Coral Reefs are the rain forests of the tropical seas – Dr. Nirmal Shah
One of the Indian Ocean’s foremost environmental defenders Dr Nirmal Shah (Nimmo to his close friends) who is the CEO of Nature Seychelles, spoke to the IOO on a wide range of marine conservation issues. In this interview which forms part of our IOO 2017 Environmental Perspectives, Dr Shah narrates of his mission to “save birds, introduce conservation to the public and young people, restore island ecosystems, integrate tourism and conservation”. Significantly Dr Shah opens up an extraordinary window showcasing how he has helped nurture designer reefs and how he has promoted the deployment of innovation to push the boundaries of marine conservation. It is a sobering read and an eye opener for the Western Indian Ocean enthusiasts.
Nirmal Shah, CEO of Nature Seychelles and former President of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) gives us an special interview on his pioneering conservation work
IOO. What inspired you to enter the conservation world? And how did it come about?:
Nirmal Shah: My father, although a very successful businessman, was a pioneer of conservation in Seychelles. At a very early age I was able to go out in the field with leading American and European scientists. I had a surfeit of nature, the extreme opposite of what they now call "nature deficit disorder"
That formative period was very important in terms of gaining a large array of knowledge, developing a wonder and fascination for the natural world and also insight into scientific methods.
IOO. You have a major eco-footprint on the western Indian Ocean courtesy of Nature Seychelles work. Kindly explain how Nature Seychelles work feeds into the region?
Nirmal Shah: Nature Seychelles’ work to save birds, introduce conservation to the public and young people, restore island ecosystems, integrate tourism and conservation and more recently growing designer reefs have had to be innovative and game changing to stick and be successful where others failed. That pioneering approach has gained the attention and interest of regional and international organizations some of whom have used our work as models or best practice. In addition, success has grown our legitimacy and enabled us to make major contributions to regional work such as that of WIOMSA where I was a founding board member and past President.
Shah raising environmental awareness at a function graced by Miss Seychelles [Image: NS]
IOO. The western Indian Ocean region is seen a mega-biodiverse region. Why is this?
Nirmal Shah: The center of the hotspot is of course Madagascar. The Seychelles are stranded fragments of a lost super-continent so ancient that relicts of fauna and flora are still found there such as the Aldabra Giant Tortoise, the Coco de Mer, the Jellyfish tree and an entire family of frogs. Going beyond the usual approaches to environmental protection, I believe small islands are vital to conservation because they are the archetypes of a connected landscape and seascape, an environmental gestalt so to speak, where the need for a new and integrated terrestrial and marine conservation approach presents itself very strongly. One of the new approaches that Nature Seychelles is again pioneering is our Green Health program where we have integrated an agro-ecology garden (organic and climate smart horticulture) with a protected wetland area, programs of wellness and fitness for people, sustainable funding mechanisms and awareness building.
IOO. For decades now you have been a key advocate for ocean conservation and increased marine protected areas? What has been your conviction to push for these ideals?
Nirmal Shah: I have always had an “ocean view” because In Seychelles it is impossible not to see the ocean wherever you are. In my teens I realized we were living on the tops of what was once huge mountains and our domain was actually the Indian Ocean - that liquid asset was our future because the land was too small. The Seychelles is a small nation but a big country -today we talk about a Blue Economy but Seychelles is really a Big Blue Country. Being a Blue Country means that the Blue Economy has to be more than old wine in a new bottle - it has to have sustainability built in at all levels because our very existence depends on the wise use of blue resources
Cousin Island Conservation Reserve: Remains one of the key marine conservation hotspot in the world. Nature Seychelles flagship conservation work is centered on this island off Praslin, Seychelles second largest Island. [Image: JH-NS]
IOO. When coral bleaching hit the western Indian Ocean in 1997-98 you took a huge risk, undertook a comprehensive feasibility study and launched an intensive coral replanting exercise. What are the results so far?
Nirmal Shah: Our “designer reef” is the largest in the world using a method called coral gardening. We have planted over 6,000 sq. meters of new reef with corals we have grown from small fragments recovered from coral colonies that survived the initial bleaching event. With last year's so-called Godzilla El Niño the designer reef resisted the bleaching for 3 months but the warm waters persisted and it bleached like the rest. The good news is that we have discovered a second generation of super corals that have not bleached at all. We now have about 3,000 of these "X-Men" corals, as I call them, growing in our underwater nurseries or "coral corrals".
IOO: Coral bleaching has devastated corals in the Indian Ocean stretching from the Somalia coast all the way to the Great Barrier Reef in Australia. What are the implications of bleaching to the Indian Ocean and global conservation?
Nirmal Shah: Coral Reefs are the rain forests of the tropical seas. Like rainforests they grow in nutrient poor environments and if removed the areas turn to almost-deserts. Coral reefs are vital because they supply the sand for our beautiful beaches, barrier protection against tropical storms, fish for our plates and for export and areas for dive tourism and leisure. Coral reefs are one of the most important national assets of many of these countries and without them we become impoverished both as countries and as peoples.
IOO: In the last five years, your have been involved in your country's push for the Blue Economy as a senior advisor to your government. To a layman what is the Blue Economy and how does it benefit the global community?
Nirmal Shah: The Blue Economy is simply the rationalization of what has always been there - an ocean that has been used for transport, food, leisure....and wonder. The Green Economy that came out of the World Summit on Sustainable Development somehow missed the Oceans. But as coastal and island peoples we always knew that the mighty ocean was our lifeblood. The Blue Economy is a rebooting of the old economy to use our greatest asset in the most sustainable fashion so as to meet a challenging future.
