Case Study: Ocean Womxn: Supporting Black Women to Earn Postgraduate Degrees in Oceanography at the University of Cape Town, South Africa

Ocean Womxn: Supporting Black Women to Earn Postgraduate Degrees in Oceanography at the University of Cape Town, South Africa
(on-going)

“The Ocean Womxn Fellows have made becoming an oceanographer a cool aspiration for young
black women across South Africa – everyone wants to be like them!”

Katye Altieri, Senior Lecturer at University of Cape Town and Principal Investigator responsible for founding
Ocean Womxn

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Summary

In 2018, the University of Cape Town (UCT) launched the Advancing Womxn Initiative (AWI) to fund projects that build capacity among black South African womxn.¹ Senior Lecturer in the Department of Oceanography at UCT, Katye Altieri and three colleagues submitted a successful proposal to create a prestigious fellowship for black womxn to undertake postgraduate and postdoctoral studies in oceanography.
Ocean Womxn’s² inaugural cohort of five black womxn (Fellows) entered the program in 2020, and two more joined in early 2021. Ocean Womxn’s goal is to create a generation of black womxn leaders in oceanography who become role models and mentors for future generations.

The programme hired diversity consultants who held focus groups with current and past students, and supported an understanding of the cultural barriers to black womxn in the Department. As a result, Ocean Womxn offers the Fellows tailored support in three areas: financial, professional and personal.

Ocean Womxn is ever-evolving. For instance, the programme offers formalised mentorship opportunities, connecting the Fellows with black womxn mentors in other science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) fields (since there are few black South African womxn oceanographers). The Fellows have begun seeking out mentors to participate in the programme, and are creating a growing network of black womxn in STEM.

Ocean Womxn is in its second of five years of funding. Altieri reports that the Fellows are flourishing and that the programme is enabling discussions about diversity in the Department, catalysing a culture change within UCT’s Department of Oceanography. There is also a plan in place to determine how the programme could be applied more broadly, potentially to other science departments in South Africa, and other oceanography departments abroad.

The issue

The 2011 South African Census found that 76 per cent of the population is black. At the University of Cape Town (UCT) in 2018, 31 per cent of professors were women; while that meant there were 76 woman professors, only 15 were black South Africans.

In the Department of Oceanography at UCT in 2018, of 73 postgraduate students 12 were black women, and there were no black women in the faculty. Altieri says, “It’s so different from the demographics of the country. It’s impossible to miss.”

In a study of black South African women holding science scholarships, the students reported experiences of nonbelonging, inside and outside the university classroom, and feelings of alienation from their field of study. The study notes that, even though these are high-performing students, there are still barriers to their success: “They may still enter university study with limited access to dominant forms of cultural capital, including English proficiency and scientific terminology, and other forms of less tangible knowledge.”³

The response

In 2018, the Vice Chancellor of UCT⁴ launched the Advancing Womxn Initiative (AWI), calling for proposals from women and transgender researchers from the  university community to lead projects supporting the training of postgraduates and postdoctoral fellows. The emphasis was on building capacity among black South African womxn, including a category for “conducting research in a field in which womxn are in short supply.”

In the AWI, Altieri saw an opportunity to support more black South African womxn to enter oceanography and become successful oceanographers. The Ocean Womxn programme has three aims:

1. Develop a prestigious research and leadership programme for black womxn that recruits, retains and enables success for the next generation of black womxn oceanographers;

2. Identify and overcome barriers by creating an environment that allows black womxn to succeed and become leaders;

3. Determine if the Ocean Womxn model could be applied more broadly in other ocean science programmes in South Africa or to other oceanography programmes beyond South Africa.

Ocean Womxn hired a professional consulting team specialising in diversity and transformation, which held three focus groups over several days with 15 womxn of colour from the Department and its past graduates. The consultants identified cultural barriers facing black womxn in the Department. They also reported as the most important outcomes of the focus groups the importance of co-production (involving the Fellows in creating Ocean Womxn) and the need to change the departmental culture, including involving all staff and students in the transformative process.

Based on the focus group work, the Ocean Womxn leadership identified the types of support it thought the fellows may need, and the areas where, Altieri says, “There was a way for Ocean Womxn to intervene and provide some degree of support.” As a result, Ocean Womxn provides support in three areas to help Fellows overcome fundamental barriers (Table 1).

Partnerships and support

Ocean Womxn is a project of UCT’s AWI, championed by the Office of the Vice-Chancellor, Professor Mamokgethi Phakeng. The project, which began in 2019, receives funding of R5 million (or about €2.8 million) over five years. It is led by Lead Principal Investigator Katye Altieri and Co-Principal Investigators Juliet Hermes, Isabelle Ansorge and Sarah Fawcett, all from UCT’s Department of Oceanography.

