The United Arab Emirates offers timely support to oversee the new network of Gabon’s marine parks
The United Arab Emirates has decided to provide Gabon with a dozen speedboats and a surveillance plane to monitor its coasts and marine parks.
“We are very grateful toward the government and the people of the Emirates,” stated the President of the Republic.
In the aftermath of the decennial World Parks Congress, sponsored by Ali Bongo Ondimba, the excellent relationship between Libreville and Abu Dhabi allowed for exceptional contributions to the protection of Gabon’s national sovereignty over all marine areas. Some ten boats and one specialized aircraft, all equipped with radar and long-distance infrared vision systems, were donated by the United Arab Emirates to facilitate the surveillance of sea areas.
President Ali Bongo Ondimba praised the personal involvement of His Highness Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, President of the United Arab Emirates and His Highness General Sheikh Mohamed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi, the deputy supreme commander of the UAE Armed Forces. “This significant donation of patrol ships will help our marine, coastguard and national park authorities to better patrol and protect our national coastal parks and our new network of marine parks. It is an essential contribution not only to our efforts to stop pirate fishing boats from pillaging our marine resources, but will also help to reduce illegal immigration and strengthen our fight against piracy in the Gulf of Guinea. We are very grateful toward the government and the people of the United Arab Emirates for their support,” concluded the Gabonese president.
These speedboats will make a significant difference in Gabon’s capacity to patrol its territorial waters. Also, the airplane will facilitate surveillance of the outer limits of Gabon’s EEZ, where large fleets of pirate tuna fishing boats threaten to occasionally attack fuel tanker ships.
The Minister of Defense, Ernest MpouhoEpigat, emphasized the importance of this donation, which will help the Gabonese marines to react immediately to any incident in territorial waters and the neighboring EEZ.
The marine parks project
The President of the Republic announced Gabon’s intention to reserve 23% of its EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) for marine parks. Gabon already has 21% of its land ecosystems organized in a network of protected areas, including 13 national parks, 9 RAMSAR sites and a series of wildlife and hunting reserves.
This decision to create marine parks falls under the recommendations by experts, who estimate that 20 to 30% of oceans should be classified for their protection in order to optimize sustainable management of marine resources outside of parks. This classification is part of a usage plan for national land aiming to optimize the allocation of Gabon’s land and marine ecosystems. The classified marine domain will be allocated to parks and oil drilling exclusion zones and various types of artisanal and commercial fishing zones will be created.
The creation of marine parks was initially inspired by an expedition carried out in 2013 by the “Pristine Seas” initiative by National Geographic, with the National Agency of National Parks of Gabon (ANPN), the Waitt Foundation and the Wildlife Conservation Society. A team of international experts led by Dr. Enric Sala, explorer for National Geographic, undertook surveys in Gabon’s coastal waters, later presenting their conclusions to President Bongo Ondimba, who joined scientists aboard their research ship, “Plan B”, at the end of the assignment.
The expedition and the personal involvement by the Gabonese president were documented in a film by National Geographic entitled “Wild Gabon” which was screened at the World Parks Congress in Sydney.