Blue Economy legacy denies President Michel a quiet retirement
By Wanjohi Kabukuru
“The success of the Blue Economy will depend on unleashing a new generation of entrepreneurs who can match the impact of the likes of Bill Gates and Steve Jobs in the legendary Silicon Valley. Can we anticipate individuals who can do the same for the Blue Economy, creating a global transformation in our use of the sea? We can learn much from the example of the Information Age pioneers. Their success was not a result of top-down planning. Instead, young people found their way to a particular locality, attracted by an absence of inhibiting rules and regulations, by the inspiration of being with other like-minded individuals and by the proximity of the world-class Stanford University. They made good use of vacant garages and front-rooms, dressed casually and played loud music. Their genius was not only to come up with ground-breaking ideas but to turn these into business opportunities. It was a heady mix but surely we could imagine comparable clusters of bright young people at different points around our oceans,” - President James Michel, Seychelles Third President
President James Michel expounding on his Blue Economy legacy at the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore [Image: SJ-JMF]
When he made the Blue Economy as the main anchor of his administration, Seychelles third President James Michel had turned his government’s service delivery commitment and manifesto into a life-long calling.
Indeed the Blue Economy has stayed with him even after he has retired.
Many anticipated that President Michel would quietly amble into retirement after he stepped down from office late last year.
But the man credited in promoting the “Blue Economy” to the world is now a much-sought-after lecture circuit speaker gracing global podiums in university lecture halls and think tanks panels expounding on his economic concept.
The Blue Economy is an intellectually inclined determination articulating the interests of small island nations and coastal states in the quest of harnessing massive economic opportunities from the ocean. These include maritime transport, tourism, environmental conservation, fisheries, renewable energies, infrastructure development, maritime security, deep sea mining together with oil and gas to mention but just a cluster that forms the backbone of the Blue Economy.
It is these inter-linkages of critical oceanic related economic activities that have granted President Michel a rare opportunity even in his retirement.
In late November 2016 a month after he stepped down President Michel addressed a high-level meeting of the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore. The theme was “Maritime Governance in South Asia: The Potential for Trade, Security and Sustainable Development.”
The high-level meeting discussed the various geopolitical tensions in the Indian Ocean and Pacific regions, maritime governance in South Asia, the rise of new Asian powers and economic development.
President James Michel flanked by students drawn from the Institute of South Asian Studies (ISAS) of the National University of Singapore who had turned up to listen to his Blue Economy lecture [Image: SJ-JMF]
In his presentation at ISAS President Michel spoke about the Blue Economy not simply as way of about making greater use of the sea but about making better use of it too by recognising the importance of sustainability and the need for invention.
“We should look not simply at the way the sea has been used in the past and replicate that. Of course, we must listen to fishermen and boat-builders, divers and ship’s captains, who have a deep understanding of the sea and what it can offer.” President Michel says. “But we must also invite some of the world’s best minds to turn their attention to the oceans, breaking new frontiers of knowledge and application,”
President Michel is acknowledged in Africa for his role in lobbying the continent to embrace the Blue Economy and convincing the African Union (AU) to entrench the “Blue Economy” in the continental body’s 50-year development plan also known as “Agenda2063”. Interesting enough President Michel has taken his message further to the world by advocating for sustainable use of oceans. This effort paid off when the world leaders adopted the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) replacing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and oceans were incorporated as SDG14.
The Blue Economy anchored on sustainable and smart usage of oceans remains a key legacy of President Michel. This is indeed not a surprise considering that some three months before he stepped down he had actually penned a seminal book “Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy” now used as a key reference on the Blue Economy.
President Michel highlighted the potential economic rewards for the nations that chose to develop the Blue Economy, but also noted the constraints that remain such as the diminishing yields of the main fisheries, which he said can be reversed if catches are carefully managed to allow for new stock to flourish.
“One has only to stand on the shore to feel the power of the waves and to sense the hidden currents, all of which will surely one day be converted to an inexhaustible supply of renewable energy for use on land; and beneath the surface of the sea is a diversity of plant life and living organisms that are already being harvested for use in pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and health foods,” President Michel says.
During the course of the high-level meeting, President Michel was joined in a panel discussion on ‘Ocean States and Economics’ by Professor Bob Carr, former Australian Senator and Foreign Minister as well as Professor Gopinath Pillai, Chairman of the Institute of South Asian Studies (Singapore) and Ambassador-at-Large, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Singapore, and Distinguished Fellow of the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (India), Professor SD. Muni.
IMO Decisions to Enhance the Blue Economy
By Kapil Narula
[Mumbai, India] The 70th session of the Marine Environment Protection Committee (MEPC) was held from 24-28 October 2016, at International Maritime Organisation (IMO) Headquarters in London. The meeting adopted key decisions which are likely to have a long-lasting effect on the marine environment and would contribute to enhancing the Blue Economy. Among these, three landmark decisions deserve a mention.
Date of implementation of Global Sulphur Cap
Ships use Heavy Fuel Oil (HFO) which has high sulphur content and contributes to air pollution in the form of sulphur oxide (SOx) emissions. Under regulation 14 of Annex VI to MARPOL73/78 adopted in 2010 (applicable to all 171 IMO member states), the limit on the use of sulphur content in fuel used on-board ships has been progressively reduced from 4.5 percent (mass/mass) in 2011 to 3.5 percent on 01 Jan 2012 and this limit was to be further lowered to 0.5 percent in 2020. However, there was a provision in the regulations that the date of implementation could be deferred from 2020 to 01 Jan 2025. This decision was to be finalized by 2018 and was subject to an assessment of the availability of sufficient quantity of low sulphur fuel.
The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) has issued new regulations for ships to use low sulphur fuels [Image: NS-SFA]
In order to limit SOx emissions, ships have the option of choosing amongst three alternate measures: first, to use low-sulphur compliant fuels such as Marine Gas Oil (MGO) or Marine Diesel Oil (MDO); second, to switch to liquefied natural gas or biofuels such as methanol by using dual fuel engines; and third, to use exhaust gas “scrubbers”, which prevent the release of SOx emissions into the atmosphere. While ships were free to choose the most feasible technical option, it was a decision which was often based on the cost of implementing the solution.
The ambiguity in the date of implementation of the 0.5 percent limit, was leading to uncertainty in the minds of ship owners who were undecided about which technology to install onboard new ships which were yet to be ordered. On the other hand, this uncertainty was also reflected on the investment decisions of oil refiners who were unsure about the demand of low sulfur fuel for the shipping industry and were hesitating to invest in modification of the refineries which would enable them to produce bulk quantities of low sulfur fuel for the shipping industry.
