Antigua & Barbuda to co-champion blue economy action for the Commonwealth

The Caribbean island nation of Antigua and Barbuda has stepped forward to co-champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on the sustainable blue economy, alongside the current champion country, Kenya.

As a new co-champion, Antigua and Barbuda will work with Kenya, as well as the other action group members, to cooperatively develop sustainable blue economy strategies across Commonwealth countries, covering more than a third of the world’s coastal waters.

Blue Economy

The aim of a ‘blue’ economy is to support the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth and improved livelihoods, while protecting ocean health.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “It is very encouraging that Antigua and Barbuda, a ‘large ocean state’, has stepped forward to co-champion the sustainable stewardship of our vast ‘blue wealth’. This welcome milestone demonstrates the commitment of Commonwealth countries to leveraging ocean resources wisely, sustainably and responsibly, while tackling unemployment, food insecurity and poverty.

“In this regard, the Commonwealth Blue Charter is one of the most effective platforms for countries to proactively collaborate across borders to tackle shared ocean challenges.”

Antigua and Barbuda’s Minister of the Blue Economy, Dean Jonas said: “We commend the Commonwealth on its development of the Blue Charter and in championing work on the sustainable blue economy.

“Antigua and Barbuda has long had a special relationship with the oceans.  We are, however, keen to understand more about the potential of our oceans as an economic growth area as well as balance this with protecting and promoting the health of our oceans. Antigua and Barbuda is committed to being an active member of this action group working alongside Kenya and all states who are members of this group.”

Prof. Micheni Japhet Ntiba, Principal Secretary for the State Department for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy in Kenya added: “Kenya is very pleased to be able to welcome Antigua and Barbuda as a co-Champion. Kenya has long recognised the necessity to work together to build strong and resilient blue economies.  We look forward to working with Antigua and Barbuda moving forward.”

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment made by leaders of all 54 member countries to work together in tackling ocean challenges and fulfilling global commitments on ocean sustainability. It was endorsed at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, UK in April 2018.

Ten Action Groups, led by 14 countries, implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, each focusing on a different ocean challenge, from marine pollution to climate change.

The Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy encourages better stewardship of ocean resources through actions such as sharing strategies and best practices, promoting green and blue innovative technologies, and financial instruments such as blue bonds and blue carbon credits. The group also seeks to empower coastal communities economically, while building their resilience to future shocks.

Commonwealth Blue Charter joins the search for first Earthshot Prize winners

The Commonwealth Blue Charter, the Commonwealth’s flagship programme on ocean cooperation, has been invited to join a leading line-up of official nominators for the prestigious Earthshot Prize.

The Earthshot Prize is an ambitious global environment prize launched by His Royal Highness The Duke of Cambridge, that seeks to stimulate innovative solutions to the world’s most urgent environmental problems while improving living standards, particularly for communities most vulnerable to climate change.

Nominations open today for five awards worth £1 million each, highlighting impactful contributions to the following five goals or “Earthshots”: Protect and Restore Nature; Clean our Air; Revive our Oceans; Build a Waste-Free World and Fix our Climate.

As one of the Earthshot Prize’s Global Alliance of Partners, the Commonwealth Blue Charter team will bring its expertise and a global reach to the search for candidates in at least one of those areas. Nominees could be individuals, teams or organisations, from a wide range of sectors including public, private and grassroots.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Our Commonwealth Blue Charter team is extremely honoured to be selected to become a Global Alliance Partner supporting the pioneering and inspirational work of The Earthshot Prize.

“The Commonwealth has long been a leading champion of multilateral cooperation to protect and conserve the natural environment, mobilising awareness and action on the issue of climate change and pioneering international cooperation to protect and manage our oceans.

“Through the Commonwealth Blue Charter, all 54 of our member countries make far-reaching commitments to work together proactively on ocean governance and conservation of marine resources, and to address ocean-related challenges and implement policies to use the bounty of the deep in ways which are sustainable.”

The nations of the Commonwealth have jurisdictions covering a third of the world’s coastal oceans, 42 per cent of coral reefs, and they include the majority of the world’s small island developing states – more aptly described as ‘large ocean states’.

Forty-seven of the Commonwealth’s 54 member countries have a coastline, where many communities rely on the ocean for life and livelihoods. This brings special awareness of the interdependence and connectedness of natural ecosystems, both on land and sea.

The Secretary-General continued: “I believe the innovation, collaboration and drive which the Commonwealth Blue Charter expresses, align perfectly with the objectives and values of The Earthshot Prize. We are thrilled by this fresh opportunity to shine the spotlight on the many imaginative environmental projects and conservation programmes currently emerging from Commonwealth countries.”

The Earthshot Prize will be awarded every year from 2021 to 2030, for a decade of action on the environment.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is an agreement by all 54 Commonwealth countries adopted at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in London, April 2018. At the summit, all member states agreed to actively cooperate to solve ocean-related problems and meet commitments for sustainable ocean development, with particular emphasis on the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), especially SDG 14 (Life Below Water).

