03 Mar 2019 14:50pm
REHOBOTH, 03 MAR (NAMPA) World Wildlife Day was commemorated on Sunday under the theme Life below water for people and planet, which aligns with Goal 14 of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals.
In her statement availed to the media, Executive Secretary of the Southern Africa Development Community (SADC), Dr Stergomena Lawrence Tax said the region is endowed with a diverse range of freshwater and marine biodiversity.
Significant strides have been made to safeguard these resources that contribute significantly to the socio-economic well-being of member states and local communities.
Tax said unregulated harvesting of marine resources leads to over-exploitation, to a point where some marine species fail to self-replenish and are often driven to the brink of extinction.
The South West Indian Ocean sub-region of SADC loses between US.dollars 200 million and US.dollars 500 million annually to illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing.
Unsustainable and destructive fishing methods, as well as by-catch, can also result in negative ecosystem impacts that affect the ecosystems balanced aquatic life, habitats such as coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds and sea bottom substrate and its biodiversity, she said.
By-catch includes important non-targeted commercial fish stocks, juveniles and endangered, threatened and protected species such as marine turtles, marine mammals, sea birds, sharks.
The SADC executive secretary further said all of these have socio-economic implications on food security and livelihoods of the local fishing communities.
The degradation of coastal habitats and realities of marine pollution is becoming more apparent. Marine pollution comes in many forms, which include oil, plastic, industrial and agricultural wastes and chemicals, but the largest factor affecting the aquatic and marine environment is plastic, Tax stated.
The impacts of climate change on regional habitats, species and community needs are still not fully understood, but it is clear that significant changes in local weather patterns, runoff and sea level rise will threaten critical marine ecosystems including key breeding, nursery and feeding grounds for marine wildlife, affecting recruitment, abundance and occurrence.
It is a fact that marine wildlife plays a crucial role on life on the planet such as being a source of food. The oceans themselves have profound effect on global climate trends and other ecosystems functions such as carbon sink and repository of waste materials on the globe, Tax said.
She called on SADC member states to take a leading role in implementing actions both at national and regional level that safeguard water bodies and the life below it.