Blue economy can only thrive with joined-up action, say experts

Countrywide policies that cut across all sectors are critical for the success of ocean-based economies in the Commonwealth.

A webinar by the Commonwealth Secretariat stressed the need for such “integrated policy frameworks”, which would help to harness wealth opportunities from the ocean in a sustainable way.

The benefits are significant – by 2030, the global ocean-based economy is expected to be worth an estimated US$3 trillion, providing 40 million jobs worldwide.

Countries with vast maritime areas – such as small island development states (or ‘big ocean’ states) stand to gain the most, with impacts on food security, jobs and even health.

Expert panellists shared experiences from Kenya, Seychelles and South Africa and explored the role of the Commonwealth Blue Charter in ‘blue growth’ – or expanding the blue economy. The Blue Charter is an agreement by 54 countries to work together to tackle ocean challenges.

Panellists during the sustainable blue economy webinar

Opening the event, Kenya’s Permanent Secretary for Fisheries, Aquaculture and the Blue Economy, Micheni Japhin Ntibafor, said: “A prerequisite for developing the blue economy is the establishment of a coherent and integrated blue economy policy framework.

“Sustainable blue economy requires bringing together various sub-sectors to work in an integrated way in order to achieve effectiveness and efficiency in delivery of service to the people, and the Commonwealth at large. We need to embrace science to inform policy-making processes.”

Senior Policy Officer at UK-based Seascape Consultants, Rachel Boschen-Rose, added: “The importance of having that overarching integrated policy framework is so that you can have those cross-sectoral discussions, and therefore be more able to balance needs and trade-offs, manage conflicts, as well as bring in less obvious aspects such as cultural heritage and traditional practices.”

Case studies

One of the key issues highlighted was enabling economic growth, while also protecting the environment and the well-being of communities.

The CEO of the Seychelles Climate Change Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), Angelique Pouponneau, explained how Seychelles has been able to use innovative financing to tackle multiple challenges as well as build its blue economy.

An innovative ‘debt-for-nature’ swap was brokered with Seychelles’ creditors, reducing the country’s external debt in exchange for investments in ocean conservation and climate change adaptation projects.

One of the conditions of the deal was the allocation of 30% of Seychelles ocean territory as Marine Protected Areas, in order to conserve ocean resources, replenish fish stocks and promote sustainable tourism. This milestone was reached in March 2020.

Ms Pouponneau said: “This debt-for-nature swap was a debt restructure where the Government of Seychelles was able to address three of its main challenges: high external debt, being vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, and finding a way to really harness this 1.35 million square kilometres of Exclusive Economic Zone for the blue economy.”

These innovative solutions were part of the country’s Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap, developed with support from the Commonwealth Secretariat.

In South Africa, the blue economy is also part of the national development plan. Dubbed ‘Operation Phakisa’, the blue growth strategy focuses on large investments in major sectors, such as energy, ports, tourism, aquaculture, transport and ocean governance, including tackling illegal fishing.

Bernadette Snow from the Nelson Mandela University pointed out that while Operation Phakisa’s target of creating 22,000 jobs was not reached due to the economic downturn (around 7,000 jobs were created in the various sectors over five years), there has been progress in aquaculture, governance and protection as well as skills development.

She said: “What it has provided is an opportunity and platform for conversation. It has created a lot of research opportunities and brought to the fore policy formulation.”

However, the fixation on economic gains at the cost of sustainability, and a top-down approach that could lead to growing inequality in communities, are ongoing challenges.

Action Group on Sustainable Blue Economy

Under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, 10 countries have so far joined the action group on sustainable blue economy, led by Kenya.

The aim is to develop a joint approach on the sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, better livelihoods and ocean health.

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford said: “We have one shared ocean and a Blue Charter of shared values… By cooperating on these shared challenges, we can achieve a sustainable future for our ocean and the communities that rely on these blue resources. That includes all of us.”

The webinar event was the fifth in an ongoing series that focuses on sharing experiences and finding scalable solutions for global ocean issues.

Climate Vulnerability Assessments in Fiji and South Australia: Two Partnership Models for Measuring Climate Risk

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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Summary

For many governments, an initial step towards preparing for more severe climate impacts is completing a climate vulnerability assessment (CVA), which can help identify the climate-related risks facing a specific community, as well as potential strategies for mitigating those risks. While there is guidance available for the technical exercise of completing a CVA, one of the most important decisions for a government to make at the outset entails who to involve in the process.

