News / Africa

Saving the Seas to Ensure Food Security

Multimedia

Audio
Joe DeCapua

Since the food crisis of a few years ago, much attention has been paid to improving agriculture and conserving the land.  But land is not the only source of food.  The oceans provide food and jobs for millions of people, yet very little is being done to protect them.

Marine conservationists say less than one percent of the world’s oceans are protected.  They say the seas need protection from people, who take from their bounty, often without regard to the consequences – or even awareness of the results of their actions.

Playing catch-up

Steve Watkins, senior vice president of RARE, a conservation group in the Washington, D.C., area, says, “It’s been much easier to initially focus on the terrestrial world, the landscapes we see, because we all live and walk around on the land.  And it’s just the first thing that comes to mind. So, in a sense there’s a bit of catch-up in terms of paying attention to the oceans that needs to happen.”

Some Malagasy learn about RARE efforts to preserve the oceans
Some Malagasy learn about RARE efforts to preserve the oceans

RARE, a nonprofit group, is working in 50 countries to get local communities to treat the seas with more respect and with an eye toward the future.

“We firmly believe in helping local communities to address their own environmental issues, which is why we seek out community leaders, that we can kind of train and mentor and help them to succeed.  So it’s about sort of their growth and them address their problems rather than us running our own projects,” says Watkins.

Oceans at risk

He describes oceans as being “dramatically threatened.”

“Many governments, less developed around the world, have really for the last 50 years or more viewed the expansion of their fishing fleets and their fish catches as one of their economic development objectives.  And that’s just become so efficient in the last decade that it’s just got so far ahead of the oceans’ ability to reproduce and stay healthy,” he says.

That’s why Marine Protected Areas are being set up around the world and monitored by local communities.

“(It’s) an area of the ocean,” he says, “ that people that people agree to set aside to either fish less or not fish at all.  So that the fish and other creatures that live in that area of the ocean can live out their life cycle. Grow big, have more children.  In a sense become kind of a bank account, which accumulates interest in the sense of productivity of the environment.  And it can really help to repopulate the more productive fishing grounds.”

Good intentions, bad results

For example, Watkins says a Maritime Protected Area is being set up in southwestern Madagascar.

“It’s really a microcosm of what’s happening perhaps the world over, where, for many centuries, the ethnic group that lives there – they’re called the Vezo people – have really lived in harmony with the ocean.  They’re a semi-nomadic seafaring people,” he says.

Then, despite the best intentions, things began to go wrong.  Both fish and their habitat suffered.

“They’ve begun to have access to things like poison.  Even things just like household bleach can be used as poison in the oceans to kill all the fish so they float to the surface for harvesting,” he says.

Malagasy fisherman
Malagasy fisherman

He adds, “They’ve started to receive things like mosquito nets to obviously address very important health issues for the community.  But those mosquito nets, if they’re used as fishing nets, are so, so fine that they lift all of the fish larvae and juvenile fish, as well as the larger fish people are trying to catch.  So (they) stop those larvae from growing into future fish for people to catch.”

Reefs were also destroyed when the Vezo people used mining picks to break the coral apart looking for octopus.  Previously, they might have used sticks to probe holes in the reef.  In the short term, the mining pick method appears more productive, but it has long-term consequences as the home of marine life is shattered.

The senior vice president of RARE says if the local populations are empowered to care for the oceans and their food supply, they will see the benefits of using sustainable fishing methods.

You May Like

Video One Year After Thai Coup, No End in Sight for Military Rule

Since carrying out the May 22, 2014 coup, the general has retired from the military but is still firmly in charge More

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Troops Depart

Afghans are grappling with how exodus will affect country's fragile economy More

Video Scientists Say We Need Softer Robots

Today’s robots are mostly hard, rigid machines, with sharp edges and forceful movements, but researchers at Carnegie Mellon University say they should be softer and therefore safer More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthroughi
X
May 22, 2015 10:23 AM
Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Turkey's Main Opposition Party Hopes for Election Breakthrough

Turkey’s main opposition Republican People’s Party has sought an image change ahead of the June 7 general election. The move comes after suffering successive defeats at the hands of the Islamist-rooted AK Party, which has portrayed it as hostile to religion. Dorian Jones reports from the western city of Izmir.
Video

Video Europe Follows US Lead in Tackling ‘Conflict Minerals’

Metals mined from conflict zones in places like the Democratic Republic of Congo are often sold by warlords to buy weapons. This week European lawmakers voted to force manufacturers to prove that their supply chains are not inadvertently fueling conflicts and human rights abuses. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Class Tackles Questions of Race, Discrimination

Unrest in some U.S. cities is more than just a trending news item at Ladue Middle School in St. Louis, Missouri. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, it’s a focus of a multicultural studies class engaging students in wide-ranging discussions about racial tensions and police aggression.
Video

Video Mind-Controlled Prosthetics Are Getting Closer

Scientists and engineers are making substantial advances towards the ultimate goal in prosthetics – creation of limbs that can be controlled by the wearer’s mind. Thanks to sophisticated sensors capable of picking up the brain’s signals, an amputee in Iceland is literally bringing us one step closer to that goal. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Afghan Economy Sinks As Foreign Troops Depart

As international troops prepare to leave Afghanistan, and many foreign aid groups follow, Afghans are grappling with how the exodus will affect the country's fragile economy. Ayesha Tanzeem reports from the Afghan capital, Kabul.
Video

Video Poverty, Ignorance Force Underage Girls Into Marriage

The recent marriage of a 17-year old Chechen girl to a local police chief who was 30 years older and already had a wife caused an outcry in Russia and beyond. The bride was reportedly forced to marry and her parents were intimidated into giving their consent. The union spotlighted yet again the plight of many underage girls in developing countries. Zlatica Hoke reports poverty, ignorance and fear are behind the practice, especially in Asia and Africa.
Video

Video South Korea Marks Gwangju Uprising Anniversary

South Korea this week marked the 35th anniversary of a protest that turned deadly. The Gwangju Uprising is credited with starting the country’s democratic revolution after it was violently quelled by South Korea’s former military rulers. But as Jason Strother reports, some observers worry that democracy has recently been eroded.
Video

Video California’s Water System Not Created To Handle Current Drought

The drought in California is moving into its fourth year. While the state's governor is mandating a reduction in urban water use, most of the water used in California is for agriculture. But both city dwellers and farmers are feeling the impact of the drought. Some experts say the state’s water system was not created to handle long periods of drought. Elizabeth Lee reports from Ventura County, an agricultural region just northwest of Los Angeles.
Video

Video How to Clone a Mammoth: The Science of De-Extinction

An international team of scientists has sequenced the complete genome of the woolly mammoth. Led by the Swedish Museum of Natural History in Stockholm, the work opens the door to recreate the huge herbivore, which last roamed the Earth 4,000 years ago. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble considers the science of de-extinction and its place on the planet
Video

Video Blind Boy Defines His Life with Music

Cole Moran was born blind. He also has cognitive delays and other birth defects. He has to learn everything by ear. Nevertheless, the 12-year-old has had an insatiable love for music since he was born. VOA’s June Soh introduces us to the young phenomenal harmonica player.

VOA Blogs