It seems clear that the problems of the nearshore and coastal zones pose the most pressing threats to the marine environment. These threats are primarily terrigenous in origin and are related to sewage disposal and pollutant runoffs. The assessment also reveals that the trend of increasing pressure on the environment will certainly continue for as long as urban migration remains high. Such issues requiring priority attention include the potential threats of invasive species, marine litter, increasing uncontrolled coastal development leading to habitat degradation and changing land-use patterns, and climate change.
Moreover, overexploitation of natural resources from the coastal and marine areas also contribute to the threat to the marine environment. This is predicated on overwhelming dependence by rural and coastal communities on such resources in the face of widespread poverty and limited opportunities for alternative livelihoods.
The present level of agricultural wastes, herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers discharged may not yet constitute a major concern but the rate at which mangrove vegetation is being lost to rice-planting is worrisome.
A challenge is the lack of a proper data base. Lack of data has made it very difficult to compare time scales and rate of changes over time. However, it is clear that the national awareness already exists and remedial mechanisms are being implemented without waiting for scientific tools to be developed. A total of 60 parameters were assessed during the expert elicitation workshop, 8 were assessed as very good and 43 as good so the present situation is not critical. But 12 of the parameters were assessed as declining during the last 5 years so there is reason to take action. To repeat the assessment in regular intervals will be a cost efficient way to monitor the trend.
Other pressures including mining and associated infrastructure is assessed as the biggest pressure with loss of habitat, slope stability and protection, biodiversity and low water quality.
Four out of the twelve potential risks were considered high in a 5 years perspective, and 8 in a 50 years perspective.
In the last decade a great number of actions and important management measures have been taken to improve the state and outlook of Sierra Leone’s coastal and marine environment. Several other initiatives within the country, by partners and collaborators, have augmented and assisted in the realization of a healthier environment for sustainable economic and social development. The actions advocated are both in response to the identified threats facing the country and attempts to address climate change and other emerging issues.
Sierra Leone is already developing and implementing improved management strategies in order to mainstream environmental concerns into national policy, regulatory, and institutional mechanisms that are critical to achieving sustainable results. These include improvements in many of the regulations governing the marine environment, designation of new Marine Protected Areas and proposals for additional coastal protected areas. Improved regulations also require focused enforcement efforts to assist in sustaining gains in environmental protection, rebuilding stocks, and maximizing the long-term benefits of the goods and services provided by the ecosystem.
Also, there is an increased awareness of environmental problems by both the government and the population and a growing commitment to allocate the necessary resources to resolving current problems and tackling proactively other emerging issues.
Finally, it could be concluded that the Sierra Leone marine environment is in a stable and fairly good condition. Environmental management has improved over the last 5–10 years, the national awareness is there, and the country currently has the will and potential to make more improvements.