Tackle plastic pollution to aid fish migration in Nigeria waters- Prof Onyema urges

…..as the Society for Ecological Restoration UNILAG Student Chapter commemorates World Fish Migration Day 2024

Prof Ikenna Charles Onyema of Department of Marine Sciences, University of Lagos

The menace of plastic pollution believed to be among the biggest environmental concerns globally can sustainably be addressed by gradually phasing out single-use plastics and replacing them with reusable ones, mobilizing communities for regular cleanup exercises, and introducing policies against environmentally harmful plastic materials.

 There is also a need for research works that focus on innovative alternatives to plastics.
Professor Ikenna Charles Onyema of the Department of Marine Biology, Faculty of Science, University of Lagos proffered the solution, during a webinar organized by the Society for Ecological Restoration, UNILAG Student Chapter, to mark the 2024   World Fish Migration Day with the theme,” Flowing Free”.
A strong advocate of Marine Conservation with over 60 publications to his name, Prof. Onyema identified plastic pollution as a major hindrance to fish migration.
According to him, plastics pose consequences to fish migration by clogging the waterways preventing some species from going through, just as some fish inject plastics leading to their death.
Explaining the extent of plastic pollution in Nigeria’s oceans and rivers, he said, “We are in a crisis level. Plastics constitute harm to the environment, especially waterways. It has led to a reduction in fish diversity. Nigeria has continuously experienced a reduction in fish populations between the 1980s and  1990s. For instance, Bonga fish used to be common in the Lagos area. What we have now are the ones that are more tolerant of the unhealthy environment”, he said.
The Marine Scientist hoped that by adopting the solutions that he prescribed, Nigeria would gradually win the war against plastic pollution like some nations including Japan. “In the UK, you are charged more if you use plastic cups. Europe has cleaned up its cities. In Japan, every plastic bottle is designated to a particular compartment”, he remarked.
 “We must reduce plastic use. Gradually, we must opt for reusable items, water bottles, bags, and containers. We must participate in cleanup events so that we can take out the ones that are buried beneath the sand, and buried in the seashore. We must advocate for policy change”, he advised.

SER-UNILAG Student Chapter gathers UNILAG Staff School children for World Fish Migration Day 2024 celebration

Responding to the call by Prof Onyema for more research works to provide alternatives to plastics, the Coordinator of the SER UNILAG Student chapter, Prof Excellence Akeredolu identified funding as a major challenge as he urged government and private organizations, well-meaning Nigerians and institutions, and corporate entities to sponsor researchers.
Akeredolu underscored the importance of the webinar saying, “As the faculty advisor for the UNILAG Student Chapter of the Society for Ecological Restoration, I’m honored to welcome you to this important event focused on addressing the critical issue of plastic pollution and its devastating impacts on migrating fish populations in Nigeria.
“The theme for this year’s World Fish Migration Day is “Flowing Free” – a call to action to restore the connectivity of our rivers and waterways to allow fish to safely migrate and thrive. This is a cause that is deeply personal to our student organization, as we have witnessed firsthand the damage that plastic waste and other man-made barriers are having on the delicate ecosystems that sustain Nigeria’s diverse array of migratory fish species.
“Over the past decade, we have seen once-abundant fish populations dwindle at alarming rates, unable to complete their natural life cycles due to the proliferation of plastic pollution clogging our rivers and coastlines. The consequences of this crisis extend far beyond the environment – it threatens food security, economic livelihoods, and the very cultural fabric of communities that have relied on thriving fisheries for generations.
“But today, we are here to say that enough is enough. We stand united in our commitment to restoring the ecological integrity of our waterways and protecting the magnificent migratory fish that are the lifeblood of our rivers. Through collaborative research, community engagement, and innovative solutions, the students of the UNILAG Ecological Restoration Chapter are ready to lead the charge in turning the tide against plastic pollution”, he said.

The society had gathered some children of the University of Lagos Staff School to commemorate World Fish Migration Day.

It said in a statement that the event is ” aimed to educate Grade 5 pupils about the importance of aquatic biodiversity and the threats to fish migration.

According to the statement “During the visit, the SER-UNILAG students interacted with the pupils and explained the significance of fish migration. They highlighted the three main reasons for fish migration: breeding, searching for food, and avoiding unfavorable climatic conditions.

“The SER-UNILAG students also discussed the various threats to fish migration, with a particular focus on plastic pollution in the aquatic environment. They explained how plastic waste can entangle fish and other aquatic animals, impeding their movement and making them susceptible to predators. Additionally, some fish may accidentally swallow plastic waste, which can become toxic and ultimately lead to their demise. Plastic waste can also clog and block fish migratory routes, as well as hinder the penetration of light and oxygen into water bodies.

“To emphasize the need for action, the pupils were enlightened on the importance of reducing their use of plastic or finding sustainable alternatives. They were also encouraged to properly dispose of plastic waste in designated bins, where it can be sorted and recycled appropriately.

“The SER-UNILAG students further stressed the importance of reusing and recycling some of these plastics.

As part of the event, the pupils were given drawing materials to create their own artistic representations of fish, allowing them to engage with the topic in a hands-on and creative manner” it added.

By Innocent Onoh (+2348034158834)

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