Our oceans and seas are the planet’s largest ecosystem. As such, they play a huge role in influencing climates and are vital to our blue economies. As such, we should be obligated to use ocean and sea resources sustainably, for future generations. The coastal areas of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region are home to more than 60 million people. This means that the interface between land and sea is an ever-more important frontier for development, and as a result, the pressures on its resources and space continue to multiply.
Enter Marine Spatial Planning (MSP); a process that guides when, where, and how human uses of the ocean take place. MSP aims to organize and balance the many different sectors and users of ocean space—from fisheries, shipping, tourism, etc.— while maintaining the environment’s integrity for enhanced sustainability. MSP builds on existing blue economy-promoting tools and approaches like Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) and Marine Protected Areas. Harmonious management of coastal and marine resources can be achieved through proper Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) to accommodate all the stakeholders.
Marine Spatial Planning benefits largely from the availability of reliable and objective information and the support of governance institutions (United Nations Environment Programme, & CSIR, 2017). Since MSP is a transdisciplinary process, however, the collation of data from different sectors remains elusive. This presents a gap that the WIO Regional Information Management Strategy seeks to fill. Its development is mandated by COP Decision 10.5/3 which requested the Secretariat to strengthen national data centres, through capacity development on information and knowledge management, and in collaboration with partners, to address common challenges and inform decision-making for improved ocean governance.
There are important linkages between MSP approaches, Information Management, and Regional Ocean Governance. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) has been recognized as an important integrated planning framework for promoting sustainable ocean governance.
In this context, the Nairobi Convention in partnership with the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) Gmbh will be convening a capacity development and information sharing workshop on Marine Spatial Planning and Information Management in November 2022. The workshop will promote shared learning on MSP implementation at national and regional levels for the sustainable management of the WIO’s coastal and marine resources, and how improved information and data management can contribute to better MSP.
Among other topics to be explored will be four MSP case studies from the region, the WIO Symphony tool, an interactive data portal by the Egypt-based Center for Environment and Development for the Arab Region and Europe (CEDARE), and an outline of the information management strategy that is under development. Importantly, awareness of the recently completed regional Framework for MSP in the WIO will be raised, as well as how this may be used at a national level to guide MSP processes.
Be on the lookout for ‘A Regional Marine Spatial Planning Framework for the Western Indian Ocean’ on nairobiconvention.org. It is being co-developed by UNEP-Nairobi Convention, WIOMSA, Nelson Mandela University, and Macquarie University.