With the finalization of the decision for implementing the 01 Jan 2020 deadline, there is no further regulatory uncertainty and oil refineries can now invest in suitable infrastructure to meet the anticipated increase in the demand of low sulfur fuel for shipping. It also gives various actors and stakeholders time to prepare for a smooth transition to lower emissions. With this far reaching decision, it is hoped that sufficient measures can be implemented well in time so that there are no spikes in the cost of low sulphur fuel closer to 01 Jan 2020. While the supply and growth in the demand of clean fuels is a ‘waiting game’ between refiners and ship owners, the writing on the wall is evident that the demand for clean fuels will continue to grow during transition of the shipping industry.
The price of the low sulfur fuel is expected to higher by 50-100% than the HFO (a slightly lower cost differential exists for other alternatives to lower SOx emissions) which would lead to increased cost of operations for ship charters, implying lower profits. In order to offset the high cost of low sulfur fuel it is likely that freight rates would be increased leading to an overall increase in the cost of transportation by ships. On the other hand, this is likely to encourage adoption of green shipping and would stir investments in ship efficiency.
Roadmap for reducing GHG Emissions from Ships
The IMO has been leading efforts to lower GHG emissions from shipping and in 2011 it was the first industrial sector to adopt mandatory energy-efficiency measures.
As a consequence, by the year 2025, all new ships built will be 30% more energy efficient than those built in 2014. Continuing its efforts, the MEPC approved a ‘Roadmap’ for developing a “Comprehensive IMO strategy on reduction of GHG emissions from ships” which would be applicable from 2017 through to 2023. The approved strategy follows a three-step approach and would be adopted in 2018.
The Seafarers Memorial at the IMO Headquarters in London [Image: CC-AMSA]
The first step involves ‘data collection’, which would be followed by ‘data analyses’ in phase two. These would form the basis for ‘policy decisions’ in phase three. Various activities are planned with relevant timelines including implementation schedules as part of the three-step approach for improving energy efficiency onboard ships.
Adoption of data collection system for fuel oil Consumption
As the first step of the strategy, the MEPC adopted an amendment to chapter 4 of MARPOL Annex VI which would enter into force on 01 March 2018. Under the new Regulation 22A on collection and reporting of ship fuel oil consumption data, it is now mandatory for ships of 5,000 gross tonnage and above to collect, record and report the fuel consumption data used onboard ships, the cargo carried, and the distance travelled in each voyage. This data would have to be reported to the flag State at the end of each calendar year for verification which will then report the compiled data to the IMO ship fuel oil consumption database.
The mandatory reporting of fuel consumption data addresses a vital data gap and would enable a detailed assessment and analysis of energy efficiency onboard ships. As evident from the IMO GHG 3 study, there was some uncertainty in calculating emissions from shipping due to lack of consistent fuel consumption data. It is hoped that this amendment will provide reliable data over the next few years which would help the IMO to take an informed decision about the fair share of the shipping sector to mitigate GHG emissions under the Paris climate agreement.
The landmark decisions taken by the IMO has reduced policy uncertainty and signals a clear intent that the shipping industry is committed to environmental protection. These efforts also contribute to the UN Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 13 on combatting climate change as well as SDG 14 on using the oceans for sustainable development.
The IMO decisions are likely to encourage investments, infuse new technology, generate jobs and spur innovation thereby catalyzing the development of the Blue Economy.
“This article was first published National Maritime Foundation and is reproduced with the permission of NMF. These are personal views of the author.”
The 12 Blue Economy ideals inside President Michel’s Mind
By Wanjohi Kabukuru
Inside the mind of President James Michel of Seychelles [Image: State House Seychelles]
- “My belief is that the true potential of the Blue Economy will only be realised when its various sectors are separately examined. Thus the likes of shipping, fishing and aquaculture, tourism, sea-floor mining, sea floor mining…… ”
- “I am an optimist and I believe that things can only get better. As with any crusade there will be setbacks as well as moments of exultation but we are going in the right direction. The Blue Economy will continue to evolve. It will gather further support along the way. It can engage us all. And so it should. The sea is our future.”
- “If we think of the Blue Economy as a whole it all looks rather daunting but if we separate it into its various parts it becomes more manageable. This I believe is the way forward.”
- “We have not so far thought of using the sea as creatively as we have used the land. Yet the sea is far more extensive with so much of it still unknown. Who can imagine what is yet to be discovered.”
- “The sea has not so much been used as misused; it has too often been plundered for quick gains and treated as a dumping ground for land generated waste. The big difference now is that it must be used with sustainability always in mind.”
- “The Blue Economy will call for research into a wide range of activities; it will for a new generation of entrepreneurs and it will call for partnerships between governments and investors from different parts of the world.”
- “The idea of the Blue Economy formed first in my mind as a strategy for Seychelles. We are an island nation with very limited area of land but a vast extent of surrounding sea.”
- “Just as the Green Economy was previously introduced to the world agenda, we have set ourselves the parallel task of bringing forward the Blue Economy…Anyone who has dabbled with paints will know that the mixing of colours will depend very largely on hues but, even allowing for that combining green and blue will lead to a lustrous finish. There is a depth in this combination that perhaps no other mixing can offer, evoking in one sweep images of emerald vegetation and turquoise seas. Green and Blue can stand alone, but together they bring something new and special to the World. These surely are the colours of the future.”
- “My own country the Republic of Seychelles, is small in terms of population and land mass but we are surrounded by millions of square kilometres of sea; an archipelago in a remote stretch of the Indian Ocean. It is little wonder that for many years I have turned my thoughts not to the difficulties of such a remote location (as many have seen this in the past) but to the immense potential of the sea itself. As such this is why I have been at the forefront of developing the idea of the Blue Economy and of spreading the word.”
- “We punch well above our weight. That is because we have a message that people want to hear. We speak from experience; we speak with urgency. The message is that the Blue Economy is of importance to us all.”
- “Perhaps one reason for the rapid adoption of the concept is that the Blue Economy embraces not one set of activities but many. It is also not confined to any one part of the world. There is something of interest to all nations, large and small, north and south.”