Table 1: How Ocean Womxn supports its Fellows

Ocean Womxn has partnered with multiple people and organisations to give the Fellows a multitude of opportunities to support their development as oceanographers and leaders. In the development of Ocean Womxn’s strategy for how best to support its Fellows to overcome barriers, and to reach potential applicants for the programme, it engaged professional services related to diversity and to social media and website development. Ocean Womxn has partnered with the South African Earth Observation Network (SAEON),⁵ which provides opportunities for the Fellows outside of academia. There are plans through SAEON to involve the Fellows in leadership opportunities with the South African government and the National Research Foundation. The programme has also partnered with South African womxn leaders in STEM fields, who act as mentors to the Fellows.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The first cohort of five black women graduate students began as Fellows in the Ocean Womxn programme at UCT in 2020, studying diverse aspects of oceanography.⁶ Two more Fellows were selected and entered the programme in early 2021.

Establishing Ocean Womxn has led to more than just supporting the Fellows: it has engaged the Department of Oceanography with the issue of diversity. In working with the diversity consultants, focus groups began with the Department’s past and present students of colour, and moved on to all students in the Department. Altieri says the next steps will be focus groups involving the staff, “to have discussions around race and talk about what’s troubling.”

Of the monthly mentorship program with successful black womxn in STEM fields, Altieri says the Fellows rave about the opportunity to speak with these womxn, finding inspiration in their stories. Led by the Fellows, they are quickly growing a network of black womxn in STEM.

The Fellows are also already becoming leaders and mentors. They provide curriculum-based marine education outreach to students in Grades 9 to 11, and one Fellow meets monthly with three young women who are interested in STEM careers, as a mentor to them.

Challenges

The biggest challenge for Ocean Womxn has been responding effectively to the needs of the Fellows. Because Altieri and her co-leads are women, but all white women who come from different cultures than the black Fellows, the programme and its leaders are learning to adapt as they learn more about the needs of their Fellows.

For example, the department held a pub night for staff and students to socialize that had the unintended effect of making the Ocean Womxn feel uncomfortable. The result was “showing that we are culturally disconnected with our black students.” The programme is designed to be flexible, to respond to individual needs and how those needs change over time. As the leadership team learns more about the cultural barriers facing the Fellows, it is adapting Ocean Womxn.

Altieri reports that the Fellows are thriving, and says that missteps are not a reason for inaction. “If you’re trying to make a change, you need to say things and you need to do things. You need to embrace that you’re going to completely mess it up, and that’s fine.”

Key lessons learnt

Co-development of the programme

As the researchers running the programme are not black womxn, they realised early on that it was important to know when to step aside to provide opportunities for the Fellows to make leadership decisions about Ocean Womxn. Ocean Womxn has often seen its best successes when Fellows lead the decisions about the programme. For instance, in the development of Ocean Womxn’s logo, Altieri says the Fellows worked with the graphic designer and the design went in a direction she would not have chosen. Altieri notes the importance of “listening to them to figure out what the Fellows need.”

Expert help

Ocean Womxn brought in experts in diversity and in social media and website development early in the process. The diversity experts helped identify the cultural barriers facing black womxn to entering and completing oceanography studies in the Department.

The social media and website consultants supported multiple aspects of the project, including effectively reaching out to black womxn on social media to find potential applicants.

Ocean Womxn has set about identifying the barriers for South African black womxn to their participation in oceanography and created a prestigious graduate and postgraduate programme that supports its Fellows to overcome those barriers and succeed.

Key contacts

Katye Altieri is an oceanographer and Senior Lecturer at UCT, South Africa, and the Principal Investigator leading Ocean Womxn.

Juliet Hermes is an oceanographer, Associate Professor at UCT and Manager at the South African Environmental Observation Network, South Africa. She is a Co- Investigator of Ocean Womxn.

Connect with Ocean Womxn on Twitter or at the Ocean Womxn website

 

Endnotes

1 AWI uses the term “womxn” spelled with an “x”, recognizing this as a more inclusive term than the word “women”. “Womxn” is pronounced the same as “women”.
2 https://oceanwomxn.co.za/

3 Liccardo, S. and Bradbury, J. (2017) “Black Women Scientists: Outliers in South African Universities”. African Journal of Research in Mathematics, Science and Technology Education 21(3): 282-292
4 https://www.uct.ac.za/main/about/management/vicechancellor

5 http://www.saeon.ac.za/
6 https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OlAuNqhWrUE

8th Annual World Ocean Summit

In its eighth year, The Economist’s World Ocean Summit 2021 is going virtual for the first time and for this year only, the event is free-to-attend.

Meaningful connections

The virtual week offers the opportunity to access hours of highly curated content over five days, and the chance to make meaningful connections no matter where you are in the world.

The Commonwealth Secretariat will be participating at the conference, highlighting its role in promoting international cooperation around ocean governance and ocean health, particularly through the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Summit’s focus

The summit’s focus will be on high-level conversation and policymaking in plenary sessions as well as industry focus in six dedicated tracks: aquaculture, fishing, energy, plastics, shipping, and tourism.

In addition, participants will be able to engage across sectors to explore the role the ocean plays in tackling climate change, enhancing biodiversity, protecting coastal communities, and restoring ecosystems.

