The WIO region’s ocean assets are of high value but are under immense pressure from unsustainable exploitation. Better marine spatial planning (MSP) is therefore dire, in order to meet local and global demands on the limited ocean resources and secure the assets for continued economic and social benefits for the region.
Marine Spatial Planning is a process that enables informed and evidence-based decision-making by providing guidance when deciding when, where and how human economic activities should take place in the ocean. Well executed MSP can foster a sustainable blue economy. Assessing the cumulative impact from human pressures on the environment is challenging but needed.
A team representing 10 countries, the Nairobi Convention secretariat, and their Swedish partners launched the practical web-based tool for environmental assessment that supports ecosystem-based marine spatial planning in the Western Indian Ocean on Tuesday 11 October 2022 at the 12th WIOMSA Scientific Symposium.
WIO Symphony is a tool that has been developed based on more than 80 ecology and human activity maps. It supports ecosystem-based Marine Spatial Planning through calculating cumulative impact over large areas and illustrating those that are under specific pressures. The tool also shows how different planning and policy measures can lead to a positive environmental impact in an area.
WIO Symphony enables WIO countries to implement improved marine spatial planning (MSP). It was launched following a 3-year collaborative development journey with over 50 participants from Nairobi Convention’s contracting parties and international partners. A technical team of MSP experts, researchers, and environmental analysts worked collaboratively to develop the tool, defying remote working challenges caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Mr. Harrison Ong’anda, a research officer at Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute and chair of the Marine Spatial Planning regional task force commented that the WIO Symphony is a good strategic tool for marine spatial planning. He also added that they (the MSP task force) “are very happy to be launching the WIO Symphony tool at the WIOMSA Scientific Symposium”.
Tim Andrew, Project Coordinator of the SAPPHIRE project at the Nairobi Convention stated that the “WIO Symphony tool is very important because besides building the technical capacity of marine spatial planners, it also enlarges and enriches national data from national data centers”. In addition, he noted that the Symphony method has been tested and used in Sweden, and those lessons could be replicated to benefit the Western Indian Ocean.