Director's Letter

- Nancy Ogonje Executive Director, East African Wild Life Society

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.

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