On the sideline of the Nigeria for seaturtles conservation event, Paolo Bray, executive director and founder of World Sustainability Organization speaks on the firm’s plan for Nigeria and the role eco-labeling plays in promoting conservation.
What is the focus of the event you held today?
The objective of the event was to raise awareness about the presence and threats to seaturtles in Nigeria and to award the shrimp producer which operates in a way that prevents the bycatch of seaturtles as well as highlight well deserving conservation initiatives to prevent the poaching of seaturtles.
What are the plans of World Sustainability Organization for Nigeria?
We operate in more than 80 countries as far as certification goes and over 100 countries if we include our conservation activities. We are in over 10 African countries. So far, we have only one Friend of the sea certified fishing company. It’s a major producer and exporter of shrimps. It has 74 fishing trawlers and is one of the biggest in West Africa.
We have selected and are supporting conservation projects to protect Seaturtles from poaching and to raise awareness.
This (event) is the first step. With this meeting, we will be able to start the process where we’ll be able to involve more of the shrimp fishing companies in Nigeria as well as producers of sea food in order to verify their compliance to our sustainability standards.
Earlier, you mentioned there is only one Friend of the sea certified fishing company in Nigeria. Are there plans to bring others on board?
Definitely. We think that the other companies will stand a good chance to be certified because their fishing activities are regulated.
You mentioned plastic pollution as a danger to marine life. What solutions do you suggest?
About 1 million individuals of aquatic species get killed by plastics pollution. So, there’s an urgent need to prevent this sort of pollution. Plastics in itself is a good material but the problem is in the disposal phase.
So what we’ve done is to ensure that the plastics is disposed in the environment in an appropriate way to try and introduce legislation to prevent the production and sale of that type of plastics especially near the coast.
In some countries, you can only sell bags made of biodegradable materials. As far as fishing is concerned, there are lots of initiatives to prevent the loss of fishing gears and nets at sea. So, this can be prevented by introducing and enforcing regulations which force fishing vessels and fleet to discard them in an appropriate way. I believe in Nigeria, there’s still lack of enough plastics recycling plants especially in Lagos. There are a number of initiatives that have to be undertaken.
How do you hope to expand your mission in Nigeria?
As we are doing on Zambia, we’d like to open up discussions with the Nigerian government. In Zambia, our mission is to make it a sustainability hub for Africa.
But this can be replicated in other countries. I think Nigeria is in the lower part of the ranking among those who have introduced sustainable practices.
But there’s always a space for improvement. Like other parts of the world, the new generation want a change.
They’re much more aware thanks to the information provided by the internet. Private companies can make a great contribution themselves both by improving their practices and by supporting conservation projects.
So, the meeting has been very helpful to open up a platform of dialogue between the different stakeholders including the banks, government, seafood companies, non-profit organizations and the media. It’s a good chance to build the platform for more sustainable practices in general.