New research led by Trinidad and Tobago’s Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) will be the first step in laying the groundwork for the country to trade carbon internationally, supporting the economy while fighting climate change.
Carbon dioxide is one of the main drivers of climate change, and mangroves have an immense capacity to capture carbon from the atmosphere and store it away for millions of years – a process known as carbon sequestration.
The Mangrove Soil Carbon Sequestration Assessment project, funded by the British High Commission in Port of Spain, aims to measure how much carbon is stored in local mangrove soils and give it a monetary value. This would enable trading in the emerging ‘carbon market’, where units of greenhouse gas emissions are priced and traded, in order to limit climate change.
The comprehensive, high quality data the project will provide will help develop more targeted evidence-based conservation policies for the country’s 7500 hectares of mangroves, while enabling it to earn foreign exchange income for mangrove preservation in the future. It will also contribute to Trinidad and Tobago’s commitments under the Paris Agreement on climate change.
Minister of Planning and Development, Hon Camille Robinson-Regis, welcomed the initiative: “This project will be highly profitable to Trinidad and Tobago, not only for its monetary value, but also for its environmental benefits as well as being a tool in our National Development Strategy and our Climate Action Goals (SDG13).”
British High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, Harriet Cross, stated: “This project shows the importance of ensuring that we are collecting the right data to make informed choices. Projects like this help us to be ambitious, meet Paris Agreement goals, support stronger national action and stronger international collaboration, all of which are needed to tackle climate change and protect current and future generations.”
The project will be presented as a case study during a virtual event organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat on the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem, 26 July, in collaboration with members of the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
Mangroves – an untapped climate action treasure
Mangrove forests are among the most carbon-dense ecosystems on earth, with over 90 percent of mangrove carbon stored in their soils. The assessment involves the analysis of soil cores from mangrove forests around Trinidad and Tobago, covering a wide gamut of environmental variables.
The study also examines which mangrove forests store the most carbon, as well as the factors that affect the amount they store.
“In the Caribbean, we have not quantified how much carbon is stored in our mangrove soils. The significance of the study is that understanding how much carbon is stored helps in terms of how we can use and monetize this information,” explained IMA Director (Ag.), Dr. Rahanna Juman.
“This will allow us to investigate initiatives where we can receive payments to maintain our mangrove forests in a healthy state, or even rehabilitate degraded ecosystems so that they can continue to store carbon.”
The project builds upon another UK-funded study conducted in 2020 by Professor John Agard of the University of the West Indies in collaboration with the IMA, which measured the carbon content within mangrove biomass. Together with that research, the IMA will develop the most accurate estimation of mangrove carbon storage ever conducted for Trinidad and Tobago, among a small handful in the world.
The project will be shared at a special webinar on International Mangrove Day with a view to exchanging views, lessons and experiences with other Commonwealth member countries and supporting the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
To mark the International Day for the Conservation of the Mangrove Ecosystem on 26 July, the Commonwealth Secretariat is hosting a virtual event to showcase how powerful satellite technology can support the conservation and sustainable management of mangroves in the Commonwealth.
Thirty-three of the 54 Commonwealth countries hold mangrove ecosystems, representing 22 per cent of global coverage. Sri Lanka champions the Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods Action Group under the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
Between 30-50% of mangroves have been lost over the past 50 years. New approaches to restoration of mangroves are emerging, benefiting from low-cost technologies, which can help build back the resilience of local communities through empowered engagement and innovative funding.
Recognising the importance of mangrove ecosystems as “a unique, special and vulnerable ecosystem,” the Commonwealth Blue Charter promotes solutions for their management, conservation and sustainable use.
The webinar, organised in partnership with the satellite company Planet, will demonstrate how satellite images can help paint a comprehensive picture of global mangrove coverage, aiding national planning and conservation.