This case study outlines two different partnership models, which may provide useful ideas and examples for Action Group members. In one example, the Republic of Fiji partnered with the World Bank and the EU, allowing them to access outside technical and communications expertise, as well as financial resources. In another, the State of South Australia partnered with regional governments to create a series of local CVAs, which were co-funded by all three (national, state, regional) levels of government.

The issue

Severe weather events are already a reality for many communities around the world. For example, in the island nation of Fiji, tropical cyclone Winston in 2016 caused economic damages equivalent to 20 per cent of the nation’s gross domestic product (F$2 billion) (Republic of Fiji, 2017). With these events expected to become more frequent in the future as a result of climate change, communities are faced with the question of how to prepare themselves, their infrastructure and their economies for future climate impacts. For many governments, a first step towards answering this question is completing a CVA. In general, a CVA typically aims to identify:

1. The climate-related risks faced by a specific geographic area and its citizens;
2. The effects of those risks on key vulnerable sectors of the economy; and
3. Potential strategies for mitigating those risks.

While guidance exists for the technical exercise of completing a CVA, one of the most important decisions for a government to make at the outset entails who to involve in the exercise. Below are two partnership models, which may provide useful ideas and examples for Action Group members.

The response

Fiji

As a small, low-lying, island nation in the South Pacific, Fiji is especially vulnerable to severe weather events. Tropical cyclones and floods are the most common, with almost 70 per cent of Fijians having experienced a cyclone and about 25 per cent having experienced severe flooding (Republic of Fiji, 2017).With these events expected to become more frequent as a result of climate change, protecting citizens from extreme weather is a primary goal for the national government. At the same time, Fiji has also set ambitious goals for future economic growth, aiming to double real gross domestic product per capita by 2036, while also providing universal access to basic human services like electricity, clean water and education.

With the dual objectives of increasing climate resilience and economic prosperity, Fiji decided to partner with the World Bank, the Global Facility for Disaster Reduction and Recovery and the EU to complete a CVA. The partnership with the World Bank made it possible for Fijian officials from the Ministry of Economy and other parts of the national government to work with over 40 technical experts at the World Bank to create an approach to vulnerability assessment that incorporated the nation’s development goals. The partnership with the EU also made it possible for Fiji to receive financial support for the exercise through the Africa Caribbean Pacific-EU Natural Disaster Risk Reduction Programme (GFDRR, 2018).

Fiji’s CVA was launched in November 2017 alongside a storytelling project called Our Home, Our People, “designed to help decision-makers and members of the public understand what climate change means for Fiji” (GFDRR, 2018).Through the partnership with the World Bank, the assessment ended up incorporating several innovative components, which other governments could adopt:

  • An analytical model that considers the impacts of extreme weather on economic growth and poverty;
  • An analysis of Fiji’s road network (using data from the Fiji Road Authority) that identifies transport assets that are the most vulnerable to extreme weather; and
  • A resilience investment plan that includes a comprehensive list of potential actions and their estimated costs.

“The climate vulnerability assessment will inform Fiji’s development planning and investment decisions for years to come, and provides a specific blueprint that quantifies the resources necessary to climate-proof Fiji, giving us a full account of the threat that climate change poses to our national development,” said Hon. Aiyaz Sayed-Khaiyum, Attorney-General and Minister Responsible for Climate Change in Fiji.

South Australia

In 2008, having recently experienced a series of record-breaking heat waves, officials in the State of South Australia’s Climate Change Unit also decided to complete a CVA. From the outset, they chose to partner directly with local communities, where the impacts are felt and where many of the resilience measures would ultimately be taken. To accomplish this, they created 12 “regional committees” comprising key local government, industry and community leaders. The committees were given shared responsibility over key elements of the planning process, including coordinating integrated vulnerability assessments, drafting adaptation plans and socializing the results with the broader community. “We wanted to work side by side with local communities to understand their perspective, and to embed it into the planning process,” said Michelle English, Manager of South Australia’s Climate Change Unit.

In agreements underpinning the processes, the committees also agreed to share costs with the state – an arrangement that helped both lower state government costs and increase the sense of ownership on the part of committee members. “Co-investment has been a powerful tool for us,” English added. “Rather than ending up with a long wish list of potential projects, local stakeholders are engaged in prioritising the most feasible actions.”

All 12 regional committees have completed CVAs, and have gone on to take the next step of developing regional climate adaptation plans based on these. “All regions are looking to progress and implement their priority actions from their adaptation plans, and to reduce regional vulnerability.”

