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

Scotland Vote Raises Questions of International Law

Experts say self-determination, as defined and protected by international law, confined narrowly to independence movements in process of de-colonization More

Video Whaling Summit Votes to Uphold Ban on Japan Whale Hunt

Conservationists hail ruling as a victory, but Tokyo says it will submit revised plans for a whale hunt in 2015 More

Annual Military Exercise Takes on New Meaning for Ukraine Troops

Troops from 15 nations participating in annual event, 'Rapid Trident' in western Ukraine 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.
Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctionsi
X
September 18, 2014 2:28 AM
A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Russian Economy Reeling After New Western Sanctions

A new wave of Western sanctions is hitting Russia’s economy hard. State-owned energy firms continue to bleed profits and Russia’s national currency plunged to a new low this week after the U.S. and the European Union announced new sanctions to punish Russia's aggressive stance in eastern Ukraine. But as Mil Arcega reports, the sanctions could also prove costly for European and American companies.
Video

Video Belgian Researchers Discover Way to Block Cancer Metastasis

Cancer remains one of the deadliest diseases, despite many new methods to combat it. Modern medicine has treatments to prevent the growth of primary tumor cells. But most cancer deaths are caused by metastasis, the stage when primary tumor cells change and move to other parts of the body. A team of Belgian scientists says it has found a way to prevent that process. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Mogadishu's Flood of Foreign Workers Leaves Somalis Out of Work

Unemployment and conflict has forced many young Somalians out of the country in search of a better life. But a newfound stability in the once-lawless nation has created hope — and jobs — which, some say, are too often being filled by foreigners. Abdulaziz Billow reports from Mogadishu.
Video

Video A Dinosaur Fit for Land and Water

Residents and tourists in Washington D.C. can now examine a life-size replica of an unusual dinosaur that lived almost a hundred million years ago in northern Africa. Scientists say studying the behemoth named Spinosaurus helps them better understand how some prehistoric animals adapted to life on land and in water. The Spinosaurus replica is on display at the National Geographic museum. VOA’s George Putic has more.
Video

Video Iraqi Kurdistan Church Helps Christian Children Cope find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil

In the past six weeks, tens of thousands of Iraqi Christians have been forced to flee their homes by Islamic State militants and find shelter in churches in the Kurdish capital, Irbil. Despite U.S. airstrikes in the region, the prospect of people returning home is still very low and concerns are starting to grow over the impact this is having on the displaced youth. Sebastian Meyer reports from Irbil on how one church is coping.
Video

Video NASA Picks Boeing, SpaceX to Carry Astronauts Into Space

The U.S. space agency, NASA, has chosen Boeing and SpaceX companies to build the next generation of spacecraft that will carry U.S. astronauts to the International Space Station by the year 2017. The deal with private industry enables NASA to end its dependence on Russia to send space crews into low Earth orbit and back. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Future of Ukrainian Former President's Estate Uncertain

More than six months after Ukraine's former President Viktor Yanukovych fled revolution to Russia, authorities have yet to gain control of his palatial estate. Protesters occupy the grounds and opened it to tourists but they are also refusing to turn it over to the state. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Mezhigirya, just north of Kyiv.
Video

Video China Muslims Work to Change Perceptions After Knife Attacks

China says its has sentenced three men to death and one woman to life in prison for a deadly knife attack in March that left more than 30 dead and 140 injured. Beijing says Muslim militants from China's restive western region of Xinjiang carried out the attacks. Now, more than six months after the incident, residents in the city are still coping with the aftermath. VOA's Bill Ide has more from Kunming.


Carnage and mayhem are part of daily life in northern Nigeria, the result of a terror campaign by the Islamist group Boko Haram. Fears are growing that Nigeria’s government may not know how to counter it, and may be making things worse. More

AppleAndroid