Hasanthi Dissanayake, Director General – Ocean Affairs, Environment and Climate Change, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sri Lanka
Nikia Gooding, Geospatial Research Fellow, Institute of Marine Affairs, Trinidad and Tobago
Pathma Abeykoon, Director – Biodiversity Secretariat, Ministry of Environment, Sri Lanka
Mark Richardson, Strategic Accounts, EMEA Planet
Dr Jeff Ardron (moderator), Adviser – Ocean Governance and Project Lead for the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Commonwealth Secretariat
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.
“Communities met each other for the first time. This is positive; we want to create exchanges between them again. They really liked shaping the landscapes. Communities felt it was important to use more practical language when describing resilience and livelihood, like how do you survive or cope.”
Kathy Young, Managing Director of Reef Conservation
Improving the resilience of communities and coral reefs to changes anticipated as a result of climate change is an issue of global importance. Hundreds of millions of people rely on coral reefs to provide essential services such as food and coastal protection. Coral Communities aimed to examine the effectiveness of different management and development strategies, and to understand what language and messages would be most appropriate to facilitate and implement delivery of these. The project was carried out in two regions of the West Indian Ocean: Zanzibar and Mauritius.
This project has been included as a case study for the Blue Charter Action Groups as it showcases an in-depth process of engaging with coastal communities on complex topics, such as resilience, and the value of using creative methods to bring different communities and stakeholders together to discuss common challenges (illustrated by the quotation above).
The facilitation and engagement process provided through Coral Communities allowed in-depth discussion with community members, and highlighted the importance of understanding the values people hold about their local marine environment, and how this may influence future planning for resilience in these communities.
Coral Communities had two main aims:¹
To identify and critically assess the effectiveness and potential of management and development strategies to build the resilience of coral reefs and their dependent communities in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO); and
To understand to what extent ecosystem services language and approaches facilitate development and implementation of such strategies.
In particular, the project sought to adopt creative and visual methods of community and stakeholder engagement to stimulate discussion on complex, and sometimes challenging, topics.
The project engaged with WIO and UK stakeholders to discuss the concept of resilience and how different strategies could be used in practice to help build social and ecological resilience across the project region. Of particular interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups is the co-development of a novel and creative method that could be applied to engage local communities in challenging topics, such as ecosystem services, resilience, coral reef management and effective stakeholder engagement.
The project drew together a network of UK and WIO collaborators to address evidence and knowledge gaps around understanding of community knowledge, connection and values towards their local environment, with a specific focus on coral reefs and their resilience. It then used this to support the development of resilience strategies for coral reefs and their communities across the WIO.
To support meaningful engagement with local communities, the project team set out to develop a visually creative approach to exploring these complex issues. This involved a series of walking interviews, use of participatory videos and creation of “coastscapes” to stimulate discussion on topics relating to resilience and their local coral reefs. Crucially, the project sought to adopt a clear co-development process, moving away from a traditional researcher-led approach, with participants asked to interview each other about the objects they selected to include in creation of the coastscape. The approach was piloted in both Mauritius and Zanzibar, together with local non-governmental organisations (NGOs) Reef Conservation Mauritius and Mwambao Coastal Community Network.
In addition, two workshops were organised with secondary stakeholders (NGOs and government officials) to support understanding of key issues around coral reef resilience and strategic management, as well as to share the visual method with workshop participants. Workshop 1 involved the whole research team travelling to Mauritius and working with WIO and local stakeholders to start to understand the challenges facing coral reefs and to support development of the visual engagement tools, including the trial of a visual method of community engagement, participatory mapping and the creation of mini coastscapes (i.e. building a model of the coast in the workshop space and using it as a discussion tool to engage stakeholders and communities). Workshop 2 brought key people from across the WIO to the UK and built on the first workshop to feed back on the project and showcase the novel visual methods trialled with communities in Mauritius and Zanzibar.
Partnerships and support
The project team represented a range of interdisciplinary research and drew on expertise in environmental and health economics, social sciences, development, social psychology, marine geosciences, marine biology, art (including concept and sustainable design, and photography and film making) and religious studies.