- “The economic case for the Blue Economy is compelling. It offers the potential for development across an area that is more than twice that of the world’s continents. The oceans are the world’s last frontier, with vast areas still to be explored and an enormous supply of resources yet to be harnessed.”
[The dozen excerpts are gleaned from President James Alix Michel’s latest book, Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy Published: Paragon House, of USA]
President Michel now writes a book on Blue Economy
BOOK REVIEW: Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy
Author: James Alix Michel
Publisher: Paragon House (USA)
Reviewer: Wanjohi Kabukuru
[Mahe, Seychelles] Even though Seychelles President James Alix Michel has distinguished himself as the world’s most progressive proponent of the Blue Economy model few expected him to write a book on this new development paradigm. Yet that is exactly what he has done.
However for those who have keenly followed his presidency, this was not entirely surprising. In a record six years President Michel has released four books. In 2010 he unveiled his first book “A Man of the People”. This was closely followed by “Distant Horizons: My Reflections” in 2011 and the 2014 release of “Island Nation in a Global Sea: Making the New Seychelles.”
President James Michel’s fourth book “Rethinking the Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy” launched during the #WorldOceansDay June 8th 2016 [Image: State House Seychelles]
For his fourth book President Michel chose an apt day, the internationally celebrated World Oceans Day, as the occasion to give the world his thoughts on the Blue Economy. Rethinking The Oceans: Towards the Blue Economy is President Michel’s new book. In his latest 218-pages easy-to-read book President Michel takes the readers and more so the world’s economic policy makers and shapers into an adventure-filled odyssey of “the deep blue sea” explaining why it is crucial to re-imagine our oceans as emerging economic frontiers.
It is significant to note that since 2012 President Michel lost no single opportunity whenever he stood at the international podiums to advance his ideas on the “Blue Economy”. This strategy was quickly delegated to the Indian Ocean’s island nation’s then foreign minister Jean Paul Adam who made it the centre piece of Seychelles international diplomatic engagement. After ensuring the Blue Economy was well etched into the global agenda, President Michel took a bold step by establishing the Ministry of Finance Trade and Blue Economy. This was a world’s first full-fledged Blue Economy governmental department with ministerial clout and headed by Adam, the man who spent most of his international outreach to explain the Blue Economy to the world. To give the Blue Economy the critical intellectual muscle it needs a Blue Economy Research Institute (BERI) has also been established. Several other countries have followed Seychelles example.
In the beginning the Blue Economy was anchored as one of Seychelles’ strong planks in its foreign policy. Today Seychelles has gone ahead to prove to the world of the importance of the Blue Economy by mooring it to its domestic policy in readiness for a “Blue Economy” boom.
President Michel expounding on the Blue Economy on #WorldOceansDay as he launched his fourth book [Image: State House, Seychelles]
The “Blue Economy” has been a pet subject that President Michel has unflinchingly spoken about at every opportunity in international forums since 2012. In the beginning President Michel appeared to be the odd one out and he too confesses openly that he was “ridiculed” as he kept on messaging the “Blue Economy” at every opportunity he got in the international arena. Indeed it is easy to assume that in the book President Michel has condensed his thoughts within the 2012-2016 timelines when he championed the Blue Economy subject. But this is not the case. A flip through the book and one is taken back in time when President Michel served as finance minister all through to the global financial crisis of 2008. Key socio-economic, geo-political and strategic lessons learnt throughout this period are some of the key pillars that have shaped the Blue Economy concept.
Add to these the 2014 and 2016 deliberations of the first and second international Blue Economy Summit co-hosted together with the United Arab Emirates (UAE) in Abu Dhabi and the winning of hearts and minds during the United Nation’s International Year of Small Island Developing States summit held in Appia, Samoa. It is on these international platforms that Seychelles crossed the Rubicon and buttressed the Blue Economy ideal among the global community of nations.
The book is rich in data and makes a compelling case for the world to reassess its dealings with the oceans. President Michel unpacks what the Blue Economy entails, how it came about and makes it easier for cross-generational readers to pick an interest in the book. “Perhaps one reason for the rapid adoption of the concept is that the Blue Economy embraces not one set of activities but many. It is also not confined to any one part of the world. There is something of interest to all nations, large and small, north and south.” President Michel says.
He goes further and unbundles the Blue Economy bringing out core issues of fisheries, coastal tourism, ocean floor mining, maritime transport, oil and gas exploration, marine conservation, aquaculture, maritime security, marine protected areas among other oceanic concerns that coagulate into Blue Economy. He goes ahead to note that if critically assessed the Blue Economy can create high value jobs, diversify economies, ensure food security and promote sustainable management and conservation of marine resources.
The book makes a strong case on issues of sustainability of the Blue Economy and even brings out the immense capital and unlimited opportunities that the Blue Economy has been generating in the past even before the concept propounded by Seychelles became vogue.
According to President Michel (pictured) the Blue Economy is complementary of the existing Green Economy [Image: State House, Seychelles]
In advancing this economic concept Michel mentions Australia whose Maritime industries contributed a whooping AUS$42bn into the Canberra economy in 2010. By 2025 the contribution of the maritime sector into the Australian economy is estimated to rise to AUS$100bn. President Michel goes ahead and mentions the European Union where the Blue economy represents 5.4 million jobs and generates gross added value of €500bn annually.
According to Michel the Blue Economy is complementary of the existing Green Economy.
“I liked the fact that people were already familiar with the Green Economy; in that respect the Blue Economy would logically become its counterpart. One for the land and the other for the sea.” Michel writes in his book as he seeks to explain the meaning of the Blue Economy. “The meaning of the Blue Economy will become clearer the more that it is used, but for me a working definition is that it is about sustainable use of the sea to meet human needs. To be successful the concept must embrace environmental as well as economic interests.”
The book urges island and coastal states to embrace the “Blue Economy” and explore the potentials of the seas most of which remains unknown.
While the book will greatly appeal to the intellectually inclined and economic policy makers, environmental diplomats and those in the realms of public policy it is actually packaged for the general readers. The usage of common everyday language, less jargon and pointing out new career pathways appears to have been the deliberate intention of the author and Paragon House who published the book to demystify the subject and attract young readers.
