Healthy and productive ecosystems of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) are crucial for supporting coastal and marine fisheries which are vital for economic growth, livelihoods, and food security. Protecting critical habitats is key to safeguarding these ecosystems. Secondly, effective coordination, collaboration, and knowledge sharing between fisheries and environmental governance systems are essential to address the consequences of fishing on the marine ecosystems and their goods and services.
The WIO region harbors a highly productive system that supports over 65 million people living within 100 km of the coast. The estuarine and coastal ecosystems protect the coastline, sequester carbon dioxide, provide habitats for marine organisms, and support fishing, aquaculture, tourism, and recreation.
Fisheries in the nearshore coastal and marine habitats sustain many coastal communities. However, anthropogenic activities such as coastal development, overfishing, and pollution threaten these ecosystems and resources. Climate change as well as ocean acidification has also exacerbated the loss and degradation of fish breeding grounds and nurseries. The December 2022 Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework emphasizes cross-sectoral and integrated approaches to conservation and sustainable use, which can help address the complex challenges facing the environment-fisheries nexus in the WIO region.
Nairobi Convention for the protection, management, and development of the coastal and marine environment in the WIO region partnered with the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) to promote an ecosystem-based (EBM) approach to fisheries management and ocean governance for sustainable blue growth in the WIO region. The regional consultation workshop held in September 2022 in Mombasa, Kenya, identified priority issues relevant to fisheries and marine environment-related interventions and engaged policymakers and key stakeholders in the fisheries and environment sectors.
The meeting provided an overview of the Western Indian Ocean’s coastal and marine areas, ongoing efforts to improve ocean governance, and challenges facing coastal and marine fisheries. The workshop generated ideas for collaboration and identified gaps in existing data management and knowledge-sharing mechanisms.
“The main issues of concern for both the environment and fisheries sectors in the region are climate change, illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fishing, and destruction of habitats. They affect the resilience of coastal fisheries communities dependent on them.”
– Prof. James Njiru, Director General, Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute
Mr. Dixon Waruinge, the head of the Nairobi Convention secretariat urged participants to “delve into how the Nairobi Convention and SWIOFC would enhance collaborative partnerships to serve the WIO seascapes better”. Mr. Vasco Schimdt, the SWIOFC Secretariat Executive Secretary noted that the partnership with the Nairobi Convention was “an important milestone focused on the artisanal and small-scale fisheries, coastal and marine environmental governance, and marine research”.
Additionally, Prof. James Njiru, Director General of the Kenya Marine Fisheries Research Institute, highlighted the main issues of concern in the environment- fisheries sectors in the region and how they affect the resilience of coastal fisheries communities dependent on them. “Over seventy per cent of marine fisheries in the region are artisanal in nature”, he said.
The environment-fisheries nexus meeting agreed to promote partnerships for cooperation, and collaboration to address environment and fisheries issues and the resultant challenges. The two sectors also agreed to conduct, as far as possible, joint assessments on ecosystems and species of concern. Experts from academic and research institutions in the Western Indian Ocean drafted a roadmap to develop a status report on the environment-fisheries nexus in the region.
The environment-fisheries nexus consultative workshop was organized by the Nairobi-Convention component of the African, Caribbean, and Pacific (ACP) Countries Capacity Building of Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs) –ACP MEAs III Programme and collaborated with the Southwestern Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission.
For more information about both projects, contact Mwangi Theuri ( firstname.lastname@example.org ).