The project was an international project funded by the Global Challenges Research Fund, enabling a partnership between academics, NGOs, a development consultant and a creative art and film-making team. It was led by Plymouth Marine Laboratory (PML), with partner organisations: University of Exeter (European Centre for Environment and Human Health and School of Geography), Reef Conservation, Tagscape, Truro College, Islamic Foundation for Ecology and Environmental Sciences, Mwambao Coastal Community Network, Indeva Consulting and Cardiff University. It brought together a wide range of expertise, including in the use of creative methods to engage communities, and supported the adoption of co-development of knowledge and engagement techniques.
Within the partnership, the Mwambao Coastal Community Network, a Tanzanian NGO, could be of particular interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups. This organisation has extensive expertise in using participatory video methods to engage communities in issues around marine and coastal management.²
Results, accomplishments and outcomes
In terms of overall outcomes, the process of stakeholder engagement was the main focus of the project. By involving different actors and community members in a co-developed, visually creative process, the project team was able enhance engagement and awareness of issues relating to coral reefs, and their resilience, within the case study communities.
Results and outputs from the project include the following:
A novel, arts-based approach was developed and piloted to assess perceptions of the environment and the socio-cultural risk associated with different resilience strategies. This process was used to encourage communities to express how they felt about their environment, how they interacted with it and what their aspirations were for the future. Coastscapes were created through a participatory visual process including walking interviews with participants and collecting of items to include.³ Participants co-created the coastscapes using items they had collected or brought with them to the meeting. This process of community engagement provided a platform for community voices and generated valuable insight into community perceptions and values about their local environment, and issues facing it. The project team is seeking on-going funding to further expand on this work.
A “newspaper” was produced that summarises the aim of the project and provides a detailed overview of the process involved in the visual methods approach described above, including the development and use of the coastscapes as a discussion prompt. This project output was also co-designed with the community – a member of the community designed the logo and centre spread of the newspaper and their work set the colour scheme for the paper’s design.
A pop-up project exhibition run in Mauritius showcased the coastscapes as well as photography and objects that project partners and stakeholders selected as representing the topics covered within the project, including the challenges and issues facing these communities around changing coral reef systems and what it meant to them individually and at a community level. The exhibition brought together a diverse range of stakeholders and community members and facilitated discussion on a range of topics.
The project team conducted an in-depth literature review, focusing on 14 resilience strategies. This resulted in the creation of summary report cards, which can be freely downloaded from the project website in both English and French.
The project team produced a number of videos, covering a range of topics including socio-ecological resilience and outlining the process of collecting objects from the coast to produce the coastscapes.
A paper was produced on the resilience strategies applied in the WIO relevant to the development of social and ecological resilience (Hattam et al., 2020).
A second paper is currently being developed focusing on the visual method and will be available from the project team (contact details below).
Through the project, Coral Communities examined and addressed a number of challenges.
Uncertainty and reluctance from project partners and WIO stakeholders around the creative methods being adopted through the project. This is a challenge that frequently faces social science approaches; however, through engaging project partners in the process, and the resulting depth of information and connection created through the methods used, many concerns expressed at the beginning of the project were addressed. WIO project partners have expressed how they have already used components of the methods, and there is considerable interest in adopting the methods for future projects.
Understanding of key concepts and terms being used within the project, such as “ecosystem services”, “resilience” and “socio-ecological” systems, and how these are being adopted and used within the WIO region.
Lack of monetary valuation processes in place to support understanding of cultural values and services that may be linked to coral reefs and their future resilience. This was found to be challenging for meaningful inclusion of cultural values within decision-making and management.
Further challenges around literacy and language when working in different communities across WIO. However, the use of visual methods helped overcome many of these barriers.
The short timeframe of the Coral Communities project, which meant stakeholders and communities were engaged frequently over a relatively short period of time, requiring a significant commitment from both the project team and the participants. Future projects would benefit from a longer timeframe, to reduce the risk of stakeholder fatigue, supported through regular communication to maintain engagement from participants.
