Namibia Is Engaged In Protecting The Oceans

18 Feb 2022

Glittering sunshine on the Atlantic waves during a boat trip from Walvis Bay or Swakopmund out at sea with oysters and champagne, while watching dolphins and whales - so beautiful is a holiday at Namibia's coast.

Leisure fishing, jogging on the beach, surfing in the waves or simply having a picnic with curious seagulls watching, looking for beautiful shells between the rocks at low tide or feel the red dune sand while barefoot. Namibia’s 1,570 km long coast from the Orange- to the Kunene rivers on the border with Angola, offers recreation, special experiences and fun.

Only recently, a desert lion was photographed on the skeleton coast, while chewing on a dead seal he had freshly caught at the beach. And who does not enjoy the little penguins on some rock islands in front of Lüderitzbucht?

For this to remain, the pristine sea-world must be protected and preserved. Climate change and its caused warming, endanger oceans and the sea levels rise. The latter can be observed on the beach of Henties Bay in Namibia. In addition, pollution, overfishing as well as plastic waste endanger the oceans.

Swakopmund Namibia
Aerial view of Swakopmund

First ocean summit in France

These were the topics of the very first ever "One Ocean" summit, in Brest, France in early February. President Emmanuel Macron had invited around twenty Heads of State and Government, including President Hage Geingob.

The President of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, announced the beginning of a "global coalition" at the end of the summit. The 27 EU countries and 16 non-EU countries, including Namibia, will work together to develop a contract for the sustainable use of the high sea and the protection of their biodiversity. The contract should be signed this year.

"The sea is the livelihood of our planet. Every second of our breaths comes from the ocean. [It] gives us half of the oxygen we breathe and picks up a large part of the carbon dioxide that we release into the atmosphere. Our entire climate depends on the oceans,” said Von der Leyen in Brest. "The ocean means life, food, energy and jobs. Around ninety percent of the traded goods are carried over the seas," she added.

The coalition aims to conclude a global legally binding agreement on the conservation and sustainable use of the biological diversity of the seas in areas outside national jurisdictions of states.

The agreement, which will also be known as the "Treaty on the High Seas", is developed as part of the United Nations Sea Convention (UNCLOS), the most important international agreement, which regulates human activities at sea.

Heads of State at the first One Ocean Summit in France 2022.
Heads of government pose for a group photo during the One Ocean summit in Brest. Photo: France-Diplo

It is expected that the contract will achieve a holistic management of the High Sea, which should improve the preservation and sustainable use of marine resources.

This year, the 40th anniversary of UNCLOS is being celebrated - so the tempo for the protection of the oceans is increased.

Furthermore, the United Nations proclaimed the year 2021 the start of a decade of ocean research for sustainable development. The aim of the ocean decade is to reach the implementation of the marine targets based on scientific findings by 2031.

President Hage Geingob said in Brest, that Namibia is in the final phase of the development of a sustainable blue economic policy to effectively protect, maintain biological diversity, productivity and resilience of the country’s marine and aquatic ecosystems, and restore them - where necessary.

“Currently, Namibia’s entire coastal belt is declared as national parks and includes three coastal Ramsar sites, namely the Walvis Bay lagoon, Sandwich Harbour and the Orange River mouth, which are protected,” said Geingob. “Namibia’s marine waters, less than 200 metres deep are protected from most commercial fishing activities, as they are breeding grounds for fish.”

Namibia’s protection plans

The fisheries sector is an important industry in Namibia. Before independence in 1990, fleets caught of foreign powers in front of the coast have highly overfished. The Namibian government has strictly regulated commercial fishing in the last 32 years. The fish stocks have generally recovered except sardines (pilchards). There has been a general fishing ban for sardines in Namibia's coastal waters since 2017.

Considering, Namibia's technical and financial capacity, the government has decided to select three critical areas with relevant topics. These are: ocean richness, combined with sustainable seafood, sustainable sea transport and sustainable energy production from the ocean, sustainable marine tourism, and a precautionary approach to extracting mineral resources on the seabed.

Namibia has been mining diamonds on the southern coastal beaches for decades and also on the seabed. The areas are then rehabilitated.

Namibia has already in 2019 committed itself to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect and restore its marine and coastal ecosystems and reduce pollution. A sustainable ocean economy is to focus on people at the centre for a fair distribution of the richness of the Atlantic Ocean along the Namibian coast.

Namibia produces salt from seawater of the Atlantic Ocean, which is mostly exported. Photo: Walvis Bay SaltworksCaption

Worldwide commitment in December 2019

Namibia, Kenya and Ghana are so far the only African states that joined the implementation of the initiative in 2018 to protect the world oceans and the establishment of the "Ocean Panel". In December 2019, Namibia and the other thirteen states worldwide simultaneously committed at a public event, to protect their coastal areas.

This will be accomplished via a transformation plan as members of the created "High Level Panel For A Sustainable Ocean Economy" (short: Ocean Panel) - a panel for a sustainable marine industry. By 2030, they want to protect about 30 percent of the seas. Other countries are encouraged to join.

The countries involved in the Ocean Panel so far are Australia, Canada, Chile, Fiji, Ghana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Japan, Kenya, Mexico, Namibia, Norway, Palau and Portugal. These 14 countries together have waters – an area of more than 30 million square kilometres - the size of Africa.

The medium-term goal is to sustainably manage until 2025 a hundred percent of the marine areas under their national jurisdiction, led by plans for sustainable oceans. The recommendations focus on five critical areas: sea richness, sea health, marine justice, sea knowledge and sea finance. Namibia participates in the preparation of these ocean plans.

A large container ship enters the Walvis Bay harbour. Photo: NamPortCaption

More international agreements

Namibia has now ratified Annex 6 of the Marpol Convention (Convention on Prevention of Marine Pollution by Ships), which provides for a 50% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions from ships by 2050 in line with the Agreement of the International Maritime Travel Organization [IMO].

Namibia has also ratified the Abidjan Convention, a convention on cooperation in the protection, management and development of the sea and coastal environment of the Atlantic coast in Western, Central and Southern Africa. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) is the Secretariat of Abidjan Convention. AUP based in Abidjan is a United Nations Department that is empowered to tackle environmental issues at regional and international level. For the eastern and north-eastern coastal areas of Africa, there is the Nairobi Convention.

Brigitte Weidlich

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