By Jeneba A Conteh
The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) has held a day’s workshop on the validation of the updated Sherbro River Estuary Co-management plan at the Radisson Blu Hotel in Freetown on Friday 18th November 2022.
Action plan for the conversation of seagrass in Sierra an annex to the reviewed Sherbo Estuary Co-management plan was funded by ResilienSEA and that it was coordinated by EPA.
Giving an overview of seagrass ResilienSEA project, the Deputy Director of EPA, Paul A. Lamin said Seagrass is the only flowering plant that can live underwater and is found near shore waters of most of the world’s continents.
He said studies have revealed that seagrass is currently in one hundred and ninety one (191) countries and across six global bioregions spanning the tropical and temperate seas.
He said seagrass serves as environmental and ecosystem regulator and an important climate change control and socio- economic resource in a number of ways, including keeping the ocean clean and providing ecological support to coral reefs, adding that its meadows help filter the water of pollutants and sediments which increase water clarity and quality.
“Seagrass supports commercial fisheries and biodiversity, clean the surrounding water and helps take carbondioxide out of the atmosphere. And because of these, seagrass is believed to be the third most valued ecosystem in the world at large it only preceded by estuaries and wetlands,” he said.
He further said to identify seagrass some level of training and expertise are required because they have various shapes and sizes associated with the species identity.
Lamin continues that some of the leaves of different species of seagrass include an oval shape, a fern shape, a long spaghetti like leaf and a ribbon shape, adding that the species of seagrass found in Sierra Leone is halodule Wrightii belonging to the family cymodoceacea, and is commonly named shoal grass or shoalweed.
Chairman Sherbro River Co-Management, Rev. Umaru Koroma, said the initiative came from National Protection Area Authority (NPAA), adding that research has proven that the Sherbro Island is one of the richest rivers in the country as they have a legal mandate to keep the resources of the river after they signed an MOU with the Government of Sierra Leone to oversee the river.
He said the project was meant to know the economic value of the Sherbo River and appealed to government to use the resources judiciously as they will continue to protect the Sherbro River for the betterment of the country.
Deputy Minister of Environment, Cyril Jusu, said seagrass is one of the most productive ecosystems on earth and accepts the fact that seagrass has an incredible ability that helps fight climate change as it has a huge capacity for carbon absorption.
The deputy minister continues that the marine plants capture and store carbon and eventually depositing it into the seafloor, adding that according to studies, seagrass accounts for ten percent of the ocean capacity to store carbon and it can capture carbon from the atmosphere up to thirty five times faster than tropical rainforests.
He noted that that integrating seagrass conservation in the MPA management is a key and crucial step in addressing the vulnerabilities seagrass and other marine plants are facing including continuing threats from climate change.
He further stated that government has made a very big leap in marine and coastal conservation and protection and that the Ministry of Environment and EPA have developed an integrated coastal and marine protection regulation soon to be laid in parliament.
He added that if they do not take a holistic approach now the expectation to achieve sustainable development will only remain a dream as they have the opportunity to determine how they effectively work towards coastal zone management within the diverse capacities and how to foster consensus building in overcoming the huge challenges they face he stated.
National Protected Area Authority (NPAA),Joseph R Musa, said the reviewed version of the Sherbro Estuary River Co- management plan has made provisions for the sustainable conservation of sea grass, and extended his warm thanks and appreciation to the ResilienceSea project and Rampao for their devotion and support to seagrass conservation in Sierra Leone.
He further said that they will remain grateful to the course and foster their collaboration with EPA for their critical role in challenging the funds, coordinating activities and meetings and encourage them to do more.
He added that the Sherbro River can be said to be one of the most dynamic marine protected areas and also the most attractive because of its unique biodiversity and continue that the effective management of the sea grass beds in mania, sehbro and other parts of the turtle island remain a principal responsibility and commitment to the NPPA because its conservation also absorbs carbon from the atmosphere thereby reducing global warming, impact of climate change and at the same time contribute to the country GPD through carbon sales or carbon credit.
The executive director further said the protection of sea grass meadows is imperative because some marine fauna like marine turtle, manatee etc, feed on it and as conservationists and environmentalists their desire and objective is to ensure sustainability and continuity.