Key lessons learnt
Coral Communities emphasised the importance of meaningful and effective stakeholder engagement with local communities to support the development of sustainable marine and coastal management.
Use of visual methods
To address the challenges of literacy and language within project communities, the Coral Communities project adopted a programme of visual and creative activities.
It is important to recognise that care should be taken when using visual research methods, as imagery can mean one thing to one participant/community and something else to another.
Visual and co-developed approaches providing an opportunity for open, transparent conversation and dialogue between different community members can build trust between different stakeholder groups, and can support public engagement with complex and challenging topics, such as resilience.
Data and information collected through the visual activities can be digitised if time and funding allow, creating valuable resources that can be used to monitor changes in the environment, as well as in public perceptions and activities.
Time and resources
It is important to spend time with communities to develop a comprehensive understanding of different values and perceptions of their marine environments. For community engagement to be effective and meaningful, sufficient time and resources are required to support the use of creative methods, such as those developed by Coral Communities.
Hattam, C., Evans, L., Morrissey, K., Hooper, T. et al. (2020) “Building Resilience in Practice to Support Coral Communities in the Western Indian Ocean”. Environmental Science & Policy 106: 182–190.
Coral Communities drew on experience from previous projects that may be of interest to the Blue Charter Action Groups interested in this type of creative or visual approach of engaging stakeholders/ communities. Information about one these projects can be found below:
Tagscape explores ways of visualising information about natural landscapes and turning it into innovative maps that will engage the general public: https://www. plymouth.ac.uk/about-us/university-structure/faculties/ arts-humanities-business/creative-cultivator/tagscape
The process adopted through Coral Communities is also influencing new projects. One example of this is Ruritage – an EU-funded project seeking to examine rural cultural heritage and positioning it as a mechanism for supporting sustainable development and regeneration. More information is available on the project website: https://www.ruritage.eu/project/
The ocean sustains life on earth, but remains one of the most undervalued, under-researched and recklessly exploited natural wonders of the planet.
Although it generates more than half the oxygen we breathe, regulates our climate, feeds billions of people and supports 350 million jobs across the world, humans have not only taken the ocean for granted, we have actively contributed to its decline.
At present, almost a third of the world’s fish stocks are overfished, while up to 200 million tonnes of plastic waste plague the marine environment. At least half of all coral reefs have been devastated within the past 30 years, while climate change increasingly exerts tremendous pressure on ecosystems, threatening the lives and livelihoods of communities that depend on the sea.
In the Commonwealth, we are all too aware of this stark reality. Forty-seven of our 54 member countries have a coastline, including 25 small island developing states – also known as ‘Large Ocean States’- where, on average, 96% of territory is ocean, and only 4% is land. It is the Commonwealth citizens who live in these ocean-reliant economies that bear the brunt of these challenges most tangibly and urgently.
Step up action
As demonstrated by the many global commitments, the international community recognises that it needs to step up action to tackle these crises, which are even more difficult to cope with in light of the devastating impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Yet support and funding for ocean action are not easy to find. Of the 17 globally-agreed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), the commitment on ocean conservation (SDG14) is one of the least funded. Indeed, research shows less than one percent of global development assistance and philanthropy from 2013 to 2018 was targeted at developing sustainable ocean economies.
For a natural wonder that covers 70 per cent of the planet, with a reported asset value of $24 trillion and generating an estimated $2.5 trillion per year through the global ocean economy, it is only logical that we should invest more resolutely to protect it. To help member countries, the Commonwealth Secretariat recently launched an online database to share information and support access to what limited international funding is available for ocean-related projects. But much more needs to be done.
The COVID-19 pandemic offers a unique opportunity to reorient priorities and reset our relationship with the ocean. Emerging from the pandemic, a global ‘blue recovery’ should focus rebuilding equitable, resilient, and sustainable blue economies, protecting ocean health as we leverage ocean wealth.
