Ocean states master basics of compliance in coastal fisheries

Nearly 70 government officials from 16 Commonwealth countries are now equipped with the basic know-how to manage effective compliance in coastal fisheries – a crucial step in protecting the ocean and advancing the blue economy – with support from OceanMind and the Commonwealth Secretariat.

OceanMind, a leading agency in the sector, and the Commonwealth Blue Charter programme, joined forces to deliver an introductory training course about the legal, policy and management elements that ensure coastal fisheries regulations are followed.

The topic is particularly relevant for 47 out of 54 member countries of the Commonwealth which border the ocean. Complying with fisheries regulations helps these ocean-reliant economies protect against overfishing, pollution, habitat destruction, while mitigating the impacts of climate change.


The online course was delivered twice over a four-day period (22-25 November) and included 67 marine professionals from all five regions of the Commonwealth, in multiple time zones. Most participants were based in small states in the Pacific, Caribbean and Africa.

Nick Wise, OceanMind CEO, said: “We are very pleased to have been able to support the international community with this introductory course. The training established a baseline knowledge across various professionals working in the monitoring, control and surveillance sector as well as fisheries managers.

“The feedback we received from participants of the course was invaluable and the knowledge sharing exercises showed that countries throughout the world are dealing with many of the same challenges in their coastal waters. Through collaboration and further engagement, I hope we can continue to support coastal states to meet the challenges of coastal fisheries management, compliance and enforcement.”

Dr Jeff Ardron, programme lead for the Commonwealth Blue Charter, added: “Coastal fisheries feed coastal communities. Establishing better ways to ensure their productivity and good governance will safeguard present and future generations across the Commonwealth. My sincere appreciation to the team at Ocean Mind for sharing its wealth of experience with our Commonwealth Blue Charter members. Next, we will begin to scope out and establish in-country pilot projects.”

Participants during the virtual training
Participants during the virtual training

Training opportunities

Course participants welcomed the course as “helpful”, “compelling” and “straight to the point”.

One participant from Malta stated: “I found all parts of the course beneficial, especially as it provided a needed refresher on parts… also to hear from other member states on how they tackle fisheries’ issues.”

Another from the Seychelles highlighted: “The different views shared by other participants about their respective countries, the videos and case studies which enable me to better understand the different topics covered.”

The course is one of a series of training opportunities offered free of charge to member countries as an activity of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, an agreement by the 54 Commonwealth nations to work together to tackle global ocean challenges. It was made possible with funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Commonwealth Fund for Technical Cooperation.

Commonwealth countries pilot new tool to gauge climate and ocean risks

The Commonwealth Secretariat and US-based Stimson Center have teamed up to pilot a new process to quickly determine climate vulnerability and risks in coastal communities.

This ‘rapid assessment protocol’, developed under the Stimson Center’s Coastal Resilience Vulnerability Index (CORVI) Project, will be trialled in the Commonwealth countries of Barbados, Kiribati and Sri Lanka.

The project partnership is in part generously supported by the United Kingdom’s Blue Planet Fund through the Ocean Risk and Resilience Action Alliance (ORRAA) which the Commonwealth Secretariat recently joined as a member.

It aims to support better decision making and more climate-smart investments by clearly outlining the financial, political, and ecological risks that climate change poses to a small island country or coastal city.

The Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Dr Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said: “We are thrilled to be piloting this approach in Commonwealth countries, as it wholly aligns with the aims of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, an agreement by all 54 member countries to work together to solve global ocean challenges, such as coastal climate risk.

“This new partnership builds on the momentum achieved during discussions at the UN Climate Conference COP26 on ocean and climate action. It will allow the participating countries on the frontlines of the climate crisis to assess and tackle the urgent and long-term vulnerabilities they face, with targeted actions and investments.”

Normally, undertaking a full ocean and climate risk assessment under CORVI would take at least 18 months. However, the rapid assessment process will take place over just three months, providing countries with a first-look risk picture which could then be further elaborated through dedicated projects.

The first phase of the four-month project commenced in December 2021. The three pilot countries will engage with the methodology, receive the rapid assessment results and determine next steps to help their coastal communities advance climate-smart policies and build resilience.

All three pilot countries are leading on ocean action as champion countries under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. Barbados co-leads the action group on marine protected areas (along with Seychelles), Kiribati co-leads the action group on sustainable coastal fisheries (with Maldives), and Sri Lanka champions the action group on mangrove ecosystems and livelihoods.

Case study: The Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS)

Cover of The Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS) case study PDFThe Commonwealth Blue Charter is highlighting case studies from the Commonwealth and beyond, as part of a series to spotlight best practice successes and experiences. Share your own case study with us.

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 “The Indian monsoon and its vagaries are tightly linked to the changing environmental conditions in the Indian Ocean. Hence high-resolution ocean observations can help improve our monsoon forecasts. In terms of cyclones, forecasting has improved a lot. The India Meteorological Department can now predict the genesis, track and landfall of cyclones with greater accuracy, so that we are able to save many lives, from tens of thousands of casualties in the 1990s to tens of hundreds by 2020.” 

