By Miano Kihu
UN Declaration setting aside June 8 as a World Ocean Day has won acclaim of organizations that work with Kenyan coast communities in protecting the Indian Ocean.
Eco-Ethics International-Kenya Chapter (EEIU-K), a member of the Word Ocean Network, says the UN move is a major step in the oceans conservation campaign because this requires the governments of the world to give direct support such efforts.
Even before the UN declaration, Eco-Ethics International-Kenya has been marking the day since June 8, 2006, together with other like-minded advocacy groups and individuals.
“We hope that the setting aside of the World Ocean Day by the UN will now obligate our Kenya government and other governments to extend the much desired political and material support to the activities of that special day and to the overall campaign to safe oceans,” says Mr Bernard Okeyo, the Director of EEIU-K.
According to him, efforts to protect the oceans which cover 21 per cent of the earth surface have received relatively smaller support than they deserved -- if one considers the enormous resources that are otherwise dedicated to the conservation of the environment as a whole.
“Our lobby for a world oceans day has finally paid off after many years; however, our work has just begun,” Okeyo told representatives of various grassroots youth organizations attending a sensitization meeting at the coastal town of Mombasa.
For four years, World Ocean Day organizing community spearheaded by Eco-Ethics International has been public lectures, beach cleanup exercises and performances by the local communities – all meant to create awareness about the sea as a livelihood source and also to mobilize the locals to take it upon every one of them to look after the sea.
This year’s events climaxed on June 13 at the centuries old Fort Jesus grounds on the Mombasa island.
The lobbyists believe that with sufficient awareness, education and adaption of ocean friendly practices in fishing and in the disposal of waste, among other things, would help address the biggest challenges that the ocean faces in this part of the world.
These include pollution from factories and beach hotels, municipal wastes, destructive fishing, destruction of mangrove forests and shipwrecks.
Mr Richard Kiaka, a program officer with EEIU-K says a series of community based programs undertaken by the organization has demonstrated the potential and willingness of locals to take good care of the ocean by even adapting technologies that are eco-friendly.
His organization has, for instance, helped several fishing groups in the villages south of Mombasa to replace their destructive fishing methods such as beach seining with better and discriminative fishing gears. Other support has included making the locals recognize the dangers of certain practices to the ocean environment such as disposal of plastics and human waste.
But Mr Hassan Grieves, leader of a lobby group called PREPARED says when it comes to focusing and taking action on destructive in the sea, such attention should also focus on the big operators in the sea such as trawlers who continue to cause wanton destruction of marine ecosystem in the eastern African region.
“We always talk of pirates as those with small boats; what about the pirate with the big vessel who is only motivated by big profit today no matter how much destruction he visits upon the environment?” he posed.
He however exudes hope that the UN has conceded to making June 8 as a World Ocean Day.