IORA promotes Marine Aquaculture in the Indian Ocean
By Marc Razafindsionana
[Antananarivo, Madagascar] The development of marine aquaculture within the Indian Ocean region remains a key component of the regional inter-governmental organisation, the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). Early this month IORA whose stature and influence has been growing in the recent past restated its commitment to the development of the Marine Aquaculture at a specialised forum held in the Madagascan capital, Antananarivo.
Marine aquaculture happens to be one of IORA’s major sectors as it sustains millions of livelihoods in coastal areas within the Indian Ocean. In the last five years the 21 member states that make up IORA have continued to enhance their cooperation in developing their marine aquaculture sector. In 2014 the IORA meeting in Perth, Australia adopted the Blue Economy as a priority for employment creation and sustainability pathway. Multiple studies conducted by various research institutions and think-tanks on marine aquaculture in the Indian Ocean indicate existing and untapped immense opportunities which have led IORA to prioritise marine aquaculture within the larger Blue Economy pillar.
It is in this light that the Antananarivo meeting was organised. While the meeting was a specialised IORA Trainer’s Training Programme on Marine Aquaculture and sought to advance marine aquaculture knowledge through the sharing of best practices it fitted within the larger Blue Economy framework. 14 IORA member states and one dialogue partner attended the meeting which was organised by the Madagascar government and IORA.
Participants during the IORA workshop in Antananarivo, Madagascar. (Image: IORA)
Understanding the best management practices of aquaculture in the Indian Ocean region and the different steps involved in aquaculture system including production cycle, hatchery production, feeding, monitoring, maintaining good water quality, harvesting, processing and storage and identifying and handling of common diseases were components discussed during the seven sessions of the two-day training programmes.
Firdaus Dahlan, Director of the IORA Secretariat noted in his opening speech that “the Blue Economy, including fisheries management and aquaculture, represents significant opportunities for extending the socio-economic development of the rim countries of the Indian Ocean in an inclusive manner”. Citing the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), Firdaus indicated that the world aquaculture production continued to grow in 2013, reaching 97.2 million tonnes with an estimated value of USD157 billion.
IORA plans to enhance marine aquaculture in the Indian Ocean region
The intervention of a number of regional experts from the aquaculture sector and the key recommendations of the event included the compilation of information on best practices related to sustainable marine aquaculture activities in the Indian Ocean Rim region. The promotion of capacity building programmes to enhance knowledge and skills in the hatcheries and aquaculture systems together with food safety and quality of aquaculture products to ensure that product quality meets regional and international standards was highlighted. Research and technology development on sustainable aquaculture feed production and the strengthening of collaboration with existing research institutions and the roles of private sectors to enhance technology transfer for assessing and monitoring water quality in aquaculture systems also featured. Other issues addressed included the strengthening of research for better understanding, identification and handling of common disease outbreaks in aquaculture systems as well as the promotion of cooperation with existing regional organisation and other relevant stakeholders for better management and assessment of environmental impacts on marine resources came up for discussions at the conference.
Other than tying the aquaculture conference to the Blue Economy pathway it also coincided with the recent launch of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) which define the global development agenda for the next 15 years. Directly intersecting with the aquaculture conference is Goal 14 which targets the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans, seas and marine resources for development, through fisheries management and aquaculture to sustain long-term prosperity for all the coastal community.
According to a communique issued by IORA the training was part of IORA`s Blue Economy agenda. "Being part of IORA’s Blue Economy agenda, this training programme was organised under the IORA Sustainable Development Programme (ISDP) to advance participation of less developed countries through peer-to-peer learning, capacity building, and sharing of best practices." The communique notes.
Tilahy D.Andrianarantsoa, the General Secretary of the Madagascan Ministry of Halieutic Resources and Fishery says the aquaculture sector is still growing and the key issues that need to be addressed included "lack of access to finance, markets, skills and expertise as well as technology."
The Blue Economy and its opportunities for Western Indian Ocean states
BY WANJOHI KABUKUR
[Lamu, Kenya] In the last five years offshore discoveries of hydrocarbons in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya have completely altered the perspectives of the Western Indian Ocean.
Huge investments and multi national interests associated with offshore resources are spreading their tentacles in this hitherto “undiscovered” region. The sea stretch from Mozambique to Djibouti and covering the island nations of Mauritius, Madagascar, Seychelles and Comoros is the zone referred to as western Indian Ocean rim.
A new school of thought is now emerging. Sometimes in 2007 Seychelles President James Michel spoke about the ‘blue economy’ and this message seems to have become the centerpiece of Victoria’s foreign policy.
Cousin Island Special Reserve in Seychelles. “We need to pin the blue economy down.” [Image Courtesy: Nature Seychelles]
During the African Union’s golden Jubilee summit in mid June 2013 held in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, President Michel pushed for a relook of oceans as one of the economic levers in Africa’s development agenda. “We cannot speak of transforming African ownership of the economy unless we are prepared to seriously look at our oceans.” President Michel said. “The opportunities inherent in our seas belong to us and we must create frameworks to develop this potential. We must make our oceans safe. And we must be able to manage our oceans. To do this we must be prepared to give more attention to the ‘blue economy.’”
This was a historic milestone for the continental body. It was the first time in AU’s entire 50 year history that oceans featured prominently in the scope of sectors identified to transform the continent’s economic fortunes. The ‘blue economy’ is now being viewed as a priority.
Dr Nirmal Shah who heads the environmental NGO Nature Seychelles and a leading maritime conservation advocate in the Western Indian Ocean wants the blue economy talk to be more than a catch word.
“We need to know what the blue economy is. Is the blue economy a brand just like sustainable development or just a catch phrase?” Dr Shah poses. “We need to pin the blue economy down.”
At the Roche Caiman headquarters of the Nature Seychelles Shah argues that the ‘blue economy’ should not be another phrase to sway the masses. “We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old.”
According to Shah who manages the Cousin Island Special Reserve in the Seychelles archipelago the Blue Economy “must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”
The 2015 statistics released by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) show that some 30 million people in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) coastal communities and island nations are dependent on the coastal environment for their livelihoods, goods and services. The Western Indian Ocean rim is composed of the island nations and long coastal states of Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles and Tanzania.