If we miss this window of opportunity to change our destructive approach to adopt one based on sustainability and equity, we will leave the next generation with little more than environmental destruction and resulting economic and social turmoil.
This year, as we stand at the critical juncture of multiple crises, two major summits will be key moments to bolster global discussions around a ‘blue recovery’. As world leaders gather for the UN Conference on Biodiversity (CBD-COP15) in October in Kunming, China, and the UN Climate Change Conference (UNFCCC-COP26) in November in Glasgow, UK, we must all be reminded that there is no climate nor biodiversity without the ocean. Decisions at these summits must take into account the vital role of the ocean in achieving global sustainable development, bolster commitments to ocean health, and support programmes with adequate resources to make real impact.
Beacon for multilateralism
To support this, the Commonwealth Blue Charter offers a globally unique vehicle for international cooperation to drive sustainable post-COVID ocean action through the collaboration of governments, businesses, civil society, academia and the philanthropy sector. Bringing together 54 Commonwealth countries, it is driven by the 16 champions of its ten ‘Action Groups’, committed to finding solutions to the most urgent ocean challenges locally, regionally and across the Commonwealth.
Importantly, with the Commonwealth continuing to shine brightly as a beacon for multilateralism, our member nations have come together to light the way and declare that no single country or entity can solve these issues alone. The only way to overcome the colossal challenges that face us all is to work together.
Barbados has announced it is joining Seychelles to co-champion Commonwealth action on marine protected areas, a vital area in promoting ocean conservation and the sustainable blue economy.
The Caribbean nation joins 15 other ‘champion countries’ that have stepped forward to take the lead under the Commonwealth Blue Charter in mobilising action groups made up of like-minded member states, to tackle some of the world’s most pressing ocean challenges.
The action group on marine protected areas (MPAs), initiated by Seychelles in 2018, aims to promote good practices in the effective management of MPAs, raise awareness on the subject across all sectors of society, and exchange expertise, information and experience amongst Commonwealth countries.
Announcement made on World Ocean Day
Welcoming the announcement, made during a high level panel event to mark World Ocean Day on 8 June, Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said:
“The Commonwealth covers more than a third of the world’s coastal waters, with 47 out of our 54 member countries bordering the ocean. With so many countries dependent on the ocean for food security, jobs and way of life, it is vital to set aside ocean areas in Commonwealth national jurisdictions that are legally protected and dedicated for conservation purposes. This is the key to a sustainable ocean economy, and a way to ensure that resources are not exploited destructively, but given the opportunity to flourish.”
The Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy of Barbados, Kirk Humphrey stated:
“The Government of Barbados is pleased to have this opportunity to co-lead with the Republic of Seychelles on Marine Protected Areas.
“We have made aspirational commitments of protecting 30% of our Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) once the necessary scientific research has been completed to ensure that while ecosystems and their services are protected or conserved, the livelihoods of stakeholders who use the ocean space are not severely impacted or compromised.”
“It is an honour to serve as co-lead in this role with Republic of Seychelles, whose leadership in this area is world renowned.”
Barbados is finalising two nearshore Marine Managed Areas that will protect a significant percentage of nearshore reef systems along the island’s west and south coasts.
As founding champion for the action group, Seychelles’ Minister of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment, Flavien Joubert, said:
“With the designation of more than 30% of our EEZ as Marine Protected Areas, our country is developing valuable knowledge on application of different Protected Areas models, innovative financing mechanism in the form of Debt for Nature Swap and financial instruments like Blue Bonds, which we would like to share with the world.
“The Action Group on Marine Protected Areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter provides the right platform for us, in partnership with other countries, to exchange our national experience and build together the framework for more sustainable use of the ocean.”
