West African and Caribbean seas rank among unhealthiest waters
More research and better policies are needed to protect the world's most vulnerable seas, lying off the coast of West Africa and the Caribbean, local experts have told SciDev.Net.
The two regions have some of the world's unhealthiest seas, according to a new index that assessed the health of seas and their benefits to livelihoods. Its methodology was published in Nature last month (15 August).
The index rates seas in ten categories or 'goals', including water cleanliness, support for coastal livelihoods and economies, and food provision. It also assesses the state of coastal protection and biodiversity, seas' capacity for artisanal fishing, carbon storage and tourism, and the provision of natural products.
The study examined the overall condition of 171 exclusive economic zones (EEZs), UN prescribed 'sea zones' stretching 200 miles off-shore, over which states have rights of exploration and resource use.
Sierra Leone was ranked last, followed by Liberia, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, and Guinea-Bissau; and Nicaragua, Haiti, Dominica, El Salvador and Honduras are all among the bottom 25.
Ben Halpern, the study's lead author and director of the US-based Center for Marine Assessment and Planning, told SciDev.Net thatWest African countries "could substantially improve overall ocean health by improving each of the goals".
West African scientists say that investing in marine-related research and fish stock replenishment could help improve sea health.
Elvis Nyarko, head of the marine and fisheries sciences department at the University of Ghana, told SciDev.Net that West African countries currently only pay lip service to scientific research. The region needs more "funding for marine-related research [...] so that more information can be gathered to better manage the coastal system," he said.
Nyarko added that countries should adopt Integrated Coastal Zone Management practices, an approach to coastal management that integrates different considerations and actors — including the navy, fishermen and researchers — to make coastal management more sustainable.
Read more at SciDev.Net.