Biodiversity in the Bakassi Peninsular at risk

Humans rely on biodiversity for survival, but surprisingly, human activities are the primary cause of the huge decline in biodiversity, particularly in the ocean where fishing is driving the greatest biodiversity loss. While the statistics outlined are alarming, there is good news. If we act quickly to eliminate unsustainable fishing practices, protect a greater portion of the ocean (at least 30 percent, say many scientists), and adopt a new treaty to protect the high seas, we can stem the loss of marine biodiversity.

Fishing and mangrove harvesting are the most significant threats to marine biodiversity in the Cameroon-Nigeria border in the Bakassi Peninsular. Majority of the people living in the peninsular have been solely dependent on fishing and mangrove harvesting to sustain their livelihood. The peninsular which forms part of the Gulf of Guinea is a biodiversity hotspot with the Rio Del Rey Estuary serving as a major habitat for many fish species. Many commercial fishing boats are known to operate in the area.

The commercial fishing boats usually get into conflict with artisanal fishing by operating in area that is supposed to be reserved for artisanal fishing.  Majority of fishermen use unsustainable fishing practices such as the use of dynamite, cyanide and trawlers. The drives of these activities in the area include poor government policies, high rates of unemployment, lack of management programmes and unregulated fishing activities.

The area needs stronger protections to overcome mounting human pressures. Pressures on marine biodiversity are accumulating rapidly but we can reduce these threats by deploying science-based policies that improve marine ecosystem health. We need to stop overfishing, rebuild overfished stocks through catch limits and ecosystem-based fisheries management, establish well-managed and highly or fully protected marine protected areas (MPAs), protect a greater portion of the ocean and land and mitigate climate change.

Over one-third of marine mammals and nearly one-third of sharks, shark relatives, and reef-forming corals are threatened with extinction, according to a report released on the state of global biodiversity. The Global Assessment Report of 2005 on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services, written by an intergovernmental body of biological and ecological experts representing 50 countries, lays out the dire situation for species richness across the globe. The report finds that between half a million and one million species are threatened with extinction globally, and extinction rates have accelerated sharply in the past century.

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