“We now have groups of influential, local decisionmakers throughout the state with a vested interest in seeing this process succeed, and a growing culture of sharing that will enable it to,” said Stephanie Ziersch, Climate Change and Programme Adviser, Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources, Government of South Australia.

Key lessons learnt

There are resources available to support the technical exercise of completing a CVA. But before beginning the exercise, government should consider who they want to involve in the process, as well as what their specific objectives are. The examples of Fiji and South Australia show that different partnership models can lead to successful outcomes, and that choosing the right model depends on the capabilities and objectives of the government in question. When deciding on a partnership model, governments should consider:

  • Objectives: What does the government want to achieve with the CVA (i.e. policy guidance, communications, local partnerships, enhance access to climate finance, etc.)?
  • Next steps: How will the completed CVA be used? (Key stakeholders to be included from the beginning)
  • Resources: Does the government have the resources, both human and financial, needed to complete the CVA, or does it need external support?

Sources and further reading

GFDRR (2018) ‘Assessing Fiji’s climate vulnerability: A blueprint for building resilience’. Results in Resilience Series.

Government of South Australia (nd) ‘A Region-Based Approach to Adaptation’. https://www.environment.sa.gov.au/topics/climate-change/programs-andinitiatives/adapting-to-climate-change/a-region-basedapproach-to-adaptation

The Climate Group (2015) ‘How South Australia Is Engaging Local Communities on Adaptation’. Policy Innovation Briefing. https://www.theclimategroup.org/news/policy-innovation-briefing-how-south-australiaengaging-local-communities-adaptation

Republic of Fiji (2017) ‘Climate Vulnerability Assessment: Making Fiji Climate Resilient’. Prepared with the support of the World Bank and GFDRR.

PAST EVENT: The Blue View – Opportunities and Challenges for the Blue Economy

Thursday 27 August, 1400 – 1500 BST (GMT+1)

Developing a sustainable Blue Economy has considerable potential to improve quality of life and reduce environmental degradation.

However, achieving this also presents multiple challenges, such as establishing suitable policy frameworks and spatial planning, fostering investment, managing environmental impacts, protecting cultural heritage, and encouraging cross-border collaboration and benefit sharing.

The purpose of the webinar was to:

  • Provide an overview of the Blue Economy concept, including key opportunities and challenges for Commonwealth countries
  • Present successes and lessons learned from two Blue Charter case studies:
    • Seychelles innovative financing initiatives including the debt-for-conservation swap, SeyCCAT and Blue Bonds plan
    • The FishFORCE approach towards addressing fisheries crime and its link with Operation Phakisa in South Africa

Panelists

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The webinar is part of a wider series of virtual events that promote collaboration through the sharing of experiences, best practices and solutions on ocean issues. They also offer the opportunity to reflect on how to move forward with ocean management in a post-COVID-19 world.

Webinar reveals keys to aquaculture success

Specialists from around the world have outlined core factors for success and sustainability in the multi-billion dollar aquaculture sector.

The fourth webinar in a Blue Charter series hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and attended by more than 50 participants, featured fish farming case studies from Cyprus, Seychelles, Mozambique and Egypt, which together contribute to a global total of more than 80 million tonnes of fish produced each year.

Most aquaculture goes towards feeding an ever-increasing world population, making up more than half of all seafood produced annually.

Opening the event, ocean governance adviser and lead expert on the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Jeff Ardron, outlined an important caveat for the growing sector: “There is incredible room for growth in the ocean, but it must be done sustainably.”

“Ultimately, aquaculture must be profitable to continue, but in doing so, it should not degrade the marine environment, which is already facing significant pressures. Also, to be sustainable in the long run, it must not irrevocably displace people or their local activities.”

Legal frameworks

The webinar underlined the importance of having far-sighted laws and policies to support aquaculture activities.

Cyprus, for example, began exploring aquaculture as early as the 1960s and 1970s, recognising the interdependence of economic, social and environmental factors in the sector.

The government created an aquaculture development policy and strategy as a priority in the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment.

This led to the creation of specific laws in 2000 and 2002 for the establishment, operation and further development of aquaculture activities in Cyprus.

The ministry’s Head of Aquaculture, Vassilis Papadopoulos shared how this provided a secure regulatory environment for investors, while fostering transparency, better monitoring and improved health of farmed organisms.

Similarly, in Seychelles, aquaculture can help diversify the tourism-reliant economy. Support from the government was crucial, with aquaculture featuring in the country’s ‘Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap’, developed with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat. This resulted in an updated Fisheries Act, a new national policy and new regulations.

