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It is the eve of year 2500, and the world is in great chaos. The negative effect of piracy, smuggling, over fishing and environmental pollution on the animal kingdom cannot be quantified as more than half of the animal population have perished. The animals, united like their comrades in the “Animal farm” by George Orwell are seeking revenge on humanity. All but four of the eight billion human race have killed. Search for Mr Uongozi, the last living man on earth with his female colleagues is still on. Just as he shuts the door to retire to bed, there is an unfriendly Kpuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum! Kpuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuum! Knock on the door. While his heart raced in fear, he quietly eaves dropped on an ensuing discussion among the animals outside.

Mr Fish! Roared the Lion, who was king of the jungle.  Come and give us a comprehensive situation report about the global maritime issue affecting the aquatic habitat while we make effort to break the door. The Fish started thus…. The Oxford Lexicon defines fishing as the activity of catching fish, either for food or as a sport.  It also includes the catching of other aquatic animals other than fish, such as crustaceans, cephalopods, molluscs and echinoderms. Fishing is an ancient practice that dates back to at least the beginning of the upper Palaeolithic period about 40,000 years ago. During this period, most people lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle and were, of necessity, constantly on the move but where there are permanent settlements such as LepenskiVir, they are almost associated with fishing as a major source of food. According to United Nations FAO statistics, the total number of commercial anglers and fish farmers is estimated to be 38 million. With the geometric increase in human population, over 500 million people in developing countries have gained direct and indirect employment from fisheries and aquaculture but the greed of man led to the challenge of overfishing. This is the practice of catching fish faster than they are able to reproduce and is detrimental to the stability of the aquatic habitat. According to BBC pidgin, many people from different communities in Southern Nigeria butchered a big whale along the Okpoama beach in 2017. Residents of the area reported that this was the third time for a whale to be washed onto the beach. Such incidents make these species deplete and since they live for many years and reproduce slowly, greedy anglers are always tempted to shift focus from catching these predators in the aquatic food web to species like squid, lower in the food web. B-catch which is associated with fish and aquatic animals that are not targeted by fisheries, but are incidentally caught by broad-sweeping fishing mechanisms like bottom trawls is another source of concern . This practice alone accounts for the careless and wasteful deaths of countless aquatic creatures yearly. They are also capable of destroying plants, corals, sponges and the ocean floor thereby, making aquatic comrades loose shelter, safe breeding space and food source. Corruption undermines the rule of law, erodes quality of life and threatens market and security. Regulations and policies for the fishing industry do exist but its implementation is nothing to write home. Agents who ought to enforce these policies end up collecting bribes from erring defaulters to the detriment of helpless creatures. The continuous depletion of endangered species and ban on its harvest has made many to resort to illegal fishing. This could be through fishing in territories without permission, catching fish off-season, failure to record catch information, keeping undersized fish and using illegal procedures (Spray of formalin to kill fish). Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing is a constant challenge for Latin America navies, but the recurring presence of large, predatory, extra-regional fishing fleets exacerbates an already problematic situation. “An international fishing fleet composed of some 340 vessels is currently sailing through international waters close to Ecuador’s exclusive economic zone”- Wilder Alejandro Sanchez

Smuggling is the illegal transportation of objects, substances, information, or people, such as out of a house or building, into a prison, or across an international border, in violation of applicable international laws or other regulations2 .  Activities such as drug trade, illegal weapons and exotic wildlife trade, illegal migration , tax evasion and theft of items smuggled are some of the reasons people engage in this practice. In developing nations for instance, smuggling tends to hinder the growth of the manufacturing sector and deprives the government of much needed revenue. This is evident in Nigeria where President Muhammadu Buhari lamented that the country lost about $3 billion to illegal smuggling of gold between 2012 and 2018- Vanguard newspaper. Smugglers have continued to deplete the population of species like hawksbill turtle, vaquita, blue whale, steller sea lion, fin whale and green sea turtle, which were once in abundance. Interpol reported that police across the globe have seized thousands of wild animals, including primates and big cats , and arrested nearly 600 suspects in crackdown on illegal wildlife smuggling while in Australia, Xinhua reported that two people were caught attempting to smuggle 122 live fish into Melbourne airport.

Environmental pollution is the presence in or introduction into the environment of a substance, which has harmful or poisonous effects. Water pollution is one of the leading environmental issue we are facing today, as more than 70% of the earth’s surface is water-covered. When our water, air and land is polluted, it is of great concern to aquatic organism, humans, and plants, the climate and ecosystem. The release of greenhouse gases by industries have greatly contributed to the global warming and death of aquatic plants and animals. While polythene and sewage reduces the available oxygen present in water, heavy metals tops the list of inorganic pollutant with a wide range of negative effects. From fresh water assessments written by Catherine Paquette about how water shed reports data from a number of sources are used to piece together, the threat pollution poses to Canadas freshwater, eight of the eleven watersheds that was assessed were classified as having high or very high pollution threat levels. This means only three out of the accessed watersheds were at safe levels. In 2019, WHO stated that 785 million people lack access to essential drinking water.  The prevalence of cholera and other water related disease is linked with the inability of man to access safe drinking water. Plants and animals that live in water are also affected by pollution. From the report by the Centre for Biological Diversity on the effect of Deep Horizon Spill in Mexico, harm was done to over 82,000 birds, 25, 900 marine animals, 6165 sea turtles, and an unknown number of fish and invertebrates. As our environment continues to be polluted, it causes a disruption in the food chain through the movement of toxins from lower to higher levels along the food chain.

