Young Ocean Champion Urges Liberians to Safeguard Ocean


Liberia’s emerging Ocean Champion, Stephen B. Lavalah has urged Liberians to take practical and appropriate actions to protect the ocean for the generation yet unborn. Lavalah is the founder and executive director of Youth Exploring Solutions (YES), an accredited not-for-profit, passionate and voluntary grassroots youth-led development organization based in Liberia.

He recently participated in the 2016 Our Ocean conference hosted by the Honorable John Kerry, Secretary of State of the United States of America in Washington, D.C. on September 15 to 16.  The conference focused on the key ocean issues of our time – marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts on the ocean.

There were series of events to engage local and international audiences in the effort to protect our ocean which included: Our Ocean, Our Future: Youth Leadership Summit, Our Ocean Concert, Our Ocean Film Showcase, Our Ocean Idea Stage, Our Ocean Exhibit Hall and Our Ocean Film Stage.

It was Lavalah’s very first time walking through the doors of the U.S. Department of State and the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts.  He listened to and interacted with world leaders and amazing scientists, researchers, oceanographers, civil society leaders, heads of states, presidents, authors, actors and representatives of various governments.

These engagements further enlightened, educated and strengthened Lavalah to work alongside his colleagues and volunteers in developing innovative initiatives that safeguard the ocean.

“It was a wonderful opportunity to listen and learn about the ocean and seeing world leaders and philanthropists and foundations making huge commitments to establish Marine-Protected Areas, deal with marine pollution, unsustainable fishing practices, protection of the marine ecosystem and impact of climate change on the oceans” the young Ocean Champion noted.

Lavalah continued: “As a country with 350 square miles of coastline, we need to clean-up our beaches, and stop using it as dumpsites and restrooms; we have to conserve the shoreline and deviate from beach sand mining; we must dedicate portion of our ocean most especially our exclusive economic zone as a Marine-Protected Areas and stop fishing everywhere continuously as well as drastically end the long last illegal, unregulated and unreported fishing practices that are taking place in our ocean”.

Liberia’s lone representative to the 2016 Our Ocean conference is also calling on the Government and the people of Liberia to do everything in its power to safeguard our ocean, according to him, protecting the ocean as Liberians is an imperative and not an option.

“We must take as a matter of urgency safeguarding our ocean for ourselves, our children and grandchildren because our very existence depends on the ocean.  The ocean feeds us, protect us, regulate our climate, our weather, and anchor industries from transportation to tourism to trade of all kind. 

As the world’s second largest open registry, the ocean plays a pivotal role in our economy and the revenue generation.  So, we must do everything humanly possible to crack down on overfishing, marine protection, and begin to designate marine sanctuaries” the youth leader asserted.

The young Ocean Champion further stressed the need for Liberia to develop its first-ever National Ocean Policy that would provide a roadmap for our fishing industries, offshore drilling activities, marine research, maritime operations, pleasure craft users, shipping companies and every citizen. 

Such policy would ensure that decision makers take appropriate actions to utilize marine resources and ocean operations based on enforceable regulation grounded on the science and available research-based statistics.

Lavalah stated that every citizen, especially coastal inhabitants, should prioritize cleaning the beaches and engage in various grassroots conservation initiatives that are resilient to the consequences of climate change. The effects of climate change are visible to the rapid sea erosion in West Point, the Brought of New Kru Town and many other coastal communities’ homes to already poverty-stricken people.

“Everyone needs to get involve in protecting the ocean and solving the climate change crisis.  We cannot continue to treat the ocean anyway we want, we need the ocean more than the ocean needs us. 

More than half of our people livelihood directly depend on the ocean for their very existence and if we dare not take actions now, our national security will be detrimental while many of our people will die of starvation” the youth leader pointed out.

The team leader of YES emphasized that they are leading the quest for a safer ocean, greener planet and cleaner air utilizing a youth-led sustainable movement through their sweat, blood, and tears. 

More dedicated, determined and committed environmental enthusiasts are regularly joining the safe ocean campaign.

“Over the coming months and years, we will redouble our grassroots efforts to nurture more young ocean champions and emerging environmentalists, initiate anti-plastic bag campaigns, intensify our coastal clean-up initiatives, multiply our coastal tree planting program, and increase our environmental advocacy and outreach activities” the founder & executive director of YES reaffirmed.

The young Ocean Champion has conveyed his deepest gratitude to Lilieth Whyte, Economic Officer of the U.S. Embassy Monrovia for recommending him to participate in the 2016 Our Ocean conference. 

“I will forever remain grateful and delightful to her leadership and farsightedness in recognizing our grassroots efforts” Lavalah stated.

Background of Our Ocean Conference

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry launched the first Our Ocean conference in 2014, gathering a community of bold thinkers and actors to find solutions to the threats facing our ocean.  In 2015, Chile hosted the second conference, spurring more action to protect and save this precious resource. 

Together, these Our Ocean conferences have produced partnerships and initiatives valued at over $4 billion, as well as commitments to protect almost 6 million square kilometers of the ocean – an area almost twice the size of India. 

The 2016 Our Ocean conference in Washington, D.C., continues the momentum, celebrating the great progress made on previous commitments and catalyzing even more ambitious actions to protect our ocean. More than 100 new initiatives and contributions have already begun.

Participants in third Our Ocean conference, held September 15 – 16 in Washington, D.C., announced over 136 new initiatives on marine conservation and protection valued at more than US$5.24 billion, as well as new commitments on the protection of almost four million square kilometers (over 1.5 million square miles) of the ocean.

In the words of U.S. Secretary of State of the United States of America: “With every positive step that we take, with the marine protected areas that we create, with the networks that we create and the safeguards that we enforce to protect against illegal fishing, with the cooperation we pursue to combat climate change and to deepen scientific research – with each of these steps, we are restoring and preserving the health of the ocean.”