Commonwealth speakers

  • The Commonwealth Secretary-General, Patricia Scotland, will be speaking on a high-level panel on the topic of ‘Governance: Ocean governance and national ocean strategies’, on 1 March 2021, 12:10 pm -1:00 pm GMT.
  • Head of Oceans and Natural Resources, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, will be speaking during a session ‘Innovation: Advances in science and technology to preserve ocean health and mitigate climate change’, on 1 March 2021, 2:40 pm – 3:20 pm GMT.

Registration

Register free to join over 5,000 participants and 150 global leaders across the week, in our mission to accelerate a sustainable ocean economy.

You can view the high profile speaker line-up and agenda here.

Case Study: Tricia Lovell and Becoming the Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Antigua and Barbuda

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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“The field of ocean science is constantly changing and to be relevant and current and at
the top of your game, you have to constantly seek opportunities to learn.”

Tricia Lovell, Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Fisheries Division, Antigua and Barbuda

Tricia Lovell conducting seagrass monitoring in Antigua and Barbuda
Photo credit: Gregg Moore, SeagrassNet

Background

Tricia Lovell is the Acting Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer at the Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda, an island in the Caribbean. In Lovell’s work, she looks at fisheries issues as well as those related to the marine ecosystem and biodiversity conservation, environmental education and outreach, CITES and coastal zone management. She also serves as the National focal to the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Network (WIDECAST), and the marine and coastal focal point to the Convention on Biodiversity.

Lovell completed her bachelor’s in biology and maths at the University of the West Indies, Barbados, and her master’s in marine management at Dalhousie University, Canada. She has also taken part in shorter-term professional development opportunities, such as the three-month International Ocean Institute (IOI)¹ training programme on the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, at Dalhousie University, as well as fellowships at the UN through the Nippon Foundation², and the United Nations Fisheries Training Programme in Iceland among others. Lovell began at the Fisheries Division in 1998 as a fisheries officer, and has remained there, taking on more senior roles.

While growing up on Antigua and Barbuda, Lovell participated in marine biology-related programmes along the coast, put on by the local library, which sparked her interest in biology and ocean science. She attributes her success to gaining international scholarships that allowed her to complete her education, and to an important mentor who was Lovell’s supervisor when she started working for the Fisheries Division, and whom Lovell says encouraged her employees to learn and pushed everyone equally to succeed.

Lovell explains that significant barriers exist in the Caribbean to women entering and having success in her field. Barriers include a lack of employment opportunities and cultural expectations about the kinds of jobs held by women and men. To succeed, Lovell offers to the next generation this advice: find your passion, constantly seek opportunities to learn and find good role models.

Path to success

Q: What is your background and your path that lead you to where you are today?

The public library used to have these summer programmes when I was growing up, and some of them would offer the kids the opportunity to go out in the field and experience different things. I found I gravitated to things that required me to be out in the field.
My background is in natural sciences. I did my undergraduate degree in biology and mathematics at the University of the West Indies. I focused on things that I liked. I liked biology mostly because it took us out of the classroom setting to experience different things, and a lot of those things on an island are in the coastal environment.

When I finished school and came back to Antigua, I lectured part-time at the First Year University Programme at the Antigua State College and continued to do so even after getting a full time job at the Fisheries Division. After my first year at the State college, I was contacted and told there was an opening at the Fisheries Division, and that’s how I ended up applying. What I liked about fisheries at the time was that it was being led by a woman, and she was a very good role model and a strong woman, very direct. She always gave us opportunities and freedom. We were able to have the flexibility to run our own programmes. She also encouraged us quite a bit to keep seeking opportunities for learning.

Q: What helped you succeed?

I think a lot of it was some of the strong women I was exposed to at secondary school all the way up to university. Once I was working in the Fisheries Division, I got the opportunity to go to a lot of different programmes and courses. I was able to meet Elisabeth Mann Borgese, “Mother of the Ocean,” which was the highlight of my life to this point, at the IOI programme [at Dalhousie University, Canada]. Borgese was instrumental in the law of the sea process.³

I constantly try to keep myself updated on changes in the field. I’ve taken advantage of a lot of training opportunities as a result: the IOI programme, fellowships at the UN through the Nippon Foundation, training on the Law of the Sea, training on CITES. We’re a fisheries department but our mandate is so much broader. We deal with issues like CITES listings, coastal zone management, etc. To be able to fit in any role, I ended up becoming a generalist, having a lot of knowledge of a lot of different things because of the nature of the work.

Barriers overcome

Q: What barriers have you overcome to become a woman ocean leader?

I’ve been very lucky. If I had to pay my own way through school, I wouldn’t be where I am today. My mother definitely couldn’t afford to send me to my master’s in Canada. I’ve been lucky in that respect: I’ve been able to get scholarships and fellowships and funding to do my education. Those were the opportunities that were available to me that I’m grateful for. I’ve been able to find great opportunities and capitalise on those.

Caribbean culture is very male-centric. When you go into a meeting setting, you’re looking at a lot of men. Sometimes they can be dismissive of the female in the room. A lot of our leaders and politicians are males. You have to be strong so you’re not lost in the conversation.