To achieve this, 10 Action Groups implement the Commonwealth Blue Charter, led by 13 ‘Champion countries’ that have stepped forward to coordinate action on 10 key issues they have identified as priorities, supported by the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Blue Charter Team.

For more information about The Earthshot Prize, visit: www.earthshotprize.org

PAST EVENT: World Oceans Day – Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time

The Commonwealth is organising an interactive virtual event on 8 June to mark World Oceans Day.

The event will highlight the work of three Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups on:

  • Ocean and climate change
  • Coral reef protection and restoration
  • Mangrove ecosystems and livelihoods

Register for the event

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a commitment by all 54 member countries to actively cooperate to solve pressing ocean challenges and meet global commitments for sustainable ocean development. The Blue Charter is implemented by 10 action groups, led by 13 champion countries.

Partnering for coral reefs

The virtual event will also present the strategic partnership between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Vulcan to support critical decision-making to sustain, protect and restore coral reefs across the Commonwealth.

A new tool will help countries map, monitor and manage coral reefs, using satellite data and analysis provided through an interactive coral reef map to be hosted on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

The event will additionally premier a new short video about the Commonwealth Blue Charter.

Enquiries

For media enquiries, contact:

Josephine Latu-Sanft
Senior Communications Officer
[email protected]
+44 20 7747 6476

Coral mapping technology to accelerate reef restoration and protection in the Commonwealth

The Commonwealth Secretariat is joining forces with Vulcan Inc. to help member countries manage their ocean spaces via cutting-edge mapping technology.

Commonwealth countries are responsible for more than a third of the world’s coastal ocean, and 45 per cent of its coral reefs.

Harnessing satellite technology

The new tool will use satellite technology to create country-specific data and generate high-resolution images to help map, manage and monitor coral reefs in the Commonwealth.

Announcing the initiative on World Reef Awareness Day, 1 June, Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “The threats to the health of our ocean are numerous and can be perceived by governments as overwhelming, with 90 per cent of coral reefs at risk of disappearing within the next few decades as a result of climate change.

“That is why Commonwealth leaders launched the Commonwealth Blue Charter in 2018, which is a shared commitment from all 54 member countries to tackle urgent ocean issues together and by offering mutual support. Our partnership with Vulcan Inc, as well as with others in the private sector, academia and science networks, will work to translate our vision into meaningful on-the-water actions.”

Allen Coral Atlas

Building on the technology behind Vulcan’s Allen Coral Atlas – a public platform that converts data from a range of sources to generate detailed maps, images and alerts on coral reefs – a dynamic interactive coral reef map will be hosted online on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub. The information it contains will support marine ecosystem planning, management, governance and community action in member countries.

Chuck Cooper, Managing Director of Government and Community Relations at Vulcan said: “We have already lost 50 per cent of the world’s coral reefs which support the safety, well-being, and economic security of hundreds of millions of people.

The Allen Coral Atlas is helping to provide foundational data which inform critically important conservation efforts. Working with Commonwealth countries, we can change the trajectory of the coral reef crisis.”

World Oceans Day

The joint project will be unveiled with a special virtual presentation on World Oceans Day, 8 June.

This event, titled ‘Mapping the Commonwealth one coral reef at a time,’ will also feature presentations from three Blue Charter Action groups, focusing on:

  • Coral Reef Protection and Restoration
  • Ocean and Climate Change
  • Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is implemented by 10 country-driven action groups that share experiences and coordinate action to tackle ocean challenges. The presentations will highlight how the groups work together and the importance of accurate and live data to support management decisions.

Register for the event

Seychelles milestone offers lessons on marine protection

Commonwealth countries committed to saving the ocean will benefit from new knowledge gained from the Seychelles, which has just designated almost a third of its ocean as marine protected areas (MPAs).

The island nation recently set aside 30 per cent of its marine territory, or about 410,000 square kilometres, to be legally protected from activities that damage the marine environment.

Other than sustainable tourism, the new laws will ban almost all human activity in half of the protected areas, while allowing only low-impact sustainable businesses to operate in the other half.

The milestone is a culmination of six years of intense technical and legal work, scientific research, as well as community and political engagement.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Seychelles has demonstrated remarkable leadership as the ‘champion country’ for marine protected areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. It is immensely encouraging to see  how the experiences, insights and lessons learned from Seychelles will  inspire and catalyse other member states who also wish to protect their ocean.

“Marine protection goes beyond conservation, allowing for the development of  ‘blue’ economies based on sustainable ocean activity. A healthy ocean also presents enhanced opportunities for economic recovery post COVID-19, and for building resilience and withstanding the impacts of natural disasters and extreme weather events.”

The new marine spatial plan maps out the entirety of Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (spanning 1.37 million square kilometres) and was financed through an innovative ‘debt-for-nature’ swap co-designed by the Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.

Path to success

Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary of Environment at the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of Seychelles stressed that countries would need to set their own targets and methods according to their own circumstances.