According to Principal Officer at the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Aubrey Lesperance: “Aquaculture cannot develop without a proper framework. You definitely need a plan in place before you venture into aquaculture because it’s a new science and still being developed.”

Training and community

Discussions also showed how training and capacity building are essential to the sector’s sustainability.

Looking at lessons learned outside of the Commonwealth, Egypt’s aquaculture sector provides at least 100,000 full time jobs, half of which are filled by youth. World Fish’s Ahmed Nasr-Allah said the NGO has delivered vital training on best management practices to Egyptian fish farmers since 2010, with real impacts on efficiency and profitability.

From 2015-2018, they trained about 4,300 fish farm workers, who went on to train thousands more in their networks. The result was 13% more profits and 20% less wastage of aquaculture feed which reduced the impact on the local environment, as well as a 22% drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Mozambique, where aquaculture has significant domestic and regional markets, community engagement has also proved valuable.

The Chicoa Fish Farm in Lake Caora Bassa for instance, runs a small-scale farmers’ programme and training centre, while employing local women and youth.

Director Damien Legros said: “Our project has already inspired other people and there have been a couple of farms that we’ve helped. Just the presence of a strong fish farm already induces other people to do similar things.”

Opportunity and profitability

However, aquaculture does not work everywhere. UK-based expert Malcolm Dickson emphasised that performance varies from country to country.

In the Commonwealth, the top producers are in Asia – namely, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia – while other ‘aspiring countries’ such as Seychelles, Mozambique, Fiji and Jamaica, are still in the early stages of development.

Dr Dickson said that success comes down to two factors – opportunity and profitability. Physical space for aquaculture systems, institutional and legal frameworks, and viable markets are all required to create opportunity.

Furthermore, each step of the production chain needs to be profitable: “If the profitability factor is not there, then you don’t get the private sector investment to scale up.”

The Commonwealth Blue Charter action group on sustainable aquaculture was set up to explore these issues and share experiences amongst members. Led by champion country Cyprus, the group is working on a model roadmap that Commonwealth countries could use as a basis to develop “environmentally compatible, financially viable and socially acceptable” aquaculture.

The webinar event was the fourth in a series by the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which focuses sharing experiences and finding scalable solutions for pressing ocean challenges.

Experts share critical lessons on saving mangroves

Mangroves are disappearing at an alarming rate, with conservationists across the Commonwealth striving to save them from local extinction.

These nearshore forests that straddle land and sea provide a range of vital services to both humans and fish, such as coastal protection.

In a webinar organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat to mark World Mangrove Day – the third in a Blue Charter series which was attended by more than 120 participants – scientists and policy experts discussed how to “unlock” the wealth of mangroves, by regenerating these extraordinary ecosystems.

Rare ecosystems

Hasanthi Dissanayake, Director of Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change at the Ministry of Foreign Relations of Sri Lanka, set the scene: “Mangroves are rare ecosystems that support the rich biodiversity and provide a valuable nursery for fish and crustaceans. There is a range of livelihoods connected to mangroves, ranging from fisheries to tourism.

“They also act as form of natural coastal defence against tsunamis, rising sea levels, storm surges and erosion. Their soils are highly effective carbon sinks, sequestering vast amounts of carbon.”

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Despite their ecological and economic value, mangroves are perishing at least three to five times faster than overall global forests. Half of the world’s mangroves have already been lost over the last 50 years due to human activity such as coastal development and pollution.

Reversing this decline has not been easy and is one of the main focus areas of the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by 54 countries to act

ively work together to solve some of the world’s most pressing ocean issues.

Case studies, lessons learned

The webinar saw panellists share their experiences in preserving and regenerating mangroves around the world.

Rahanna Juman, Deputy Director at the Institute of Marine Affairs in Trinidad and Tobago cited a mangrove-replanting project in an area that had been cleared to construct a pipeline. To bring back the mangroves, her team first restored the natural topography and flow of water to the area, then replanted more than 260 seedlings.

However, very few survived in comparison to mangroves that naturally recolonised the area, once it was back to the original environmental conditions. Dr Juman advised: “Mangrove planting should be the last option”.

Achini Fernando, a specialist at Sri Lanka’s Marine Environment Protection Authority, showed how “rapid assessing techniques” can be used to map species diversity as well as vulnerability of mangroves.

She added that this leads to better decisions on eco-tourism plans in Sri Lanka, saying: “Scientific data forms the foundation for good management.”

Leah Glass, global lead on mangroves from Blue Ventures, explained how her organisation is working with the UK Government to empower coastal communities to manage mangroves in a way that also fights climate change.

