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Viewpoint: Importance of baseline data for Ministry of Marine, Blue Economy

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Baseline data collection is a fundamental step in assessing and managing the natural resources and ecosystems of marine and blue economy sectors, writes, Moses Braimah.

With the establishment of the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy in Nigeria, there is a crucial opportunity to prioritise the collection, analysis and effective management of data to drive economic growth and sustainable development. This espouse is to draw attention to the significance of baseline data, highlight critical data categories, discourse their utilisation for economic and sustainable development and propose a department setup for managing this data.

The collection of baseline and other forms of existing data cannot be over emphasised. Some of their importance includes the following:

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Informed decision-making: Baseline data provides a foundation for informed policy and investment decisions, enabling evidence-based strategies for marine and blue economy sectors.

Sustainability: Accurate baseline data helps monitor changes over time, ensuring resource management aligns with long-term sustainability goals.

Risk assessment: Baseline data aids in identifying vulnerabilities, risks and opportunities for blue economy sectors, guiding effective risk mitigation.

Investment attraction: High-quality data enhances investor confidence, attracting private and public investments that align with sustainable practices.

So, what are some these critical data categories that need to be collected and collated, where they already exist?

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Ocean health: Water quality, pollution levels, biodiversity and ecosystem health indicators are essential for effective resource management and conservation.

Economic data: Data on fisheries, aquaculture, tourism and maritime transport contribute to understanding sector contributions to GDP and potential growth.

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Climate and weather: Meteorological and climate data support disaster preparedness and resilience in the face of climate change impacts.

Spatial data: Geospatial information aids in mapping resources, planning marine protected areas and optimising infrastructure development.

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Biodiversity: Collect data on marine species, habitats and ecosystems to understand biodiversity and inform conservation efforts.

Oceanographic data: Gather information on temperature, salinity, currents and nutrient levels to comprehend marine processes and trends.

Environmental data: Document pollution levels, plastic waste and other environmental stressors to devise effective pollution control and sustainable management plans.

These data can be utilised for economic and sustainable development in the following ways:

Resource allocation: Precise data aids in allocating resources efficiently, reducing waste and maximising returns on investments.

Regulatory frameworks: Informed policies and regulations create a conducive environment for sustainable development and blue economy growth.

Ecosystem services valuation: Data supports valuation of ecosystem services, facilitating sustainable blue economy practices.

Strategic planning: Data-driven insights inform long-term strategies, such as infrastructure development, tourism promotion and waste management.

It is also vital to highlight the importance of data storage and management. This is so because they form a very critical aspect of this process. Data should be stored in a secure, accessible and scalable digital platform, adhering to international data management standards. Cloud-based solutions can ensure data integrity, availability and easy sharing among stakeholders.

Effective data storage and governance methods are essential for maximising the utility of collected information, ensuring its accuracy, security and accessibility. Proper data management enables informed decision-making, policy formulation and strategic planning, fostering a foundation of transparency and reliability crucial for sustainable development in the marine and blue economy sectors. Open data principles should be embraced to facilitate collaboration and transparency among stakeholders.

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One of the key success factors for data collection and management is by having a proper structure that oversees, manages and takes primary responsibility for its failure and success. Therefore, it is recommended to have a dedicated department within the Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy.

The department role and responsibilities should include things like data collection, analysis, storage, sharing, security, governance, periodic reporting to guide decision-making, etc. This data management should be made up of personnel with different expertise. A multidisciplinary team of marine scientists, economists, data analysts and IT professionals should be put in place. They should be those who also understand the value of collaboration. They should collaborate with universities, research institutions, private sector and international organisations for data exchange and capacity building.

In conclusion, baseline and other existing data collection/collation are paramount for the successful establishment and growth of Nigeria’s Ministry of Marine and Blue Economy. By prioritising the collection, analysis and management of critical data categories, Nigeria can effectively drive economic growth, promote sustainable development and enhance the resilience of marine and blue economy sectors. The proposed department setup will play a pivotal role in ensuring the availability and utilisation of high-quality data to inform policy, investment and decision-making processes.

…Braimah is an Executive Project Director at PacificMessages.

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