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Sargassum invasion threatens West Africa

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A Sierra Leonean Scientist Dr. Salleu Sankoh, has disclosed that Sargassum series invasion has become a critical problem in the subregion, including the entire West African coast.

He said Sargassum is a serious problem because it has affected the fisheries and tourism industries in almost all of the West African countries, including Sierra Leone, Togo, Benni, Nigeria, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Togo, among others.

The Environmental Protection Agency of Liberia – EPA, this week hosted a two-day West African Regional Strategy Validation meeting on Sargassum Seaweed and Coastal Invasive Species in Monrovia.

EPA Executive Director, Madam Anyaa Vohiri said the meeting was intended to help provide scientific, professional and policy advice to address most of the environmental related issues Liberia is currently faced with.

Speaking Tuesday, August 9, at the first day of the meeting held at a local hotel in Sinkor, she said most pressing and policy-wise, there are recommendations for transboundary cooperation and interagency collaboration as well as stakeholders’ participation where role and responsibilities of relevant partners in the maritime domain are clearly spelt, and the implementation of agreed strategies across coastal West Africa.

She also disclosed that a full curriculum has been developed for universities and colleges on marine environment and environmental protection and integrated coastal zone management.
The EPA Executive Director described Sargassum as brown seaweed that blossoms naturally in the warm waters of the Sargasso Sea of the Northern Atlantic Ocean.

She added that since 2011 there has been an explosion in the quantities of Sargassum reaching the shores of countries of the Caribbean and West Africa, inflicting severe ecological and socio-economic impacts, particularly to the tourism sector and coastal fishing activities.

She furthered that an unprecedented influx of Sargassum seaweed is being attributed to factors that include warming of the ocean due to global climate change, discharge of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) from agriculture runoff and wastewater originating from point sources and major river basins such as the Congo and Amazon Rivers, as well as deposition of iron and nutrient-rich Sahara dust on the ocean.

The EPA boss said the meeting sought to develop existing outline regional strategy for validation in order to formulate a policy recommendation for the elaboration of an additional protocol to the Abidjan Convention on the management of invasive species.

In an interview Thursday, August 11, 2016 with The NewDawn in Monrovia, Dr. Sankoh, a technical expect, said though time was not quite enough to look at all of the documents at the meeting, they managed to at least look at some of the key ones most necessary for the forum.

He said as an expert, his role is to advise politicians on the real facts, adding there is always a political will, and if he had not seen the political will, he couldn’t have come to Liberia for such a brilliant forum.
He said coming to Monrovia clearly points to the seriousness of Sargassum series invasion, and the affected countries want to ensure the problem is solved because it poses a huge threat on the sub-region.

Dr. Sankoh described the forum as very interactive, adding that it even enabled him to discover some new things and as well as meeting new friends. He then congratulated President Ellen Johnson Sirleaf for the level of work and growth in Liberia after a bloody civil war that lasted here for more than a decade.

By Zee Roberts-Editing by Jonathan Browne

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