha Darboe, said the day is meant to reflect on the importance of oceans to mankind.

According to him, over the past few decades, scientists around the world have observed the appearance for so-called dead zone in the ocean where the level of oxygen are so low that marine life cannot in sewage and agricultural run-off and result in loss of productivity because in those areas they can no longer be used.

“We do not want these to take root in The Gambia, therefore we must find better way of managing our waste.”

He said since the dawn of time the oceans have played a major role in shaping our societies by providing us with sustenance, clean air to breathe, everyday goods that are traded by sea, energy for our economies, recreation and a sense of spirituality.

He said it is clear that we must change some of our management and land use practices if the ocean is to provide for us now and in the future.

Other speakers on the occasion included Ousaine Touray and Lamin Gassama of Wildlife and Ramsey Khan from neighbouring Senegal.