Q: What barriers exist in the region to women entering and staying in your field?

One of the things that’s striking, particularly in the life sciences, is there’s an imbalance, a higher enrolment of females than males at the university campuses across the region, but sometimes it doesn’t necessarily mean that the imbalance is evident in the workforce. In fisheries, and probably in fisheries across the region, you’ll see more men.

In my department, we don’t have a lot of people who are technically focused on fisheries. They come at it from different perspectives. My path grounded me in the marine sciences. When I was in school, fisheries was not apparent as a viable career option in the Caribbean. In fact I don’t think it would have even been on the average student’s radar, and certainly not on mine.

Fisheries, and marine science more broadly, offer limited opportunities for employment in Antigua and Barbuda. We do not have major research labs and at the time that I was searching for higher educational opportunities, there was no full university on the island. As a result, I was only able to complete my first year of university at the local state college before moving on to the Cave Hill Campus of the University of the West Indies. The options were limited to teaching or working in the government service. The lack of a university on the island also meant we were forced to look outside Antigua and sometimes outside the region for educational opportunities, which would have been out of reach financially for me without the assistance of scholarships and grants. Luckily, I was successful in receiving a government grant for my undergraduate degree and a scholarship for my master’s as well as a number of other fellowships along the way.

Tricia Lovell giving a World Wetlands Day lecture to primary school students in Antigua and Barbuda
Photo credit: Fisheries Division of Antigua and Barbuda

Key lessons learnt

Q: What do women need to succeed as ocean leaders in your region?

You need to have a certain amount of strength, and you need to make sure you’re backing up your strength with information, and this applies to everyone. If you’re going to be discussing an issue, you need to demonstrate you know what you’re talking about.

A lone female voice might get lost. You have to go in with the facts and information. Be prepared to back up whatever you’re presenting. That is the approach I take: be strong and stand your ground. That’s the same thing I admired about my former boss. She didn’t allow anyone to walk over her.

Advice for the next generation

Find your passion

I took the path that I took based on the things I like. If you don’t have the passion, then you can easily get lost, or you won’t capitalise on opportunities to continue to learn. If you’re not interested, you won’t do the work needed to succeed. Make sure you follow the path that creates excitement for you.

Constantly seek opportunities to learn

Recognise that learning never stops. The field of ocean sciences is constantly changing and, to be relevant and current and at the top of your game, you have to constantly seek opportunities to learn. Go into every situation with an open mind; there’s always something new that can be learnt. Particularly when you’re coming from a society where a lot of the leadership is still very male-dominated, you have to make sure you are on top of knowledge and information so that your voice is not drowned by others.

Find good role models

I’ve been very fortunate to have a lot of strong women around me, both personally and professionally, who’ve been able to encourage me.

Endnotes

1 http://internationaloceaninstitute.dal.ca/

2 https://www.nippon-foundation.or.jp/en/

3 https://www.dal.ca/about-dal/dalhousie-originals/elisabethmann-borgese.html

 

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International Women’s Day 2021 – Sea the She: Recognising women’s contributions to ocean science

Friday 5 March 2021 – 1:00pm to 2:00pm

The Commonwealth covers 54 countries, 47 of which are coastal states, including two-thirds of the world’s small island developing states: essentially those most vulnerable to ocean degradation and climate change.

The Commonwealth has a huge stake in the future of our global ocean, together covering more than one-third (35%) of national marine waters globally and home to 45% of coral reefs.

In the lead up to International Women’s Day, the Commonwealth Secretariat will be celebrating women’s contributions to ocean science with a virtual event.

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC, Secretary-General of the Commonwealth will introduce this special web event, which will highlight inspiring stories of women from across the Commonwealth who are challenging gender norms through their work in ocean industries.

Speakers include special address from Hon. Ms. Zaha Waheed, minister of fisheries, marine resources and agriculture, Maldives along with perspectives from Emily Penn, co-founder of eXXpedition; Tricia Lovell, a senior fisheries officer, Antigua and Barbuda; Dr Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director Research at the Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago.

The Assistant Deputy Minister, Ecosystems and Oceans Science, Dr. Arran McPherson will present key findings and recommendations from the Gender Equity in Oceans Science report published in late 2020. This report commissioned by Fisheries and Oceans Canada focuses on how better opportunities can be opened up in ocean sciences for women and those who identify as non-binary.

A short film will be screened about gender equality in ocean sciences in the Commonwealth.

Registration

Case Study: Seychelles – Using Marine Spatial Planning to Meet the 30 Per Cent Marine Protected Areas Target

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. To share your own case study, please contact us

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“With over 1.35 million km2 of ocean, the people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods. Developing a Marine Spatial Plan is a way of tackling the sustainable development of the ocean for today and future generations.”

