Biological Oceanographer Prof Okemwa to be buried next week

The late Biological Oceanographer Prof Ezekiel Okemwa. [Eric Abuga, Standard]

Professor Ezekiel Okwemwa, a Nobel Laureate on environmental matters, who succumbed after a long battle with Cancer, will be buried on December 8.

The researcher in Biological Oceanography is a celebrated scientist who dedicated his life to promoting efforts geared toward protecting oceans and their biodiversity.

His younger brother, Wilfred Okemwa said the Professor died of cancer after a five-year battle on November 19. He was the second born in a family of 10 siblings.

"We have lost a valuable member of our family. He has left behind a legacy that we all admire. An industrious career and an immediate family to emulate."

The late Okemwa's remains will be flown to his rural home in Nyamondo village, Nyabine Primary for a church service and later to Kilifi where his body will be preserved.

The burial will be held at his Mtwapa home in Kilifi County on December 8, 2023.

The late Okemwa leaves behind a widow; Rose Okemwa, a former parliamentary aspirant for South Mugirango, three sons, and a daughter who is a Surgeon at the Tenwek Mission Hospital.

Unacknowledged in Kenyan circles, Prof Okemwa is a Nobel Laureate on environmental matters, having received the award as part of the UN team jointly with former US Vice President Al Gore in 2007.

He was born in 1952 and raised in Kisii, Kenya, where he spent time as a boy fishing in the small rivers of Riasuguta in South Mugirango.

He went to Isebania Boys for his Form One to Four education and later joined Kisii High School for Form Five and Six.

He holds a Ph.D. Degree in Biological Oceanography from the Free University of Brussels, Belgium, a Master of Science (M.Sc) Degree in Fundamental Marine Ecology, a Post Graduate Marine Ecology and B.Sc from The University of Nairobi.

His Ph.D research was on phytoplankton, chlorophylls, seston, zooplankton and nutrients, systematics and productivity. His interests began to expand beyond plankton and fish species to much broader views of the entire ecosystem, including oceanography and fisheries management.

In 1990 he became the Director General of Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute (KMFRI).

Prof Okemwa retired from Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, in 2009 and joined the Technical University of Mombasa (TUM) in the Department of Environment and Health Sciences as Associate Professor of Biological Oceanography after 51 years of service.

From 1990 - 2000 he was elected and worked as Deputy President of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) based at Paris in France. The Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission of UNESCO (IOC) is the United Nations body responsible for supporting global ocean science and services.

The deceased was awarded the IBC Meritorious Decoration for an Outstanding Contribution in the Field of Biological Oceanography and has gained membership in the International Order of Merit

He won a gold statue of a model of a graduate student from the Limburg University Centre (LUC) in Belgium for his role in founding the Regional Cooperation in Scientific Exchange in Western India Ocean (RECOSCIX-WIO).

He promoted and effectively searched for funding from donors and provided information services of scientific literature to KMFRI and West Indian Ocean region staff and clients. The LUC honored him for his guidance as the Director of the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute and as a scientist from Africa and the region.

He has been recognized for his lifelong contributions to solutions for sustainable relations with the oceans.

Before his death, he started a fund to help support young cancer survivors.

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