– Roxy Mathew Koll, Co-chair of CLIVAR/IOC-GOOS Indian Ocean Region Panel 


The Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS), established in 2006, is a network of interdependent and complementary instruments deployed in the Indian Ocean for measuring seawater temperature, salinity, ocean currents, atmospheric humidity and wind. Originally set up to better understand and forecast the onset of the seasonal monsoon, it now serves to enable the modelling of future climate scenarios under climate change and to predict extreme weather events – such as floods, droughts and cyclones – at a regional scale. Such predictions can help prepare for and mitigate the worst effects of extreme weather on vulnerable communities across the Indian Ocean and beyond. Continued financial support for maintaining the existing network of instruments and to expand its reach into new areas to improve the system’s prediction ability is necessary and would be enhanced by the establishment of more partnerships in the region as well as political will to allow observational access to the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of coastal states. Training of personnel at a local level to deploy and maintain the instruments, as well as to analyse the measurements, is also addressed by IndOOS. Improved coordination of all activities that utilise the recorded observations, as well as the continuing development of data recording, calibration and management standards, should improve the system’s capacity to inform science and be of use to Indian Ocean communities into the future. 

Illustration of the Indian Ocean Observing System

The Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS) (from Beal et al., 2019).

The issue 

The Indian Ocean basin is surrounded by 22 countries – home to almost one third of humankind – many of which are vulnerable to extreme weather events and climate change. These countries rely heavily on fisheries and rain-dependent agriculture, both tightly linked to the monsoon, which is itself driven by dynamic temperature gradients across the Indian Ocean. Variations in ocean surface temperature have been shown to influence monsoon rains across the basin, flooding in East Africa, droughts and wildfires in Australia and Indonesia, changes in upwelling intensity and even sea level rise. Associated shifts in water oxygenation, salinity and nutrient levels also influence marine productivity and ecosystem stability as a whole. Disruption of ecosystem stability on this scale is predicted to increase the number of undernourished people in the region by 50 per cent by 2030. 

The Indian Ocean’s influence extends beyond its boundaries, redistributing heat across the planet and modulating the climate in the Pacific, North Atlantic and Mediterranean Sea. 

Regular observations of different ocean attributes over the entire Indian Ocean are the key to informing and improving our understanding of how the climate works and varies over time. Mathematical models that use data from such observations to simulate future climate conditions can be used to forecast the timing and intensity of the monsoon or extreme weather events, which in turn can help mitigate any potential damage to crops and livelihoods. 

The response 

The goal of the Indian Ocean Observing System (IndOOS) is to provide sustained, high quality oceanographic and marine meteorological measurements to support knowledge-based decision-making through improved scientific understanding, weather and climate forecasts and environmental assessments for the benefit of society. Its objectives are to foster agreements and partnerships among Indian Ocean countries and beyond, creating opportunities for them to enhance long-term monitoring and forecasting capacity. 

The framework for IndOOS comprises five observing networks: 

  1. Research Moored Array for African-Asian-Australian Monsoon Analysis and Prediction (RAMA)
  2. Profiling floats (part of the global Argo array)
  3. Surface drifters (Global Drifter Program, GDP)
  4. Repeat temperature lines (eXpendable Bathy Thermograph (XBT) network)
  5. Tide gauges 

Augmenting and cross-calibrating these networks are remotely sensed (via satellite) observations of surface wind, sea level, surface temperature and salinity, rainfall and ocean colour, as well as a coarse network of decadal hydrographic survey lines (The Global Ocean Ship-Based Hydrographic Investigations Program, GO-SHIP).

Partnerships and support 

IndOOS emerged from discussions among scientists at the First International Conference on the Ocean Observing System for Climate (OceanObs) in 1999, a time of new and advancing observing technologies, such as profiling floats (Argo), satellite missions and surface meteorological buoys. Based on scientific and societal needs, an implementation plan for IndOOS was put together by the Indian Ocean Panel (now the Indian Ocean Regional Panel) in 2006, established under the Climate and Ocean Variability, Predictability, and Change (CLIVAR) and Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission – Global Ocean Observing System (IOC-GOOS) programmes. 

Since its inception, the CLIVAR/IOC-GOOS Indian Ocean Region Panel has provided scientific and technical oversight for implementation of IndOOS and coordinated research on the role of the Indian Ocean in the climate system. Members of the Panel currently include representatives of research institutions from Australia, China, Germany, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Mozambique, Norway, Republic of Korea, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. 

Funding for the development and continuation of IndOOS is the responsibility of the Indian Ocean Resources Forum (IRF), following the business plan devised by the Panel at its inception. The IRF works year-round to facilitate and coordinate the provision of the resources required for the implementation of IndOOS, promoting contributions from international aid and development agencies as well as from institutions in participating countries. The IRF also monitors and critiques the rationale for implementation of IndOOS as articulated by the Panel and other relevant expert bodies. 