This is done by placing a monetary value on the carbon stored by mangroves and selling these “carbon credits” to global buyers who want to make a positive impact on the environment. The returns are then used to fund community-led mangrove conservation, restoration and management.

Judith Okello, an ecologist from Kenya’s Marine and Fisheries Research Institute, echoed the importance of engaging local communities. In her research, local actors have been a key source of information to guide mangrove restoration work.

Collaboration

The Commonwealth Blue Charter lead at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Jeff Ardron, welcomed the insights shared by panellists, and encouraged countries, partner agencies, and all interested to further collaborate through the Blue Charter Action Group focused on mangroves.

He said: “The work Commonwealth Blue Charter is driven by 10 action groups, led or co-led by 13 champion countries. These action groups are valuable platforms to share experiences, strategies and best practices – both what works and what doesn’t – to make country actions more effective.”

Sri Lanka champions the Action Group on Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods.

The webinar was the third in a series focusing on challenges and solutions for more sustainable ocean management.

PAST EVENT: The Fishing fields: Sustainable aquaculture development strategies for the Commonwealth

Global aquaculture production continues to grow rapidly, helping several Commonwealth countries to increase their fish production despite static or falling catches of wild fish.

However, performance varies widely and many countries, despite committing significant resources, have struggled to build productive aquaculture industries, while many questions continue to be asked about the sustainability of aquaculture practices.

This webinar will examine four case studies that could offer scalable solutions –

  • Cyprus, where a development framework for aquaculture development helped the growth of marine finfish industry.
  • Seychelles, where sustainable aquaculture development is prioritised in the Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap.
  • Mozambique, where a commercial fish farm highlights the importance of community engagement.
  • Egypt, where fish farmers upgraded their farming practices to stay competitive and improve the sustainability of the sector.

Panelists

Watch the highlights video

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The webinar is part of a wider series of virtual events that promote collaboration through the sharing of experiences, best practices and solutions on ocean issues. They also offer the opportunity to reflect on how to move forward with ocean management in a post-COVID-19 world.

For more information contact: [email protected]

PAST EVENT: Unlocking the Wealth of Mangrove Ecosystems

Commonwealth countries hold more than a fifth of mangroves in the world. But they are rapidly disappearing – globally, between 30 to 50% of mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. New approaches to restoration of mangroves are emerging, benefiting from new, low-cost technologies. These can support the resilience of local communities across the Commonwealth through empowered engagement and innovative funding.

This webinar will:

  • Provide an overview of the science and policy adopted by different nations to gather information required for better management of mangroves.
  • Showcase learning through case studies from projects across the Commonwealth representing different regions.
  • Highlight the various platforms available to move forward in a post COVID-19 world.

Panelists 

Watch the highlights video

Watch the full webinar

The webinar is part of a wider series of virtual events that promote collaboration through the sharing of experiences, best practices and solutions on ocean issues. They also offer the opportunity to reflect on how to move forward with ocean management in a post-COVID-19 world.

For more information contact: [email protected]

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

Celebrating World Oceans Day 2020, on 8 June, the Commonwealth Secretariat kicked off with the first Commonwealth Blue Charter webinar in its new series.

With 45% of coral reefs in Commonwealth waters and more than 90% of reefs globally predicted to be lost to climate change, NOW is the time for action. This webinar highlighted the efforts member countries and Vulcan Inc. are undertaking to map and accelerate protection and restoration of these precious ecosystems.

The event was hosted by The Commonwealth Secretary-General, The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, with a special address from Her Excellency Dr Farah Faizal, High Commissioner of Maldives to the UK. The event highlighted the actions and progress of three Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups:

Vulcan Inc. demonstrated the Allen Coral Atlas which is bringing together multiple datasets to develop a detailed global coral atlas. Countries can utilise this map to inform their policy decisions to protect and restore coral reefs.  Maps for Australia, Bahamas, Belize, Fiji, Jamaica, Kenya, Mozambique, Samoa, Sri Lanka, Tanzania, Tonga and Tuvalu are available on the Commonwealth Innovation Hub.

During the webinar, a new short film produced by the Commonwealth Blue Charter highlighting the 10 Action Groups was premiered.

Over 200 people from 56 countries around the world participated in the webinar, which finished with a panel discussion including questions from the audience.

Panelists of the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt Hon Patricia Scotland QC during the Blue Charter World Oceans Day webinar

The Rt. Hon. Patricia Scotland QC, Commonwealth Secretary-General, speaking during the webinar

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