Coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region are approximately 6% (about 15, 180 km2) of the global coral reef coverage. The region is considered an important coral reef biodiversity hotspot. Coral reefs are vital for economic activities and coastal communities due to their role in supporting sustainable fisheries for communities (estimated at US$ 8.4 billion annually in the Western Indian Ocean), generating revenue from tourism, and providing natural barriers for coastal protection. These diverse ecosystems are home to millions of marine species, contributing to biodiversity and maintaining healthy ocean ecosystems.
For Nairobi Convention member states, the conservation and sustainable management of coral reefs is hinged on enhancing the capacity of the party States through the national coral reef task force (NCRTF).
The regional coral reef network in the Western Indian Ocean has been active since 1999, coordinating and reporting on coral reef monitoring activities through the Nairobi Convention Coral Reef Task Force (CRTF) and the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN), with support from partners. The Nairobi Convention CRTF was established based on a Decision made at the third meeting of the Nairobi Convention Conference of Parties (COP3) in 2001. The Coral Reef Task Force entered into force in 2002, to coordinate work on coral reefs throughout the region, and in 2004 national bodies were constituted to coordinate coral reef activities, action plans, and strategies within each country. At the fourth meeting of the Contracting Parties to the Nairobi Convention (COP4) in 2004, Contracting Parties resolved to strengthen the coordination structure of the Coral Reef Task Force, as well as the national coral reef task forces, and enhance linkages with national focal points.
It is critical to retain the integrity and enhance the resilience of coral reef ecosystems as we strive to attain the goals of particularly Sustainable Development Goal 14, under the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and the applicable targets of the post 2020 Global Biodiversity Framework. Solutions to protect coral reefs require a holistic and integrated approach, including reducing social, economic, and environmental pressures, and integrating climate mitigation and adaptation into national planning frameworks. Increasing support for reef monitoring, restoration, conservation, and effective management of at least 30% of coastal and marine ecosystems is crucial for enhancing biodiversity, ecosystem functions and services, ecological integrity, and connectivity.
With a renewed focus on scientific support to policy through the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in December 2022, a new phase of activities is being initiated with support from the Nairobi Convention. A capacity-building workshop was convened in Moroni, Comoros on 1-3 March with the aim of revitalizing and enhancing the capacities of the national coral reef task force (NCRTF) members, for improved and collaborative management of coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean.
This Workshop was organized in collaboration with Coastal Oceans Research and Development – Indian Ocean (CORDIO) East Africa, AIDE NGO of Comoros, and the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Tourism in Comoros. Representatives from South Africa, Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Reunion-France, Seychelles, and Tanzania attended the meeting. The meeting also benefited from the online participation of officials from GCRMN and the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI).
The opening of the workshop was graced by AIDE President Mr. Said Ahamada, CORDIO Director Dr. David Obura, and the Head of the Nairobi Convention Secretariat Mr. Dixon Waruinge. Mr. Houmed Msaidié, the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Environment and Tourism of Comoros officially opened the meeting and welcomed participants to Moroni.
The workshop sort to establish a new workplan (2023-2024), including priorities for monitoring and use of data, and continued engagement in the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network. Secondly, the workshop was to reconfirm coral reef monitoring tasks within the CRTF by confirming technical membership by country and roles, and coordination mechanisms. The issue of strengthening data sharing and repository mechanisms for the regional Coral Reef Monitoring Network was also discussed. In terms of coral reef monitoring, it was important to recognize the headline indicators and monitoring framework adopted for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework, to identify mechanisms for supporting national coral reef management and reporting under the framework of the Nairobi Convention, Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, Convention on Biological Diversity, and Sustainable Development Goals.
The Coral Reef experts present discussed the coordination of the regional coral reef monitoring network including identifying funding needs and report-back mechanisms for the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework. They also explored existing data, knowledge gaps and opportunities to capitalize on.
The importance of aligning the actions of the Coral Reef Network with national and regional sustainable development priorities was emphasized. After discussions on the state of progress of activities in the respective countries and at the regional level, contributions were made on new terms of reference and action plans for monitoring. These outcome documents will be presented to the competent authorities for validation.
An on-the-ground coral reef restoration project along the east side of Wasini Island, Kwale County, Kenya provided much hope for the restoration of degraded reefs.
The Western Indian Ocean Coral Reef Task Force Capacity-Building Workshop was supported by the Nairobi Convention component of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Countries Capacity Building of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) – ACP MEAs 3 programme. The programme is supporting the strengthening of management effectiveness and sustainably managing coral reef areas crucial to coastal livelihoods and ecosystems in Comoros by (i) increasing awareness and knowledge about the value of ocean protection and the role of MPAs, (ii) providing information on management effectiveness of two selected MPAs created to support future adaptive management, (iii) generating information on the alternative sustainable livelihoods for communities around the MPAs, and (iv) offering information on the financial sustainability of the selected two new MPAs.
The Nairobi Convention for the protection, management, and development of the marine and coastal environment in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region offers a legal framework and coordinates the efforts of the 10 Contracting Parties to plan and develop programmes for strengthening their capacity to protect, manage and develop their coastal and marine resources.
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