Listen to me bleated a goat, Piracy, an act of robbery or criminal violence by ship or boat borne attackers upon another ship or a coastal area typically with the goal of stealing cargo and other valuable items or properties is another critical global maritime issue we need to deliberate upon a fox barked. The earliest documented report on piracy occurred in the 14th century BC, when the sea peoples, a group of ocean raiders, attacked the ships of the Aegean and Mediterranean civilizations. In East Asia for example, populations centred mostly on pirate activities in coastal Shandong and Jiangsu province while in the Mediterranean, piracy was conducted almost entirely with galleys until the mid-17th century, when they were gradually replaced with a highly manoeuvrable vessel like Xebecs. Illegal trade and smuggling overseas are the major activities pirates engage in to source for revenue. The international shipping piracy and security news in July 2020 reported six incidents of piracy and armed robbery against ships in Asia alone. In Africa, control risks, a global risk consultancy , said 44 incidents of piracy has been recorded since the start of 2020 alone, double the number in the Caribbean and South America and 10 times more than the previous hotspot , the horn of Africa off Somalia.  

Stop! The lion interrupted. I am weary of your lamentation. Does anyone have some recommendations on how we can address these global maritime issues? Roared the Lion.

Oh! Yes I do, grunted a wise tortoise.

Many of these global issues can be curbed if youths who are the leading executors are refocused through mind-set re-orientation and profitable engagement. It is imperative for job opportunities, entrepreneurship and skill acquisition to be leveraged upon by authorities to curb unemployment and discourage perpetrators. Technologies capable of arresting the activities of pirates and smugglers should be adopted globally while the public is enlightened on the dangers of these practices. Laws and policies regulating the maritime industries locally should tally with those of international standards for effective harmonization and implementation. Enforcement agents who engaged corrupt practices while discharging their duties have hampered the progress of Maritime authorities in the past. These agents should be re-trained, and closely monitored to cut off smugglers and pirates that make shipwreck of the system through bribery

Since piracy begins at home water bodies, measures to stop pirates while they are still in their own territory should be implemented early before they get lost in the open ocean and sea. Many countries of the world do not  have the financial muscle to purchase high speed patrol boats capable of wading off pirates. Global Maritime authorities should lease these security tools to these regions where there is a high presence of pirates. The air force should also be encouraged to use aircrafts capable of locating and dislodging pirate skiffs in the open ocean while the Maritime agencies make effort to provide onshore security base that will be “cities of refuge” for endangered vessels. Manufacturers of vessels should not forget to equip vessels with tracking technology capable of spotting enemies while on shore.

According to a report by Passport-ocean, around one million plastic drinking bottles are purchased every minute, while up to 5 trillion single use plastic bags are used world-wide yearly. The application of proper plastic reuse, recycling and destruction is a cost effective measure to reduce pollution through plastic. The planting of hydrophytes near water bodies should not be neglected. This helps in preventing chemicals and pollutants that should have been washed into water bodies from eroding. Sustainable shipping vessels that are environmentally friendly should phase out the traditional types currently in use while taxes are levied on all water users in relation to the amount of waste produced. Income generated can be channelled to clean-up and sanitize our water bodies.

Extension agents disseminating sustainable fishing practices to anglers should of necessity, make their message easy to understand for easy adoption. Communities living close to water bodies ought to be taught the rudiments of fishing ethically. Firms and individuals using technology to fish should be advised to use equipment that will minimize by-catch and ocean floor destruction.  Rare fish species on the verge of extinction should be bred in captivity before releasing them back to their natural habitat.

The task of preserving our water bodies will be achieved, as we accept to collectively work as a team said the tortoise as it moved close to a bunch of banana.  

 What a brilliant counsel!  Chatted a wise monkey. However, as animals, we cannot execute these laudable recommendations without the help of man humed a brave giraffe. We ought to spare Mr Uongozi , barked a dog. No! No! No! Kill him! Shoot him! Roast him alive! Were some of the opinions heard from the grumbling animals. As the lion pondered on what step to take, a cricket who had benefited from the laudable care and protection of the Canadian Maritime industry came forward to chirp its opinion. Listen comrades said the cricket, why are we so daft in reasoning. Can’t we recall how Mr Uongozi, a director at the Canadian Maritime naval office organized essay competitions in the past to raise awareness about some global maritime issues? You all knew how our comrades in the Canadian territory narrated how they enjoyed life during the annual animal kingdom meetings at Suez Canal. Please recall the many sacrifices the Canadian naval officers made to reduce the activities of pirates, limit the effect of pollution on the environment, and abolish over fishing despite non-cooperation from her colleagues in other parts of the world. I believe as we re-unite with man, we can make the world safe for all again. As tension eased, Mr Uongozi quietly opened the door while the animals rushed to embrace him and his colleagues. A new template for the actualization of a sustainable global maritime industry was drawn and left under the control of man while the animals embraced peace and returned back to the jungle.

References:

1 African Bone tools Dispute Key Idea About Human Evolution. National Geographic News article

2 Https://en.m.wikipedia.org

3 Fisheries and Aquaculture in our changing climate. Policy brief of the FAO for the UNFCCC Cop-15 in Copenhagen, December 2009

Copyright © Ekoja Okewu 2018

Author: Ekoja Okewu
I am Ekoja Solomon from Nigeria. I love engaging in writeups that spur humanity into action

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