A Roadmap to Sustained Observations of the Indian Ocean for 2020-2030

IndOOS-2: A Roadmap to Sustained Observations of the Indian Ocean for 2020-2030 (from Beal et al., 2020).

Results, accomplishments and outcomes 

To date, IndOOS has provided unprecedented measurements of weather, ocean and climate phenomena. These observations have, for instance: 

  • supported the study and forecast of tropical cyclones and marine heatwaves; 
  • improved our understanding of the variables driving tropical seasonal variability and their influence on sub-seasonal variations of the global climate; 
  • mapped equatorial and monsoon circulations and captured variability of the Indonesian throughflow (an ocean current with importance for the global climate); and 
  • revealed year-to-year climate variations in the tropical Indian Ocean and their relationship to tropical Pacific climate variations (i.e., the El Niño Southern Oscillation). 

In addition, approximately 20 capacity development workshops have been held across the region to ensure broad understanding of the social and economic applications and benefits of IndOOS, as well as technological training in the sustainment of these vital meteorological and oceanic observations. 

Examples of capacity development programmes include: 

  • Partnerships for New GEOSS (Global Earth Observing System of Systems) Applications (PANGEA), which has delivered in-country training (e.g., in South Africa and United Republic of Tanzania) on the applications of ocean data (for understanding and predicting regional weather, ocean and climate and their impact on fisheries, coastal zone management, natural disasters, water resource management, human health and others), and fostered partnerships between developed and developing countries (including Comoros, India, Indonesia, Japan, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, United Republic of Tanzania and the United States) to realise the socioeconomic benefits of ocean observing systems. 
  • Provision – through the Second International Indian Ocean Expedition 2015-2025 (IIOE-2) – of berths on research vessels and opportunities for young and emerging scientists and practitioners from India. 

A review of IndOOS’s performance was completed in 2019, addressing the way societal and scientific priorities and measurement technologies have evolved, especially considering the accelerating pace of climatic and oceanic change. The review has provided a roadmap to sustained observations of the Indian Ocean up to 2030. 


Aside from logistical challenges presented by maintaining unattended equipment at sea (e.g., piracy, vandalism, ship time for servicing), a major challenge of the IndOOS programme has been to gain authorisation from coastal states to extend the observation network into their EEZs. Access to these waters would enable the study of important coastal, shelf and slope systems that are integral to sustaining fisheries and to understanding the entire basin. Installing and testing new observing platforms within EEZs, together with building trust, national capacity and resource sharing across state boundaries, may help address this challenge. 

Ensuring the quality, accuracy and compatibility of data across all ocean observation programmes is an ongoing universal challenge, addressed by the creation of best practices for instrument calibration, data recording, integration, reporting and quality control, as well as regular provision of national and regional training workshops. 

Another significant challenge is the flat or declining levels of national funding for sustained ocean observation networks. Ongoing commitment to IndOOS by the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission, the World Meteorological Organization and the International Science Council through their support of the World Climate Research Program is essential. Importantly, improvements and enhancements to the system require increased participation by countries and institutions willing to provide resources. 

Key lessons learnt 

  • Despite the significant efforts invested in IndOOS and the unprecedented amount of information it has generated, with tangible benefits in capacity building and harm prevention, its inherent limitations mean it still falls short of meeting many of society’s demands for climate forecasting and prediction. The relatively low prediction skill of forecasts is a result of a lack of sufficient information, which can only be addressed by more sustained observations. Enhanced vertical (at depth) and temporal resolution of upper-ocean measurements, in addition to those from existing and expanded measurement platforms, would improve the situation. 
  • Increased engagement and partnerships among Indian Ocean countries are needed, fomented by recognition of the national benefits that arise from participating in such international initiatives. Much of the expansion of IndOOS into coastal regions is reliant on increased involvement and cooperation of regional countries and agencies, along with their commitment to building and supporting national capacity and observing best practices, and on data sharing and dissemination. 
  • More ought to be done to connect Indian Ocean countries and institutions with the benefits, principles and tools of IndOOS to encourage engagement, collaboration, resource sharing and capacity development. Enhanced multilateral partnerships – fostered and supported by the Indian Ocean Region Panel, Indian Ocean Global Ocean Observing System and IRF – can help ensure that international resources are optimised, national cases for funding are strengthened, capacity building is conducted in priority areas and data are shared. 

Lead contacts 

Juliet Hermes (South Africa, [email protected]) and Roxy Mathew Koll (India, [email protected]), Co-chairs of CLIVAR/IOC-GOOS Indian Ocean Region Panel, https://www.clivar.org/clivar-panels/indian 

YouTube presentation on IndOOS-2

Supporting documentation: 

Synthesis of the IndOOS-2 Report: Beal, LM, J Vialard, MK Roxy and co-authors (2020) ‘A Roadmap to IndOOS-2: Better Observations of the Rapidly-Warming Indian Ocean’. Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society, 101(11): E1891–E1913, doi:10.1175/ BAMS-D-19-0209.1

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