Africa Blue Economy Forum 2019: Blue economy facing climate and environmental challenges
25/06/2019 15:06, TUNIS/Tunisia

(TAP) -The main issue related to the blue economy for African and Mediterranean countries would be to maximise the economic benefits of such an activity, while taking up the environmental challenges related to it, is the idea unanimously supported by the decision-makers taking part in the 2nd edition of the Africa Blue Economy Forum (2019), organised on June 25-26 in Tunis, on the theme: "Investing in sustainable growth."

Taking the floor, Minister of Local Affairs and Environment Mokhtar Hammami said that "the blue economy is no other than the declination of the concept of sustainable development in the marine area. As a result, the challenges of the blue economy are not only economic but also of climatic, environmental and security nature."

"Tunisia's strong urban and tourist concentration on the coast, the over-exploitation of maritime resources and climate change have greatly contributed to the degradation and erosion of the coastline, thus threatening ecosystems, which requires more than ever a sustainable approach to exploit this space," he pointed out.

At the national level, Hammami stressed the importance of guiding the economic development model towards the sea economy, fostering innovation in the field, encouraging projects supported by young competences and giving sufficient flexibility for local authorities to reconcile economic and environmental issues.

On a wider scale, Hammami considered that "the regeneration of the Silk Road initiated by China offers economic opportunities but also major environmental nuisances (pollution related to economic activity and opportunities. The challenge would be to reinforce dialogue between the countries concerned by this initiative to minimise these nuisances and preserve the common marine heritage."

For his part, Minister of Agriculture, Water Resources and Fisheries Samir Taieb recalled that "65% of urban agglomerations are located on the Tunisian coast and over 90% of the hotel capacity is seaside. A large part of the Tunisian industry is also located on this coastal fringe. Heavy industries and the largest power plants are, for the most part, concentrated on the coast or on lakes in communication with the sea, with direct inputs of pollution. This state of affairs can only have negative impacts, accentuating the weakening and the degradation of the coastline."

"Climate change, and especially the risks of accelerated sea level rise, would be a great additional risk in the future for an already fragile and coveted coastline."

The Minister also pointed out the economic and social weight of marine activities. These include "Fishing which directly or indirectly supports nearly 100,000 Tunisians, aquaculture faced with a "rarefaction" of species and especially a growing demand. Aquaculture production has increased from 3,400 tonnes in 2007 to 22,000 tonnes in 2017, which represents about 16% of the national fish production."

He also recalled that "98% of imports and exports depend on shipping and that an essential part of tourism activity is on the coastal fringe which hosts 90% of the country's hotel capacity. In addition, the energy sector is also seeking coastal and offshore waters.

Taieb also referred to "the extraction of marine resources that are undeveloped and limited to the extraction of salts mainly around Sfax, Zarzis and Kerkennah (Gulf of Gabes)."

Making better use of the economic potential of the sea, he said, is "developing private public partnerships to accelerate the development of a sustainable blue economy, preserve artisanal activities and practices, support the crucial role of women and youth in the food chain value in the fisheries and aquaculture sectors and ensure the protection and governance of the marine space.

Ghana's Minister of Fisheries and Aquaculture Elisabeth Naa Afoley Quaye indicated that the African countries will benefit from co-ordinating their blue economy policies in order to successfully devise strategies to take up the challenges related to the blue economy and optimise fight against the dangers lurking in the African marine space, the most serious would be, according to her, pollution from plastic waste thrown into the seas and oceans.

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