In UNEP’s estimation the economic value of ecosystem goods and services in WIO is currently pegged at $25bn annually with fisheries and tourism being the two direct economic contributors in the region. According to UNEP’s estimates this littoral bloc attracts 20m tourists annually bringing in $6 billion into the combined regional economy. The UN environmental agency further reckons that these seven littoral countries have a collective population of slightly over 135 million people. Add to these the significance of the Western Indian Ocean as a commercial lane and the blue economy begins to make cents.
“The Indian ocean maritime route is among the most important global gateways.” Dr Carlos Lopes the Executive Secretary of the Addis Ababa-based United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA) explains. “The Indian ocean serves major trade routes from Australia, much of Asia, Middle East, Atlantic and the Mozambique Channel as well as connecting to European markets.”
According to Lopes the importance of the Indian Ocean is critical with the reality that it is a “major oil shipment sea highway.” Indeed according to the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) the region is an oil transshipment “choke-point”
“There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.” [Image: IOO]
The UN economic think-tank for the continent which Lopes heads recently released a dossier The 2013 Tracking Social and Economic Progress which found out that beyond its global role the Indian Ocean is a “strategic asset for promoting trade and development for Indian Ocean states.”
Seychelles Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy minister Jean-Paul Adam explains that the ocean is yet to be fully tapped to benefit the continent. “For us the blue economy is about creating new economic liberation for African countries and companies.” Adam says. “There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.”
Most of the economic discussions in the Eastern African region are rarely centred on the importance of the Indian Ocean as an economic facilitator. This is however beginning to change. Last year Seychelles and Abu Dhabi co-hosted the Blue Economy summit in Abu Dhabi. Mauritius followed suit under the auspices of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) bloc which brings 20 littoral nations by hosting another “Blue Economy” summit.
Erastus Mwencha, the African Union Commission’s deputy chairperson has also called for a rethink of Africa’s oceans. “Africa being a big island there is a need to have better understanding of all activities in its adjoining oceans and seas and think seriously how to maximize the limitless opportunities laying therein.”
According to Lopes the Western Indian Ocean states must seize the opportunities granted by their pivotal locations to the ocean. The International Maritime Organisation (IMO) which is the specialized agency of the UN on safety and security of shipping and prevention of marine pollution by ships notes that 90% of global commerce is seaborne. This is largely due to transportation costs advantages as compared to other transportation modes. “WIO states can anticipate deepening their benefit from the all important Indian Ocean sea lanes by aligning their strategies with global and regional hard facts.” Lopes says. “First regionally such factors as maritime infrastructure, quality and administrative efficiency, maritime security, and concerted effort at developing the maritime economy are key areas of interest.”
Another factor that has hampered intra-regional trade within WIO is the determinant of maritime lanes and associated shipping lanes. Adam brings this into perspective. “What we have seen recently is that there is an increased demand for our fish from countries like Kenya.” Adam say. “But it costs us more to export to Kenya than to Europe. This is because the shipping links that the cargo vessels use are north and south, not east and west. We have a shipping problem. To export to Kenya the vessel has to go to Dubai then Kenya.”
Jean Paul Adam, Seychelles Finance, Trade and Blue Economy Minister (left) and Nirmal Shah, CEO of Nature Seychelles [Images: IOO]
The Victoria government is keen to win over its neighbours who share the Indian Ocean common border urging them to start mainstreaming the sea by incorporating their exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in their respective economies.
Indeed for years the major interest that has touched on the ocean has largely been narrowed to complaints regarding persistent and costly delays at the ports of Mombasa and Dar es Salaam in Kenya and Tanzania respectively. This has been the bane of the business communities in the regional economic bloc East African Community (EAC). Inefficiencies, weak controls, congestion, delays and other bureaucratic bottlenecks plague these regional ports denying them the much needed commercial attractive edge and revenues. A keener look however reveals that the missing link to these ports has been disinterest and general lack of emphasis by policy makers on maritime affairs. To this end Lopes concurs with the continent’s private sector that most African ports are still uncompetitive. “In terms of infrastructure quality Africa’s ports at large are least competitive, and no single port in Africa ranks in the top 70 most productive ports in the world.”
In the last six years Tanzania and Kenya have made huge strides in expanding their existing ports to handle more traffic. At the same time both nations are now investing heavily in the construction of new ports in Lamu and Mwambani in Kenya and Tanzania respectively. Dr. Lopes says that without such investments in critical infrastructural developments Africa’s transformative agenda will be hampered. He also cautions that even with the clamour for new sea ports and corridors strict international environmental and social safeguards must be adhered to. “The expansion of sea ports and other transport corridors within the continent and the Small Island Developing States will enhance their active participation in global trade as sellers and buyers of goods and services.”
But the blue economy is not restricted to fisheries, sun-kissed sandy beaches for tourists, efficient ports and maritime sea lanes alone.
The ocean has in the recent past become a new economic frontier. The lucrative and capital intensive extractive industry sector players have now turned their attention into the sea. Thanks to known reserves of oil, gas, polymetallic sulphides and nodules.
Deep sea mining marks the new frontier for extractive industries [Image: ISOPE]
On Port Royal Street in downtown Kingston in Jamaica is where the world’s next frontier of extractive industries is being framed. On this street is where the International Seabed Authority (ISA) the autonomous international agency tasked with administering the mineral resources found in the deep sea is deciding the future of the deep seas by approving licenses for exploration of cobalt-rich ferromanganese crusts. These crusts contain platinum, nickel, titanium, molybdenum and other rare earth metals.
A communiqué issued by ISA notes that as of July 1st 2015 it had “approved a total of twenty-seven Plans of Work and had entered into 15-year contracts for exploration with twenty-two contractors. Fourteen of those contracts were for exploration for polymetallic nodules, five contracts for exploration for polymetallic sulphides and three contracts for exploration for cobalt-rich crusts. Five contracts remained to be signed – one for sulphides, three for nodules and one for crusts.”