Former President Danny Faure¹

 

Source: https://seymsp.
com/wp-content/
uploads/2020/04/SEYMSP_
Milestone3_Zoning_Design_
Technical_17April2020.pdf

Summary

Seychelles has long been a leader in biodiversity conservation and, in 2012, when less than 1 per cent of its marine waters were managed in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the president made an ambitious commitment to protect over 30 per cent by 2020. At the same time, the economic situation meant that there were strong incentives to develop the country’s Blue Economy. Lastly, concerns about the impacts of climate change on this small island developing state were growing because of sea level rise and increasing sea surface temperatures. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) was therefore adopted as the tool to ensure that, in protecting new areas of ocean, biodiversity goals would be balanced with the requirement for a sustainable national economy. New MPAs, formally announced in March 2020, are a key part of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) that will be completed in 2021. The SMSP will also address sustainable use of marine resources in the remaining 70 per cent of ocean and climate change adaptation, and will coordinate appropriate regulatory compliance and unified government oversight of all activities. This case study looks at how MSP has been used to develop the recommendations to expand marine biodiversity protection in Seychelles.

The Issue

In 2012, at the Rio +20 Conference, the Government of Seychelles (GOS) committed to protecting 30 per cent of its 1.35 million km2 marine waters in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs),² as a pledge conditional to raising US$2.5 million/year for a conservation and adaptation fund. At that time, although over 47 per cent of the land was protected, only 0.04 per cent of marine waters were in MPAs. Environmental concerns are firmly entrenched in the Constitution of Seychelles, and the country has multiple policies and strategies to promote, coordinate and integrate sustainable development and to expand biodiversity protection. With such a large ocean area and with over two-thirds of Seychelles’ economy reliant on the ocean, there was a need to develop a marine plan for the country’s ocean space.

The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) Initiative³ was developed as an integrated, multi-sector approach to address the need to support the Blue Economy (i.e. businesses that rely on ocean resources, marine-based food security and marine livelihoods) with climate change adaptation and biodiversity protection. The SMSP provides information to government and stakeholders about what is allowed and where and identifies the new MPAs.

The response

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is an iterative process that takes place over a number of years, using spatial data and stakeholder participation to create an evidencebased plan. Plans are living documents and, after implementation, are monitored, adapted and revised as new information and data become available, new objectives or values emerge that are important to marine users, and ocean uses and activities change. The SMSP process was designed using United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization guidance⁴ as well as other publications and reports, combined with information from discussions with colleagues and experts. This ensured the use of best practices and lessons learnt from other geographies such as Australia,⁵ Canada⁶ and the Eastern Caribbean⁷ to adapt the process to the local context.

Article 38 of the Seychelles Constitution,⁸ along with the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy,⁹ requires the implementation of “an integrated marine plan to optimise the sustainable use and effective management of the Seychelles marine environment while ensuring and improving the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of its people” and this provides the background for the marine plan. The SMSP Initiative was launched with three objectives: to expand protection of marine waters to 30 per cent, to address climate change adaptation and to support the Blue Economy.¹⁰

A key part of meeting the objectives for the 30 per cent protection goal and supporting the Blue Economy was designing a zoning framework for the full 1.35 million km2. Development of this was informed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ecological and socio-economic criteria for MPA networks,¹¹ the IUCN guidelines for MPAs on protected area categories,¹² lessons learnt from other countries, tools for biodiversity prioritisation (e.g. Marxan) and consultations with experts. The zoning process was defined in two phases with three Milestones, the first two of which were focused primarily on proposals for deep water and the third on deep and shallow water. This was because most marine activities other than industrial tuna fishing occur in waters less than 200 m deep and it took longer to gather the necessary data and develop those proposals.

Scientific data, local expert knowledge and stakeholder input for maps showing habitats, species and marine uses and activities began in Milestone 1. Information was also obtained from international research expeditions such as National Geographic Pristine Seas in 2015 and the Nekton Expedition in 2019. Two Marxan analyses were undertaken: the first was a project led by GOS United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)Global Environment Facility (GEF) (Klaus, 2015¹³) and led to an initial analysis; and the second was a rapid “Marxan with Zones” project using three scenarios (biodiversity bias, Blue Economy bias, economic bias), which led to suggestions for establishing three different zones across the marine waters: High Protection, Medium Protection and Multiple Use. Customised decision-support tools were developed to check representation goals against 30 per cent area targets.

Over 100 stakeholders are participating and engaged from more than 11 marine sectors, including commercial fishing, tourism and marine charters, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy, port authority, maritime safety and non-renewable resources. To date there have been 210 committee meetings, workshops and public information sessions, an additional 52 workshops for the Outer Islands (GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project) and bilateral consultations with marine sectors, local experts and agencies. The results of these activities were used to develop the zoning framework and new MPAs, and further discussions are being held in order to prepare a table of Allowable Activities for the different zone, and to develop other management considerations.

Partnerships and support

The SMSP initiative is a government-led process, and started in 2014. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) leads the process design on behalf of the government, provides all technical and scientific support and undertakes planning, facilitation and project management with support from the GOS-UNDP GEF Programme Coordinating Unit.

