Capitalizing on the ‘Blue Economy’ – the idea that the sustainable use of ocean resources can lead to economic growth, improved livelihoods, and a healthy ocean ecosystem – has become a popular concept around the globe, and the Western Indian Ocean region is no exception. Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa, and Tanzania have all undertaken initiatives, programs, or assessments to try to build their blue economies.
But for the aspirations of a sustainable Blue Economy to be realized, robust ocean governance will be critical. The ocean provides us with many resources, like food, medicine, recreation, transport routes, and more. This wealth inevitably attracts many users of these resources, from shipping companies to tourists to fishers to miners and more. Nevertheless, the management of these resources and activities is often scattered amongst many different institutions – a Ministry of Transport may oversee shipping regulations, for example, while city planners may oversee the construction of a new hotel on the beach, while a Ministry of Environment manages a marine reserve. Policy harmonization, new legislation, and institutional reform—i.e. improved ocean governance—can help ensure that the ocean is managed and protected so that its resources can be enjoyed for generations to come.
For this reason, The Western Indian Ocean Governance and Exchange Network (WIOGEN), a MeerWissen project supported by the German Government through BMZ, held its first virtual Ocean Governance Conference from 27-29 October 2021. The conference brought together scientists, researchers, and policy makers to exchange their experiences, results, and challenges on all aspects of Ocean Governance in the WIO region. Themes included issues like biodiversity, sustainable fisheries, pollution, marine spatial planning, and more.
The Nairobi Convention hosted Day 3 of the Conference, which was chaired by Dr. Jacqueline Uku of WIOMSA. Day 3 focused on how all of these ideas, research, and opportunities could be channeled into an ocean governance strategy to enhance ocean governance in the Western Indian Ocean region. Tim Andrew, Project Coodinator of the Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project, which includes several activities aimed at improving ocean governance, gave opening remarks and noted how important it is to find the synergies among different initiatives linked to ocean governance in the region in order to enhance their impact and overall effectiveness.
To watch a recording of all of Day 3’s presentations, click here.
Kieran Kelleher delivered the keynote address on The Role of Science in Regional Ocean Governance. “Science has an increasingly direct influence on policy and wellbeing,” noted Kelleher, with a growing demand for civil society participation and stakeholder engagement in shaping the science, and growing need to communicate science (especially for science-based policy decisions).” There is no shortage of challenges that require an effective science to policy to practice transition, noted Kelleher, from population growth to seafood supply, to competing uses for marine space among sectors like shipping, tourism, renewable energy, etc.
Nevertheless, Kelleher identified four key areas that urgently required input from science to create effective policy and action: coral reef restoration and rehabilitation (where the scale of the problem needs to be clearly communicated to decision makers); biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction (regional action was possible while an international treaty is being negotiated); the economic rationale for fisheries reforms (communicating the need for sustainable fisheries in terms of economic opportunities can help create political will to act) and combatting plastic pollution (through innovations for a circular plastics economy).
Yvonne Waweru and Dominique Stucker then gave a presentation on the new Multi-stakeholder initiative (MSI), led by GIZ and the Nairobi Convention, designed to a) strengthen regional governance in the WIO; 2) enhance the role of the private sector in ocean governance, and 3) establish a partnership for integrated coastal zone management in Mozambique. Bernadette Snow of Nelson Mandela University, for her part, next discussed why Marine Spatial Planning was so crucial to ocean governance in the region, outlining strategic and technical recommendations for how to mainstream MSP at the national level across the region.
Peter Taylor of Petronia Consulting then presented on the need for oil spill preparedness and response as a component of ocean governance in the WIO. He outlined recent steps taken to enhance such preparedness, including a set of recommendations and next steps to be taken under the Nairobi Convention’s SAPPHIRE project. Next, Akunga Momanyi discussed the need for considerations on the legal and institutional aspects of Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) to be mainstreamed into ocean governance, while Ekaterina Popova of the National Oceaography Centre in the UK presented on why the biological aspects of ABNJ should be included in ocean governance strategies, especially with regard to the ecological and economic connectivity between the ABNJ and Exclusive Economic Zones of countries.
The presenters then reconvened for a panel discussion on ocean governance in the WIO and to answer questions. When pressed for advice on the next steps for ocean governance, Mr. Kelleher recommended convening stakeholders into four clusters: Maritime Security, Environment and Natural Resources, Blue Economy, and Knowledge and Capacity Development. However, he noted that these mechanisms must be flexible and have open-ended institutional involvement. Ms. Waweru of GIZ, after being asked how stakeholders could be brought into the MSI initiative, noted that private sector involvement would be key, as they are the biggest actors in achieving a sustainable Blue Economy. When discussing how best to implement regional strategies, Ms. Snow emphasized how important national-level involvement from a wide range of stakeholders would be, and that the process followed in ensuring participation and trust was essential. Asked what challenges remain to be overcome when it comes to oil spill preparedness and response, Mr. Taylor noted that creating the political will and generating the required resources would be necessary. He suggested that forming working groups at the national level and reaching out to the private sector could help catalyze the implementation of oil spill preparedness and response. Discussing the challenges facing ABNJ, Ms. Popova and Mr. Momanyi both noted that there was a disconnect between ABNJ issues and citizens, and that it’d be important to show the economic and social benefits of well-managed ABNJ to coastal and island states.
To read more about the WIOGEN conference, click here.
To read the WIOGEN conference report, click here.