Commonwealth Blue Charter action groups
The action group is one of ten under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, led by 16 champion countries, focusing on a range of ocean challenges, including:
Coral Reef Protection and Restoration (co-championed by Australia, Mauritius and Belize);
Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance (focused on marine plastic pollution, co-championed by Vanuatu and the United Kingdom);
Mangrove Ecosystems and Livelihoods (Sri Lanka);
Marine Protected Areas (Barbados and Seychelles); Ocean Acidification (New Zealand);
Ocean and Climate Change (Fiji); Ocean Observation (Canada);
Sustainable Aquaculture (Cyprus);
Sustainable Blue Economy (Antigua & Barbuda and Kenya);
Sustainable Coastal Fisheries (Kiribati and the Maldives).
Barbados is a member of seven of these action groups.
Commonwealth member countries are supporting a call to “reset and rebuild” equitable, resilient ocean economies in the wake of the devastating impacts caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
World Ocean Day event
On World Ocean Day, a panel of high-level representatives from across the Commonwealth focused on the widespread challenges facing many ocean-driven economies, particularly small states that rely heavily on tourism and fisheries as key sources of income.
They emphasised the unique opportunity to trigger a post-COVID recovery propelled by sustainable tourism and fishing industries, innovative financing for ocean protection, and leveraging the capacity of marine ecosystems to store vast amounts of carbon (known as ‘blue carbon’) as tradeable carbon credits for climate action.
President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih of the Maldives, in a keynote address delivered on his behalf by Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Technology, Aminath Shauna, said: “The oceans are our life support systems. Loss of and damage to our marine environments threaten the very existence of our way of life. We have shown we have the power to change the course of nature. Let us act now to steer a path that protects us all.”
Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland urged: “We must build back more sustainably from the pandemic, innovating and prioritising ocean health as the foundation for a thriving, sustainable blue economy which supports our communities while protecting nature. Decisions leaders take now – on policies, legal frameworks, financing or choice of infrastructure – can bring hope and deliver immediate positive impact in lives and for communities today, and bring enduring benefit for many years to come.”
Panellists included Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy of Barbados Kirk D. M. Humphrey, Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada and the Canadian Coast Guard Bernadette Jordan, Minister for Pacific and the Environment of United Kingdom, Lord Zac Goldsmith, and CEO of the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority in Australia Josh Thomas.
They highlighted various efforts being done at the national level to ensure gender equality in the ocean industries, the protection of coral reefs and development of marine protected areas, including the ‘30 by 30’ initiative co-led by the UK.
New funding from Bloomberg Philanthropies for ocean action
Prior to the event, Bloomberg Philanthropies – one of the world’s leading philanthropic organisations – announced a new phase of partnership with the Commonwealth Secretariat.
Through Bloomberg’s Vibrant Oceans Initiative, which brings together world-class partners to ensure ocean ecosystems survive and thrive despite the growing threat of climate change, the partnership will target training and capacity-building programmes to advance the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter.
Patricia E. Harris, CEO, Bloomberg Philanthropies said: “The Blue Charter’s mission to protect the ocean and livelihoods it supports has only grown more critical during the pandemic. Through our Vibrant Oceans Initiative, Bloomberg Philanthropies is excited to build on our successful partnership with the Commonwealth – and help more member countries meet their sustainability goals as their economies recover.”
This announcement builds upon a multi-year agreement signed in 2018 between the Commonwealth Secretariat and Bloomberg Philanthropies to explore joint initiatives supporting international trade, innovation and sustainability. Since 2012, Bloomberg Philanthropies has contributed over $158 million to ocean conservation causes.
The event also included statements by United Nations Patron of the Oceans Lewis Pugh, and youth representative Josheena Naggea from Mauritius, currently a doctoral candidate at Stanford University, USA.
The Commonwealth Secretariat has launched an online database to help member countries be aware of and access more than US$170 million of international funding available for ocean-related projects.
New web tool and handbook
Accompanying this new web tool is a handbook containing valuable guidance on how to navigate the database, as well as match and pitch projects to the most suitable funders.
Both the website and handbook were designed specifically to support the work of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, a historic commitment made in 2018 by all 54 Commonwealth member nations to work actively together to solve ocean challenges.