The SMSP is a necessary output from the Seychelles debt conversion, which created the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), an independent public-private trust operationalised in 2016. The Trust is responsible for managing debt conversion proceeds including disbursing blue grants and investment assets funded by the debt conversion deal.¹⁴ Under this deal, private philanthropic funding and loan capital were raised, and SeyCCAT then extended loans to GOS to enable the purchase of US$21.6 million of sovereign debt at a discount. GOS now repays SeyCCAT on more favourable terms, allowing SeyCCAT to direct a portion of the repayments for financing of marine conservation and climate change adaptation projects and, in the long term, implementation of the SMSP. Additional funding is being provided through grants to GOS, an Oceans 5 grant awarded to TNC, and some private funders. Approximately US$250,000 is spent on the SMSP per year.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

As per the debt conversion commitment, Milestone 1 (2014-2018) resulted in protection of 15 per cent of the marine waters through gazette of the new Zone 1 and 2 areas in February 2018. Milestone 2 (2018-2019) refined the zoning design and expanded Zones 1 and 2 to include a further 11 per cent of marine waters, which were gazetted in April 2019, bringing the total area protected to 26 per cent. This Milestone included an economic analysis undertaken with a fisheries expert and an economist to evaluate the potential impact of the zones on industrial tuna fishing. Milestone 3 (20192020) involved an estimate by an economist of the costs required to implement the new MPAS, and final gazettements during this Milestone achieved the 30 per cent protection goal in March 2020. The total area protected includes MPAs that were designated before the SMSP process was initiated, such as Aldabra Marine Reserve. The MPAs are thus as follows:

High Biodiversity Protection Areas:

Known collectively as Zone 1 and covering 203,071 km2 (15 per cent of Seychelles waters), these five areas (Aldabra Group, Bird Island (Île aux Vaches), D’Arros Atoll, D’Arros to Poivre Atolls, Amirantes South) are designated as MPAs under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act (NPNCA) and are designed to conserve and protect the top priority areas for marine and coastal biodiversity, including those of international significance. MPAs contain habitats and species that may be rare, endangered, unique or with narrow distribution ranges, as well as breeding or spawning areas, key foraging habitat, fragile or sensitive species and habitats. Each site is large enough to ensure ecological resilience and to provide climate change adaptation. In the draft Allowable Activities table, extractive activities and those that alter the seabed are not allowable.

• Medium Biodiversity Protection and Sustainable Use Areas:

Known collectively as Zone 2 and covering 238,442 km2, these eight areas (Amirantes to Fortune Bank, Denis Island, Desroches Atoll, Poivre Atoll, Alphonse Group, Farquhar Atoll, Farquhar Archipelago, Cosmoledo and Astove Archipelago) are designed with the objective of biodiversity protection and sustainable use and are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) under the NPNCA. They include habitats and species that have some tolerance to disturbance and human use and include regionally and nationally significant areas; the draft Allowable Activities include sustainable fishing, tourism and renewable energy. Zone 2 is considered suitable for some level of extraction and sea-bed alteration depending on the specific location, provided there is appropriate consultation and management to achieve the objective of the area.

Zone 3 is Multiple Use and covers the remaining 70 per cent of Seychelles waters. It will be finalised in 2020-2021 at which point the SMSP will be implemented through a phased approach, which is still being developed.

The new MPAs will be implemented through existing or new legislation; regulations will be passed for uses and activities, management plans will be developed and IUCN protected area management categories will be assigned as appropriate. The SMSP website¹⁵ provides information on all the outputs of the initiative including a spatial data catalogue, an Atlas, the MSP Policy, economic assessments and the legal gazettes for the new MPAs.


COVID-19: The greatest current challenge in most countries is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

All countries and MPAs around the world have seen a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities, which may both depend on and help manage MPAs. MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of economic recovery.


Challenges

Developing a comprehensive marine spatial plan needs patience and persistence, and can take up to 10 years. It takes time to gather information and to discuss with all involved any implications that MSP may have on livelihoods. Once the plan is agreed, further time is needed to finalise the details and obtain government approval and for implementation. For the SMSP, the Milestones created steps along the way to the 30 per cent goal and allowed time for development of the supporting spatial database and science, documents for discussions with stakeholders and the independent assessments and analyses that informed the iterative process with stakeholders and civil society.

It is also a challenge to ensure that all sectors participate fully and that equity issues in relation to engagement and contribution are appropriately addressed. The fact that the SMSP stakeholder engagement process and governance framework were designed from the start to ensure participation from all sectors was helpful. It is important to have a government champion for an MSP and consistency in the core team to build trust with stakeholder groups.

The future may hold greater challenges, in terms of implementing the SMSP, integrating and coordinating regulatory authorities for many different uses and activities in the zones, and encouraging stakeholders to comply with the new legislation once enacted. Given the immense size of the area covered by the new MPAs, this will require additional resources. Several options are being considered, including an independent authority; discussions are on-going and will be finalised in 20202021. For monitoring and surveillance, a combination of approaches will likely be adopted, involving existing authorities (e.g. Coast Guard) and making use of the rapidly evolving global monitoring and surveillance technology to strengthen the existing system.

