The Indian Ocean is important to the economies, security and livelihoods of coastal states along the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. According to WWF, the WIO coastline is more than 15,000 km long. An estimated 60 million people live within 100 km of the shoreline. The annual gross marine product is estimated at $20.8 billion, illustrating the great economic value of the region’s coastal and marine resources.
However, emerging industries such as oil and gas extraction and wind and wave energy projects, as well as the traditional maritime sectors of fishing, shipping and transport have put pressure on marine and coastal resources in the region.
The coastal marine environment is showing signs of degradation and biodiversity loss as a result of Climate Change and overfishing, sand mining, dredging and pollution. In this context, effective ocean governance is key to ensuring sustainable use of marine and coastal resources.
Ocean governance is the coordination of various uses of seas and the protection of the marine environment ( ). It is the integrated conduct of policy, actions and affairs regarding the world’s oceans to protect the marine environment, sustainable use of coastal and marine resources and conservation of its biodiversity (IUCN).
The WIO region includes 10 African countries -- Somalia, Kenya, Tanzania, Seychelles, Mozambique, Comoros, Madagascar, South Africa, Mauritius and France’s overseas territory La Réunion. These states are parties to the Nairobi Convention, a partnership between governments, civil society and the private sector, formed to ensure the protection, proper management and development of the marine and the coastal environment of the WIO region. The major challenge is the independent and often overlapping mandates of various national institutions that manage the marine and coastal resources. Actors include states, secretariats, specialized treaty bodies, non-governmental organisations and community-based groups.
This large number of treaties and policy bodies can create policy and legal incoherence, and most governance initiatives divided up into subdisciplines, such as the management of fisheries or the mitigation and adaptation to climate change, with each regime operating within its own legal and institutional environment with distinct objectives and issues to address. Furthermore, several treaties exist in the same geographical expanse, creating multiple sets of international regulations that may apply to a given situation, according to the United Nations Environment Programme.
Areas Beyond National Jurisdiction (ABNJ) (high seas and the international seabed) which support vital biological resources are also often beyond the remit of any single government to protect and are therefore subject to overexploitation, pollution and habitat degradation and are difficult to manage. Laws to promote their protection are often weak and poorly enforced.
Existing systems, therefore, lack common goals, principles or standards, multi-sectoral coordination, geographic coverage and accountability frameworks needed to ensure comprehensive conservation, enforcement or broad stakeholder participation (Gjerde ., 2008; Ban ., 2013a).
There is a need to bring stakeholders in the WIO region together to think about how to evolve from sectoral management to an integrated approach with regional actions based on common principles. Effective, sustainable governance of global oceans is essential to achieve a balance between the growth of maritime economies while maintaining the health and productivity of seas.
To address the situation, the Nairobi Convention in September 2019 organised the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Governance Workshop in Seychelles. The East African Wild Life Society participated in the gathering to draft an ocean governance strategy for the WIO region.
Delegates strived to identify governance needs and priorities for safe, secure, clean and sustainable management.
The workshop came up with a background document that will be presented at the Marine Regions Forum in Berlin in preparation for a conference on oceans to be held in Lisbon in 2020.