As the world marks the year 2022 World Ocean Day with the theme – Revitalization: Collective Action for the Ocean, it is necessary for us to have sober reflections on the state of our oceans, seas, rivers, and creeks. It is particularly important that individuals and local communities who have lived in harmony with these water bodies be recognized, supported, and learned from.
Today we mark the World Oceans Day from the banks of the river at Ogulagha community, Delta State, Nigeria. It is a day for dialogue with fishers and community people whose connection with the ocean, rivers, and creeks around them goes beyond livelihoods – it is their life. The degraded condition of the community is a sad commentary on the despoliation of the Niger Delta and the Gulf of Guinea by oil exploration and exploitation. Like many other extractive communities of the Niger Delta, Ogulagha community is incessantly impacted by oil spills and waste dumps that threaten not only the aquatic ecosystem but also the survival of the people.
The Director, Health of Mother Earth Foundation (HOMEF) calls for real collective action to protect the ocean and other water bodies. According to him, “We cannot talk about collective actions without first defining what the problems are, and who are responsible for the problems. It is crystal clear that industrial fishing, offshore exploration, and exploitation, dumping of waste offshore, and similar activities are the major drivers of pollutions and aquatic ecosystems destruction. We can only thrive when our oceans thrive. Polluting the ocean is a direct threat to humanity and polluters must not be allowed to divest without first accounting for their environmental sins.”
The occasion was also used to inaugurate the FishNet Alliance chapter in the community. FishNet Alliance is a network of fishers in Africa.
Speaking on behalf of the Alliance, Stephen Oduware said “fishers are facing a lot of problems ranging from pollution to low catch of fish. Climate change impacts and insecurity at the high seas are real threats. It seems there is a deliberate attempt to erase fishers out of the equation and value chain. The recent plan by the Nigerian government to deploy genetically improved Tilapia fish (GIFT) buttresses this at the national level, while the current WTO chair’s negotiation text supporting overfishing through fisheries subsidies reinforces the sorry state at the global level.”
The Alliance therefore calls on national, regional, and continental governments to consult fishers on policies that govern aquatic ecosystems and support artisanal fishers because they support the economy and provide employment.
The marking of international days has become indelible in the global space. World Ocean Day was first prosed by Canada at the Earth Summit that took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992 originally with the aim of celebrating the planet’s ocean, establishing, and highlighting our personal connection to the sea, as well as raising awareness on the essential role it plays in our lives and the overall health of the environment.
June 8th became celebrated every year after the United Nations recognized the Day in 2008 and since then has become a ritual for drawing attention to the oceans. As the world marks the Day, it is important to ask real questions as to who is destroying our oceans, seas, rivers, and creeks. Polluters must halt their activities, clean up the mess and make reparations for the harms inflicted.

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