Oil and gas exploitation: an expert advocates a middle ground policy for the conservation of marine environments

In an interview he gave to the press, Ahmed Senhoury, Director of the PRCM, identifies a number of avenues for coastal and marine conservation. The Executive Director of the Regional Partnership for Coastal and Marine Conservation in West Africa (PRCM), Dr Ahmed Senhoury, recommends a middle ground policy to ensure that marine and coastal environments are protected in the context of the sustainable exploitation of oil and gas resources.

“The oil and gas sector is confronted with many challenges. Our countries must develop their oil sectors while preserving their renewable natural resources” he advised during the presentation, on Wednesday, of a paper on « African coastline: opportunities and threats » at a training session for journalists in the sub-region dealing with environmental issues. “The training will help to put in place a sustainable framework for the exchange of experiences and ideas and to emerge stronger through a range of tools”, he added before calling on journalists to take ownership of the issue. According to Dr Senhoury, the exploitation of oil and gas resources requires preliminary studies to assess possible effects not only on biodiversity but also on other socioeconomic sectors such as fisheries and tourism.

He insisted that « Proactively responding to risks involves conducting impact assessment studies in the first place», in order to ensure that the exploitation of oil and gas resources does not impact other sites. Dr Senhoury noted that owing to its biological wealth and dynamics, the African coastline is threatened by human pressure, climate change effects and the overexploitation of fishery resources. Nonetheless, the African coastline will still boast its rich marine and coastal biodiversity, although things evolve rapidly in the coastal area due to the stakes at play and key challenges identified”, Dr Senhoury added.

“These ecosystems are vulnerable, dynamic and mobile, and it is on sandy coasts that such mobility and sensitivity are most felt” he stated, underscoring that the bulk of the African coastline is made up of low-lying areas located beneath the sea level and generally enjoys natural protection. This means that the coastal area does provide opportunities, particularly in view of its diversity. “It is of special interest because it is home to the fishery resources that represent the economic backbone of a number of countries”, the Executive Director of PRCM maintained.

Referring to the threats facing this coastal area, Dr Senhoury elaborated on the overexploitation of fishery resources, poor fishing practices, massive decline of biodiversity, to say nothing about the lack of planning and the vulnerability to climate change as well as the increase in unexpected phenomena. For his part, the environmental expert, Mr. Pierre Campredon, called for promoting the integrated management of coastal areas through a greater support to interministerial approaches. “We need to work together to find solutions and conceive the coastal area as functional unit”, he concluded.

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