• Thursday, June 20, 2024
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BusinessDay

Marine resources of Nigeria

Marine

Nigeria is a maritime state that is endowed with rich and diverse marine ecosystems and resources. Nine out of the thirty – six states in Nigeria have a coastline with the Atlantic ocean. Even from prehistoric times in the world, people have continually used resources that the marine environment offers. It is important to note that over 25% of the Nigerian population inhabits coastal states. Marine ecosystems include coastal fresh and mangrove swamps, creeks, coastal rivers, estuaries, bays and the near and offshore waters. The ecological zones around and associated with these habitats are also included as marine ecosystems.

The ocean covers a large chunk of the surface of the earth and is the largest ecosystem in the world. The ocean and our coastal waters are invaluable to the survival of our planet and species. These marine ecosystems provide or enable sea food and livelihood for millions, medicine to treat diseases, shipping and water transport, energy, tourism and supports coastal economies worldwide. The oceans also provide and support new economic opportunities, climate stability, coastal habitats that reduce our risks from coastal storms and flooding. It is important to note that one third of the world population live in the coastal zone of the world and this comprises only 4% of the world’s land area. Resources from the marine ecosystems of the world are valuable commodities and substances found within these habitats. Humans harvest the benefits of these ecosystems for food, fuel and many valuable products.

These resources can be divided into two namely renewable (living) and non-renewable (non-living) resources. The renewable resources refer to many types of marine creatures (both plants and animals). In Nigeria, they include but are not limited to coastal plants including aquatic macrophytes, mangrove plants, shore and riparian vegetation among other plant related resources. These can be used as fuel, wood, smoking fish for making mats and other related materials as well as raw materials for some categories of industries. It is important to note that plant communities also provide sanctuaries and marine protected areas with natural aesthetics that have tourism values and are notably exploited by coastal states in this regard as a source of revenue. Fish and shell fish resources are also parts of the renewable or living resources, and are rich in protein foods. They include an array of fishes, molluscs and crustaceans such as crabs, shrimps, prawns, lobsters, reptiles, marine mammals, periwinkles, oysters among others. Notable fish stocks in Nigerian coastal waters include the bonga, thread fins, tilapia, tunas, tuna like fishes among others. It is equally important to note that finfish provide around 16% of the animal protein consumed by people around the world. Furthermore, dependence on seafood for protein is much higher in poor coastal nations of the world.

With regards to non-renewable or non-living resources, they include oil and natural gas, sand and gravel, refractory clays, iron and heavy minerals such as garnet, rutite, spatile, tourmaline, zircon, etc. The marine resources of Nigeria provide rich mineral supply. Oil as it is known is a major foreign exchange earner for Nigeria. Crude oil activities have also brought many notable challenges to Nigeria especially in the Niger Delta region.

In the continuous exploitation of the resources of Nigeria, there is need for sustainability and conservation of these resources. Also the need to reduce the environmental impact of exploitation and exploration of non-living resources linked with oil, coal and other minerals. This is in a bid to protect the environment from adverse effects and preserve them for posterity. This will help the environment to continually produce these resources for generations to come. Furthermore, research into energy sources that have minimal or no carbon footprints should be encouraged. Examples of such energy sources such are wind, solar, waves and even geothermal energy readily comes to mind. There is need to balance the economical values of resources viz-a-viz their ecological effects on the environment and eventually humans at large. Some effects from their extraction and use have local, regional and even global implications.

Consequently, there is need for research centres, universities, private companies and government to come together and explore ways in which these resources can be sustainably exploited in globally acceptable and sustainable ways. The creation and management of Marine Protected Areas (MPA) or Conservation Zones (CZ) should also be encouraged. These areas are critical and notable hotspots of biodiversity and serve as hope spots with spawning, nursery and recruitment potentials for our diverse marine ecosystem species. The fight to save our world and preserve our collective resource is in our hands. We are all supposed soldiers in this fight.

 

Charles Onyema

Dr. Onyema is an Associate Professor, Marine Biologist and Environmentalist, University of Lagos