Step forward for ocean action
Welcoming the initiative, the Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said:
“Despite the central role of the ocean in our natural ecosystems, climate systems, economies and cultures, funding for ocean conservation is equivalent to less than one percent of global philanthropy, and an even smaller fraction of foreign aid.
“The Commonwealth Blue Charter Ocean Funders Database represents a major step forward for ocean action in the Commonwealth, which aims to support member countries to navigate the funding that is currently available internationally, understand the goals, criteria, and application processes for different prospective funders, and develop successful multilateral partnerships for greater ocean action.”
Under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, countries collaborate through voluntary ‘action groups’ on 10 key ocean issues: marine plastic pollution, coral reef protection, mangrove restoration, climate change, ocean acidification, ocean observation, marine protected areas, sustainable aquaculture, sustainable coastal fisheries and the sustainable blue economy.
Over the past year, the 10 action groups have been setting out priorities and shared action plans, taking into account regional and resource needs.
Finding resources and partners
The new funding database will support them in finding resources and partners to implement joint projects across these action areas, such as developing legal frameworks for progressive ocean policies, conducting sought-after capacity building programmes and training courses, and supporting innovation.
Since the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, the action groups have ramped up efforts to network and share solutions, through research, virtual dialogues and training, with the support of the Commonwealth Secretariat.
A new policy handbook, launched today, will help Commonwealth governments put in place strategies to tackle ocean acidification – a key aspect of climate change.
Ocean acidification happens when the sea absorbs excess carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, primarily caused by human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels and deforestation.
This leads to an increase in the acidity of the ocean, affecting the lifecycles and biology of certain marine species, and in turn, threatening the entire food web as well as the lives and livelihoods of communities that depend on these ocean resources.
Tackling this challenge requires technical expertise and capacity that are often not available in Commonwealth countries. The new handbook addresses this gap by identifying existing resources, streamlining technical concepts, outlining pragmatic solutions and providing useful templates for policy makers.
The Foreign Affairs Minister of New Zealand, Nanaia Mahuta said:
“We know that ocean acidification has serious consequences for sea life, and this Policymakers’ Handbook for Addressing the Impacts of Ocean Acidification is an important resource. It is designed for people who make decisions about how we use and protect our oceans. It introduces them to the steps needed to address ocean acidification. It enables them to act as ‘kaitiaki’ or guardians.”
“The study of ocean acidification and its effects has grown dramatically in the past 15 years, and while the problem is global, it is important for national and regional responses to be developed to address local impacts. The handbook has the potential to deliver far-reaching and lasting value, by supporting the identification and implementation by policymakers of response strategies to ocean acidification.”
A particular focus in the handbook is on collaboration, which is a distinctive feature of the Commonwealth Blue Charter, an agreement adopted in 2018 by the 54 Commonwealth member countries to work together to solve ocean challenges.
The Commonwealth Blue Charter is implemented through 10 action groups led by 15 “champion countries”, which focus on guiding the development of knowledge, tools and training on ocean priorities such as marine plastic pollution, ocean climate change, and the sustainable blue economy.
Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said:
“This new handbook is an example of the concrete and practical outcomes that are generated by the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Groups and their discussions. While we all understand the grave threats that confront the ocean – and consequently, the entire planet – we must also realise that we, as the global community, can do something about it, by working together to share expertise, pool resources and align national and regional strategies to existing global commitments.”
The launch of this publication follows on the first-ever workshop by the Commonwealth Ocean Acidification Action Group, hosted in 2019 by New Zealand in its role as Champion Country for the group. The workshop included discussions among scientific experts and observers, joined by government officials from 17 Commonwealth countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Cook Islands, Fiji, Ghana, Kenya, Mauritius, Mozambique, New Zealand, Samoa, Seychelles, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Tonga, Tuvalu, United Kingdom, and Vanuatu. They identified strategies to address the impacts of ocean acidification, including marine monitoring, capacity development, ocean literacy, governance, and management.