He outlined four basic elements that led to Seychelles’ success: political support, efficient partnerships, a robust framework for implementation, and patience.

He explained: “The starting point in all of this is the political support and commitment. The President and political leaders were clear about the objective for Seychelles, and the Cabinet was updated regularly on all progress of our work.

“Finding the right partnerships is also very important. For small developing states like Seychelles, most of us do not have all the technical capacity or knowhow needed. We were very lucky to have a very strong partner in The Nature Conservancy, which provided technical and financial assistance.”

Mr de Comarmond added that a well-oiled chain of teams and committees across various agencies helped to ensure that the process was inclusive. The government recognised that the business community and civil society needed to be fully engaged and take ownership.

He said: “We took a very patient and persistent approach, investing a lot of time in building trust and getting the agreement from all our stakeholders. Proposals were always backed with scientific data.”

Seychelles’ achievement of 30 per cent coverage is far beyond international targets of 10 per cent by the end of this year. However, a growing number of Commonwealth countries are supporting a more ambitious target of 30 per cent by 2030, to be agreed at the next UN Biodiversity Conference.

Blue Charter Champion

Under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Seychelles leads an action group of 16 member countries, including: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, The Gambia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Tonga, the UK and Vanuatu.

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said: “A key goal of the Blue Charter is to share knowledge and experiences, while working together to scale up strategies, in this case for the effective management, monitoring and enforcement of MPAs.”

Sustainable aquaculture strategy to boost growth and food security

Commonwealth countries have outlined a joint plan to boost economic growth and food security through the sustainable farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture generates more than half of the seafood people eat across the world, and sustains some 26 million jobs. This translates to about 80 million tonnes of fish produced globally per year (up from 3 million in 1970), valued at around US$ 240 billion.

Nine countries are now joining forces to explore ways of expanding the sector within the Commonwealth. They are part of the Blue Charter action group on sustainable aquaculture, whose aim is to develop local communities, create more jobs, produce high quality food, while ensuring a healthy ocean.

To date, members include: Cyprus (as the lead or ‘champion’ country), The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Trinidad and Tobago.

Following the action group’s inaugural meeting in Cyprus on 25-27 February, the Director of Fisheries and Marine Resourses, Ms Marina Argyrou said: “Aquaculture, being the fastest growing food producing industry on a global scale,  has an important role in contributing to food security, creating employment opportunities, as well as improving the welfare of local communities.

“It also has the potential to provide environmental services in the framework of fisheries re-stocking programmes, as well as restoration projects for mangroves and corals.”

Ms Argyrou referred to aquaculture as a “main pillar of blue growth”, adding that: “It is our obligation to develop it in a sustainable way so as it will be financially viable, socially acceptable and environmentally compatible.”

The Action group will assess aquaculture practices in member states, outline shared priorities for action, and establish a framework for cooperation with the European Union and other international organisations.

It is one of 10 such groups under the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by all Commonwealth leaders to cooperate actively to protect ocean health and promote good ocean governance.

These action groups are led by ‘champion’ countries have stepped forward to rally members around key ocean issues, such as marine pollution, climate change, ocean acidification and the sustainable blue economy.

Ms Argyou concluded: “Cyprus is honoured to champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on sustainable aquaculture. We hope this platform will spur action among like-minded countries and partners, with a focus on knowledge-sharing, cooperation, and taking a science-based approach to sustainably develop our activities.”

Launch of ‘First Descent: Midnight Zone’ mission to Seychelles and Maldives

On 4 March 2020, the Commonwealth and the Nekton Foundation will launch ‘First Descent: Midnight Zone’, a mission to explore and protect the Indian Ocean – the world’s least explored and most at risk ocean.

First Descent

First Descent is a ground-breaking scientific research mission, using the world’s most advanced deep diving submersible.

The goal of the mission is to better understand the 630,000 km2 of ocean across Seychelles and the Maldives, so that governments can make better management decisions.

The data collected will help Commonwealth leaders make the best policies to protect the ocean, including on marine conservation, climate change and fishing.

Nekton also supports training, grants and fellowships for local students and early-career scientists.

Commonwealth Blue Charter

The mission is aligned to the Commonwealth’s flagship programme for ocean governance, known as the Blue Charter.

The launch event includes a press briefing and a reception at Marlborough House. For more information, contact [email protected]

(Photo credit: Nekton)

Commonwealth Blue Charter – All Champions Meeting

Countries driving the Commonwealth Blue Charter project will meet in Cyprus from 21 to 24 March 2020. They will reflect on what they’ve achieved over the past year, and agree on a strategy for the coming year.

The Commonwealth Blue Charter is a landmark agreement by leaders to cooperate on ocean action. Since launching in 2018, 10 action groups led by 13 ‘champion’ countries have rallied Commonwealth members around pressing ocean issues like marine pollution, coral reef restoration and climate change.

Champion countries will share experiences, best practices and new ideas.

For more information, please contact Heidi Prislan, Commonwealth Blue Charter Adviser: [email protected] or [email protected]