Key lessons learnt

• Political support and commitment to the process from the beginning, with leaders, including the president, understanding the purpose and objectives of the initiative, represented a major factor in success. Project staff reported back regularly to Cabinet and sought feedback from decision-makers, developing the political will that was needed to follow the six-year process.

• Establishment of the right partnership at the beginning was essential: as a small island developing state, Seychelles lacked prior MSP experience, technical capacity and knowledge for the MSP process. TNC provided MSP expertise, a process and science lead and a project manager. The project manager is based in Seychelles and able to talk regularly to the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.

• Trust-building was critical. Given the lead role of the Ministry, there were concerns among some stakeholders that biodiversity protection would dominate discussions. It was continually emphasised that the SMSP was multi-objective, and that it was a government priority to ensure both biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

• Spatial data are vital for an MSP. To ensure that sectors were equally well informed and proposals were evidence-based, relevant scientific data and local knowledge were made available from the start. Each sector provided spatial information indicating its priority areas, and also reviewed data from consultations to ground truth them for accuracy. The GIS (geographic information system) methodology must also be able to receive confidential or proprietary data and use it to develop proposals without revealing specific locations.

• Given that sectors often differ in their level of understanding of the issues and have different capacities for participation, project staff made sure that committee meetings and reporting arrangements suited all involved. Technical Working Groups were established for specific sectors and topics (e.g. fisheries, tourism, finance, climate change) allowing space for technical discussions and developing draft products.

• Time is needed for stakeholders to gather the information to present their arguments, and for discussions with them of proposals as these arise. It was accepted that the process would slow down if lack of agreement or misunderstandings arose, and facilitation focused on gathering information to help resolve issues and obtain a high level of support.

• A consistent effort was made to ensure key stakeholders were present during relevant discussions so that many views could be presented and decisions were transparent. Meeting materials were distributed and comments received to ensure all views were incorporated. Public information sessions were held on all the main islands to also reach civil society and stakeholders. Finalised meeting minutes and other documents were made available through the website.

• The issues of new protected areas and future exclusion of industrial tuna fishing, oil and gas exploration, and marine charters for sport fishing were difficult, and impartial facilitation (independent from the Ministry) ensured that all sectors were able to discuss the proposed locations and potential impacts. An economic assessment for industrial tuna fishing was very useful and, during the zoning process, all sectors agreed to forego some areas that they had mapped as “high value”; ultimately, a compromise was reached between economic development and protection of key areas for biodiversity and ecosystem function.

• It is essential to understand that the adage “one size fits all” does not apply to MSP. Nevertheless, in the same way that lessons learnt about MSP from other geographies were used to develop the Seychelles process, lessons from the Seychelles MSP will apply elsewhere.

Project contacts

Those involved in the SMSP would be pleased to share the Seychelles experience and lessons learnt.

Joanna Smith, Seychelles MSP Process and Science Lead: [email protected];
Helena Sims, Project Manager, SMSP Initiative: [email protected]
Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary, Seychelles Environment Department: [email protected]

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Endnotes

1. Laurence, D. (2020) “Seychelles Protects 30 Percent of Territorial Waters, Meeting Target 10 Years Ahead of Schedule”. Seychelles News Agency, 26 March.
2. https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=19023
3. https://seymsp.com/the-initiative/
4. http://msp.ioc-unesco.org/msp-guides/msp-step-by-stepapproach/
5. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au
6. http://mappocean.org
7. http://msp.ioc-unesco.org/world-applications/americas/stkitts-nevis/
8. “The State recognises the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment and with a view to ensuring the effective realisation of this right the State undertakes to ensure a sustainable socioeconomic development of Seychelles by a judicious use and management of the resources of Seychelles.”
9. http://www.egov.sc/edoc/pubs/frmpubdetail.aspx?pubId=26
10. https://seychellesresearchjournal.com/archives/archive-1-2/
11. IUCN/WCPA (2008) Establishing Marine Protected Area Networks-Making It Happen. Washington, DC: IUCN WCPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy.
12. Day, J., Dudley, N., Hockings, M., Holmes, G. et al. (2012) Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. Gland: IUCN.
13. Klaus, R. (2015), Strengthening Seychelles’ protected area system through NGO management modalities, GOS-UNDPGEF project, Final report.
14. See separate case study prepared for the Commonwealth Blue Charter Blue Economy AG.
15. https://seymsp.com/outputs/

Case Study: A Community of Practice for Coral Reef Rehabilitation – Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network, Bali, Indonesia (on-going)

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“Restoration has become a central topic in the global discussion on how to address threats to coral reefs. In Bali, numerous private and public initiatives have been undertaken to restore coral reefs. The Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network is intended to connect practitioners for the purpose of sharing information, encouraging best practices and facilitating collaboration on restoration projects that benefit Bali’s marine environment and people.”

