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Focus

Uncertainties about the future can give rise to totally opposed visions, whereby one may regard the glass as being half empty or half full. Relative to the future of our coastal area, for instance, it may happen that consideration is only given to risk factors:

Of the 8 species of marine turtles encountered in the world’s seas, 5 are regularly monitored in West African waters, including only 2 that reproduce in great numbers. The archipelago of Cabo Verde, especially Boa Vista Island, is a nesting place for 2,000 to 3,000 loggerhead turtles. Every year, 7,000 to 35,000 egg clutches are reported in Guinea-Bissau, in the Bijagos archipelago.

Consequences of illegal fishing

By scraping the bottoms near the coast with their fishing gear, trawlers are destroying the fish habitat and are making them gradually barren. The catches by artisanal fishermen are therefore catastrophically declining.

 

Since the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS, 1982 ) – ratified by 165 countries – coastal or island states are owners of their maritime space on 200 nautical miles or 365 km off the coast: this space is called the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).

Since communities of the West Africa coastal area are not able to deal directly with the root causes of climate change, for which they are only slightly responsible, they have no choice but to develop adaptation capacities in the face of the expected impact. Key avenues for adaptation and mitigation can be explored from the existing literature and PRCM partners’ experiences.

Fishery sector: The rise in sea temperatures will cause fish species to move to colder waters, which in turn will lead to a loss of revenue for tropical countries. The increased frequency of storms will have consequences for fishing trips, security, and may entail risks for the destruction of fishing boats and flooding of fishermen’s villages, as has already been reported in our sub-region, but in an even more exceptional manner. Shellfish resources, as a vital element for fishing communities, will be impacted by higher sea surface temperatures, sea-level rise and ocean acidification. Following a review of the situation in 132 countries, a number of researchers have come to the conclusion that 2/3 of the countries most vulnerable to these risks are located in Africa. Based on some forecasts, the fishery sector could lose 50% of its jobs and US $ 311 million per year.

This Focus on climate change addresses three sections, as follows:

  1. Weather forecasts: consequences for the coastline environment and for marine and coastal biodiversity;
  2. Socio-economic consequences: fishery, agriculture, tourism, coastal infrastructures, urban development and health;
  3. Adaptation and mitigation measures.

What do weather experts foresee for West Africa in the future?

Whether waders or sea birds, they are all in essence migratory birds that share their lives between Africa and Europe. Our coastline, stretching from Mauritania to Sierra Leone through Cape Verde, is home to a large section of these passport-free travellers.

Migratory waders

Why is it in our interests to protect sharks when we know that they eat the fishes of fishermen and represent a threat for swimmers? Is it highly concerning that about 100 million of sharks are fished every year for their fins and that one third of the 465 species are critically endangered, including the saw-fish that has almost disappeared from West African waters? True, there are economic, cultural or moral reasons to sound the alarm but let’s focus here on ecological reasons: why does nature need sharks and other major predators for its own balance?

 

As oil resources shrink, the price of a barrel goes up. Oil deposits that formally seemed insignificant or complex in terms of exploitation are now highly sought after by oil companies. The map of offshore blocs attributed to these companies off the coast of West Africa indicates that all countries potentially have oil deposits in their waters.

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