Of all these deep sea exploration licenses’ three are in the Indian Ocean. China Ocean Mineral Resources Rsearch and Development Association (COMRA) and the governments of India, South Korea and Germany have Indian Ocean deep sea exploration rights. These countries have have already been awarded 15-year exploration licenses’ which gives them exclusive rights to explore areas of up to 150,000 square kilometres. Under ISA regulations in the first eight years of the contract half of this area will be relinquished.
The Blue Economy opens vast opportunities for both coastal and island states. [Image: Bahari Resources]
COMRA’s block is in the South western Indian Ocean ridge in the Madagascar Plateau and South Korea’s block is in the mid Indian ridge between the Mascarene plateau and the contentious Chagos plateau. India has been granted a polymetallic nodule exploration licence near Chagos which Mauritius has laid claims too from the British. Chagos as it is known among the Indian Ocean Creole speakers is referred to as Diego Garcia by the US which has leased it from the British. The official name according to UK is British Indian Ocean Territory.
Not a single African entity or nation has any deep sea mining right which is considered to be a high risk and high cost venture with a simple deep sea mining venture estimated to cost some $1.6bn. How did Africa miss out on what has variously been described dramatically as “scramble for the oceans?”
Dr. Lopes, explains why Africa is still missing out on this new extractives frontier. “Although 44 African countries are members of the ISA only nine were present at the 19th Session.” Lopes says. “And more important, no African company bid for the exploration contracts. The main reason for this appears to be the fact that there are no African exploration companies with deep seabed exploration technologies as well as deep pockets to sustain such activities.”
The events of the recent past as Victoria’s lobbying efforts signify a new push aimed at creating a critical mass geared towards active involvement in sea commerce. In the narrative of ‘Africa rising’, the oceans are yet another opportunity for the continent to boost their economies.
Adam concludes with a point of poignancy on the opportunities open for Africa through seas. “The sea is not a space for exploitation, it is space for development. The blue economy is about trade routes, connectivity, environmental protection, tourism, natural resources and the entire ocean view.”
“OUR OCEAN IS THE ENGINE OF OUR LIVING PLANET” – Global Ocean Commission
In light of the UN General Assembly’s decision to convene a High-Level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 the Indian Ocean Observatory (IOO) had an exclusive interview with Remi Parmentier, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Ocean Commission. Parmentier explains why oceans matter to everyone and brings to the fore the opportunities for Africa. His insights are a captive read and a point of reference to the emerging Blue Economy discourse
Remi Parmentier, Deputy Executive Secretary of the Global Ocean Commission. [Image:De Agueda/Varda Group]
IOO: The UN General Assembly has decided to convene a high level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 to support the implementation of Sustainable Development Goal 14: Conserve and Sustainably Use the Oceans, Seas and Marine Resources for Sustainable Development. What does this decision mean for our oceans and seas?
Remi: Because ocean governance within the UN is so fragmented, with many different bodies responsible for only parts of the SDG14 agenda, it was thought that it was a good idea to create a forum to promote SDG14’s implementation holistically. Some have used the expression “orphan SDG” for SDG14; well now it looks like the UN General Assembly has adopted it to make sure it does not get lost.
Fiji: The host of the high level UN Conference on Seas and Oceans in June 2017 [Image: GOC/RP Rights Reserved]
IOO: The conference will be held in Fiji from 5 to 9 June, 2017. In 2014 the Third UN International Conference on Small Islands Developing States was held in Samoa. These are crucial developments experienced in the last decade. Can we conclude then that there is a global shift whereby oceans and seas are finding their way into international policy discourse?
Remi: Indeed, as awareness is growing, action is taking a new pace, and not just with the two conferences you mention. The “Our Ocean” conferences in Washington DC (June 2014) and Valparaiso, Chile (October 2015) are good examples and there will be two more of those in 2016 and 2017 in Washington and Brussels respectively. The Economist magazine is also organizing an event they call “Ocean Summit” every couple of years. And – most importantly – the UN General Assembly also last year has decided to launch negotiations for a new implementing agreement for the sustainable use and conservation of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea – a proposal the Global Ocean Commission, among others, had called for.
IOO. Briefly enumerate on the benefits of oceans and seas in light of the landmark UN June 2017 conference decision?
Remi: With SDG14, the international community committed to seven targets, some of which with a bottom date of 2020 for completion. 2020, that’s less than five years, so there’s no time to waste. For example, according to SDG14.6, the elimination of harmful fisheries subsidies should take place by no later than 2020, yet when it held its ministerial conference in Nairobi in December 2015 the World Trade Organization maintained business as usual. We cannot afford to miss the boat again, and this is why hopes are placed in the Fiji 2017 UN Ocean conference. The fragile ocean cannot afford business as usual.
IOO. What is the place of Africa in this maritime discourse?
Remi: The livelihoods of millions of African people are affected by continued illegal, unreported and unreported (IUU) fishing operations along the coasts of Africa. One important measure the Global Ocean Commission has identified is the ratification of the FAO Ports State Measures Agreement, or PSMA, which was adopted in 2009 but hasn’t entered into force yet. For it to enter into force it needs 25 ratifications and today six countries are still missing. More African countries joining would be to their benefit. IUU fishing is also fed by subsidies rich countries provide to their respective long distance and high seas fishing fleets; Africa should have a bigger say because it is also a global equity concern.
Our ocean is the engine of our living planet. It’s our most valuable asset, and it’s shrinking”. Remi Parmentier [Image: IOO]
IOO. There has been a new clamour for the Blue Economy. Can you break down what the "Blue Economy" is for the benefit of a lay person?
Remi: Economy is about maintaining and fructifying assets. And our ocean is the engine of our living planet. It’s our most valuable asset, and it’s shrinking.
IOO. In the overall discussions on oceans and seas landlocked countries feelleft out. Are they included in this conference and what can be done tomake them feel part of global oceans discourse?
Remi: The Fiji 2017 conference is open to all UN member States without exception, and to all concerned stakeholders. Whether you live on the top of the Himalayas or along the coastline of India, everyone without exception relies on the ocean: every second breath of air you breathe comes from the Ocean.
IOO. Pollution, piracy, over-fishing and maritime border conflicts are someof the key concerns within our seas. How is the Global Ocean Commission handling these issues?
