Worried by ongoing uncoordinated commercial activities and marine dredging operations at the famous Oxbow Lake Resort, located within Yenagoa, the Bayelsa state capital, Senior Special Assistant to Governor Douye Diri on Tourism Development, Mr. Tamaramiebi Abiri has expressed concerns on the possible negative effects of the ongoing unsustainable activities in, and around the Lake.
Mr. Abiri who visited the Oxbow Lake over the weekend maintained that properly managed lakes provide excellent recreational opportunities, particularly for popular fish species such as largemouth bass, channel catfish, and hybrid bream, saying that the lake which he described as a great ecological asset to the state could be transformed to a seafood hub and blue tourism zone where commercial fishing can take place.
According to the Senior Special Assistant, a good fishing lake has to be deliberately stocked with fish species of choice and be continually maintained, fish removed or harvested at appropriate rates, lamenting that most lake owners do not understand the fundamentals of lake management, such lakes end up being unproductive.
Mr Abiri, an expert in international tourism and hospitality management, with private sector experience in tourism management, noted that the first step in recreational lake management is to decide what kind of recreation is desirable at the lake, informing that lakes and ponds can be managed for fishing, swimming, wildlife attraction, and aesthetics, but that it is usually difficult to combine for all of these recreational activities on the same scale, hence the need to specify what exactly the lake should be used in line with global best practices in lake management to achieve optimal benefits to the community, the state government and stakeholders.
He reiterated that the Oxbow Lake Yenagoa, being first of its kind in West Africa, has remained a great ecological asset to Bayelsa State and Nigeria, informing that based on his understanding of how dredging affects marine habitats and associated fauna and flora, the ongoing sand dredging at the Lake will certainly impact the marine environment negatively.
While calling on relevant state and federal agencies and departments, particularly the ministries of environment, transport and that of culture and tourism to the ongoing ecological damage at the lake, he called on the regulatory bodies to enforce the appropriate environmental laws to protect the Oxbow lake resort, which is a major tourism resort from the current threats to the lake ecosystems, especially in the degradation of biological diversity caused by unsustainable human activities at the lake environment.
The Senior Special Assistant to governor also expressed concerns over the absence of life savers, such as divers, Red Cross, Marine police and lifeguards at the lake, where recreational and commercial activities take place on daily basis, informing that divers and lifeguards play key roles in ensuring that the lake is safe for those who wish to swim or in case of incidents of drowning while visiting the lake environment.
Experts say, entrainment, habitat degradation, noise, contaminant remobilization, suspended sediments, and sedimentation can affect benthic, epibenthic, and infaunal communities, which may impact marine mammals indirectly through changes to prey. Eggs and larvae are at highest risk from entrainment, so dredging in spawning areas can be detrimental.