– Rili Djohani, Executive Director, Coral Triangle Centre

Summary

The Bali Reef Rehabilitation Network is a coalition of non-governmental organisations, government representatives, academics and marine tourism operators who are engaged in coral reef rehabilitation projects around Bali. The Network was launched in August 2019 when participants met to discuss innovations, challenges, best practices, regulations and other relevant topics. As mounting human pressures degrade and threaten coral reefs, interest has grown among governments, coastal communities and marine enthusiasts to proactively counteract these by initiating projects to restore degraded sections of reef. These well-meaning projects, however, stand to fail and even cause environmental damage if conducted without planning that takes into account ecological, financial, social and legislative factors. The Reef Rehabilitation Network was formed with the goal of sharing knowledge and information among people with diverse backgrounds and levels of experience regarding coral restoration.

While this is a very new initiative, the Network has been presented as a demonstration of a mechanism to try and address challenges of inappropriate restoration, using local peer learning network to share experience and provide peer group support. This is presented as model that may be of interest to members of the Action Group.

The issue

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 2
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

Bali’s economy depends strongly on marine tourism, every year drawing thousands of divers and snorkelers to its reefs. As depressing news of climate change and the global decline of coral reefs fills traditional and social media, tourists are increasingly looking for ways to “do good” on their holiday. Coral planting and other activities related to coral reef restoration have grown in popularity recently, as tourists will pay significant sums of money for the hands-on experience. This demand, presumably combined with a genuine interest in environmental stewardship, has encouraged organisations around Bali to initiate restoration projects, many of which involve tourists in some stage of the process. Many of these projects, however, have been executed without sufficient knowledge and planning regarding the ecological, financial and social factors that contribute to successful environmental restoration. Many restoration practitioners, too, are unfamiliar with local and national laws regarding coral restoration in Indonesia.

The response

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 2
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

In early August 2019, the Coral Triangle Center (CTC) convened a discussion forum as a first step toward establishing a community of practice for reef restoration around Bali. Over 40 participants representing 18 organisations attended. The meeting was intended to introduce a diverse group of participants from different sectors – non-governmental organisations (NGOs), government, marine tourism and academia – with different levels of experience in reef restoration. After a keynote talk delivered by a university affiliate experienced in restoration, each participating organisation was invited to give a five-minute overview of their restoration project. Then, participants discussed challenges related to reef rehabilitation, including:

• Project continuity and building capacity of local communities to participate in reef rehabilitation activities;
• Sources of funding and creating projects that last;
• Coral species and genetic and morphological biodiversity;
• Maintenance of coral nurseries and transplant sites;
• Monitoring and evaluation of project success;
• Coastal water pollution and waste management;
• Site and coral species suitability for reef rehabilitation;
• Unclear regulations, including need for permits;
• Regulations that were written for commercial export of corals but that, by default, apply to restoration projects; and
• Lack of knowledge leading to ecologically inappropriate restoration strategies (e.g. propagating a coral species that does not naturally grow at the depth of the restoration site).

Participants expressed an interest in future activities like touring different project sites and a working group to summarise relevant laws. Facebook and WhatsApp groups were established to encourage further interaction among participants.

Partnerships and support

A coalition of NGOs, government agencies, marine tourism businesses and academics that are actively involved in reef restoration projects around Bali are involved in the Network. CTC staff coordinated and provided funding and the venue to host the August 2019 meeting. CTC staff also set up and monitors the Facebook and WhatsApp groups. The timeframe of this project is open, as it is hoped that the community of practice will continue to persist and expand.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

The WhatsApp group has 21 members and the Facebook group has 45. Members share and discuss relevant news stories, coral restoration techniques and events (e.g. coral spawning) around Bali. No further activities have been initiated since the discussion forum, though since the meeting there has been talk of organising project site visits, workshops and other activities in the future.

Challenges

One of the main challenges the Network now faces is lack of attention and time: since the initial discussion forum, enthusiasm to participate and initiate activities has waned. Some consideration is still needed as to how to energise the group, aside from initiating and participating in discussions in the Facebook and WhatsApp groups. Another challenge is language: the group involves expatriates as well as Indonesians, not all of whom are bilingual. Some expatriate participants expressed frustration at not understanding presentations in Indonesian during the discussion forum. The facilitators of the Network are considering how to strike a balance between translating everything – which is impractical– and making no effort – which may alienate non-bilingual participants – in a way that encourages both expatriates and Indonesians to participate in the Network.

Another challenge is the unclear, or in some cases lack of, policies related to coral restoration at the local, regional and national levels in Indonesia. At the discussion forum, there was talk of assembling a working group to find and summarise existing relevant laws and identify gaps.

It would be useful to learn from experiences in other countries, as reef restoration is becoming a more mainstream activity implemented by organisations and companies. Help in enabling this kind of cross-country learning experience would be beneficial.

Case Study: Coral Reef Rehabilitation Indonesia image 3
Credit: Coral Triangle Center

Key lessons learnt

People like to share about themselves, in addition to listening to others, even when they have little experience in or expertise on the topic. Inviting everyone to present on their restoration project during the discussion forum set a precedent that the group would be inclusive, no matter the level of experience.

Lead contact

Kitty Currier, Coral Triangle Center

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