Remi: In June 2014 the Global Ocean Commission released its report “From Decline to Recovery: A Rescue Package for the Global Ocean” (http://www.globaloceancommission.org/wp-content/uploads/GOC_Report_20_6.FINAL_.spreads.pdf) which contained eight key proposals to address these issues. Eighteen months later, we are now about to publish a progress report. It will say what has happened and what has not happened in this last year and a half, and provide a Vision for the Future of the Ocean. It will be available in mid-February on our website www.globaloceancommission.org
Follow Remi & GOC
Seychelles reforms its marine sectors to capitalize on Blue Economy
By Nirmal Shah
The marine related sectors of Seychelles such as fisheries and marine tourism, despite being financially successful for their specific operators may be under-performing in terms of delivering national benefits. Experts say there is probably a wide gap between the potential and actual net financial benefits from these sectors. Improvements in governance are seen as necessary to mop up financial leakages and to reduce environmental and resource degradation.
Blue Economy wins in President Michel’s cabinet reshuffle
By Malik Hossain
[Praslin, Seychelles] Seychelles President James Michel reshuffled his cabinet early this week and elevated his “Blue Economy” concept into a state portfolio. In far reaching changes that completely altered the shape of the Island nation’s cabinet, civil service and state run corporations President Michel acknowledged the regional and international triumphs accrued by his “Blue Economy” model.
Africa’s place in the “blue economy”: Quick lessons unpacked from Small Island Developing States
By Hossain Malik and Wanjohi Kabukuru
[IOO, Marrakech, Morocco] In March 2013 heavy flash floods hit the Indian Ocean island nations of Mauritius wrecking havoc in the capital Port Louis. It was a stark reminder of the effects of climate variability to African island and coastal states. Mauritius was not the first. In 2006 heavy and destructive cyclones followed by storms hit Comoros and Sao Tome and Principe destroying boats, coastal infrastructure.
Seychelles’ new diplomatic charm offensive gains traction
By Malik Hossain and Wanjohi Kabukuru
[IOO, Victoria, Seychelles] Sometimes in 2007 Seychelles President James Michel spoke about the ‘blue economy’. At the time few took notice of what this was all about. To many this was simply a fad in the same fashion as the trending “green economy”. But events in the last three years illustrate what appears to be the centerpiece of Victoria’s foreign policy.
The 2012 successful hosting of the Madagascar political deadlock between President’s Andry Rajoelina and Marc Ravalomanana in the now famous “Desroches Island Talks” in the South African Development Cooperation (SADC) sanctioned peace negotiations seems to have given Seychelles a new impetus on the world stage. While the two Desroches meetings facilitated the stabilization of Madagascar and peaceful transfer of power in Antananarivo, it redefined Seychelles’ bargaining chips and acumen.
President Michel in the middle of Rajoelina (on his left) and Ravalomanana seated on his right at the Desroches Island Talks in 2012 [ Press Office of the Presidency, Seychelles]
Addressing the African Union’s (AU) golden Jubilee summit in mid May 2013 President Michel pushed for a relook of oceans as one of the economic levers in Africa’s development agenda. “We cannot speak of transforming African ownership of the economy unless we are prepared to seriously look at our oceans.” President Michel said. “The opportunities inherent in our seas belong to us and we must create frameworks to develop this potential. We must make our oceans safe. And we must be able to manage our oceans. To do this we must be prepared to give more attention to the blue economy.”
President Michel with Pope Benedict XVI [Photo Courtesy of Press Office of the Holy See]
This is when the message began to seep out on the real significance that Seychelles was pushing. The success of the Indian Ocean island nation’s lobbying saw the AU taking an unprecedented step by including oceans in the scope of thematic sectors identified to transform the continent’s future economic fortunes as defined in AU’s Agenda 2063. The ‘blue economy’ is now being viewed as a priority and Victoria is not relenting in its diplomatic offensive seeking to build a critical mass among governments, civil societies and the public.
Seychelles foreign affairs minister Jean-Paul Adam breaks down the oceanic state’s new diplomatic charm offensive. “For us the blue economy is about creating new economic liberation for African countries and companies.” Adam says. “There are a lot of opportunities in the sea and the blue economy is a key part of sustainability.”
Jean Paul Adam, Seychelles foreign affairs minister
The Victoria government is keen to win over its western Indian Ocean neighbours with an aim of mainstreaming the sea by incorporating their respective exclusive economic zones (EEZ) in their economies. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries, toxic dumping, pollution, sea level rise, climate change and ocean acidification are all issues that Seychelles sees as threats to a viable blue economy.
Dr Nirmal Shah who heads the environmental non-governmental organisation Nature Seychelles and a leading maritime conservation advocate in the western Indian Ocean wants the blue economy talk to be enhanced and to be more than a catch word.
“We need to know what the blue economy is. Is the blue economy a brand just like sustainable development or just a catch phrase?” Dr Shah poses. “We need to pin the blue economy down.”
The blue economy is not restricted to fisheries, sun-kissed sandy beaches for tourists, efficient ports and maritime sea lanes alone. It looks at the sea with what appears to be a holistic view.
“We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old.” Shah contends. “It must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”
The blue economy message is much broader according to Victoria’s definition both as an environmental belt and economic enabler. Known reserves of oil, gas, polymetallic sulphides, nodules and marine genetic resources are all included in the conversation.
In January this year Seychelles and the United Arab Emirates jointly co-hosted the Blue Economy summit in Abu Dhabi. At the meeting Michel described the empowerment of coastal communities, their engagement and inclusion as the hallmarks defining the effective implementation of the blue economy.
At the US-Africa summit held in August in Washington; the Samoa UN Conference on Small Island Developing States held in early September and the latest UN climate change summit in Washington, Michel’s blue economy message remained constant calling for an ocean based development paradigm. Though classified as a small island state Seychelles’ blue economy diplomatic charm is turning out to be an idea whose novelty and timing are gaining currency among the global community of nations.
“The sea is space for development.” Adams explains “The blue economy is about trade routes, connectivity, environmental protection, tourism, natural resources and the entire ocean view.”
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