– Webinar on Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean region towards United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability (2021-2030)- held on May 6, 2021
Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO IOC, UNESCO & Senior IEEE Member
Oceans play a very significant role and that has a direct bearing on the human life with wide socio-economic implications. Due to increased anthropogenic activities and effect of climate change, there are many inherent challenges and issues being faced today such as marine pollution, global warming, ocean acidification, overfishing etc., that is leading to rapid decline in the health of oceans and its ecosystems. Keeping this in view, the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability (2021-2030) recognizes the importance of sustainable development in order to improve the overall ocean health and also create awareness for the sustainable development of oceans, seas, and the coast.
Keeping this in view, the ‘Indian Ocean Blue Economy Summit’ – a live webinar on Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean region towards United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainability (2021 2030) was held on May 6, 2021 (Thursday) from 08:30 AM – 12:30 PM UTC. This event was jointly organized by the IOC Regional Committee for the Central Indian Ocean (IOCINDIO), IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, Marine Technology Society (MTS), Ocean Society of India (OSI), Kuwait Institute for Scientific Research (KISR), Kuwait, Ministry of foreign Affairs, Bangladesh, South Asia Cooperative Environment Programme (SACEP), Department of Oceanography, University of Chittagong, Bangladesh, Indian Institute of Technology, Madras, India, Basrah Marine Science Centre, Iraq, Iranian National Institute for Oceanography and Atmospheric Science, Iran, Ministry of Municipality and Environment, State of Qatar, National Institute of Oceanography, Pakistan, University of Portsmouth, UK and King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, Saudi Arabia.
This important event was chaired by Mr. Rear Admiral (Retd.) Khurshid Alam, Bangladesh, and co-chaired by Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO, India. The other distinguished members in the Organizing Committee were from Indian Ocean Rim countries.
At the Opening, Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO IOC, UNESCO & Senior IEEE Member, delivered the welcome address to all participants. He mentioned that the Indian Ocean region, owing to its complexity and amazing diversity with complementary strengths, is the place where regional and international cooperation is more needed to demonstrate the added value of the IOC of UNESCO. He indicated that the IOCINDIO, the regional body of IOC is precisely attempting to bring all the Indian Ocean rim States together so that the gap areas could be filled up effectively and all the countries in the region reap the benefits of Blue economy. He mentioned about the IEEE/MTS OCEANS 2022 International conference, which will be held at Chennai, India, in February 2022, and invited all to actively participate in the conference.
This was followed by Mr. Rear Admiral (Retd.) Khurshid Alam, Chairman, Organizing Committee. He briefed on the ambitious plan of Bangladesh in the area of Blue Economy like fishing, port, marine aquaculture, ship building, hydrocarbons, bio technology etc. He reiterated the importance of IOCINDIO and the need to revitalize it into a sub commission.
Thereafter, the opening address for this event was addressed by Dr. Ariel Troisi, Chair, IOC, UNESCO. He explained about the multiple stressors for the ocean and the need to bring in multiple stake holders like political leaders, policy makers, private sector, financial institutions, academia, researchers and local community. He gave the importance of the Indian Ocean region and the commencement of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable development, from 1 January this year, indicating that science included all areas like natural sciences, human sciences etc.
Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Secretary, IOC, UNESCO, said that oceans are the 7th economy of the world with output of 1.5 trillion dollars. Developing countries have high percentage of Ocean economy of their GDP. Also, ocean economy in developing countries is moving in a riskier direction due to stronger environmental degradation. Thus, developing countries need more science to have a sustainable ocean economy. Hence the UN Decade is necessary for all in the region.
Mr. Justin Ahanhanzo, Programme Officer, IOC, UNESCO, mentioned that study of the Indian Ocean was one of the ambitions of IOC during its formation in the 1960s. It was necessary to know scientifically the ocean, which was least known at that time.
The inaugural talk was delivered by Prof. Peter Haugen, Former Chair, IOC, Programme Director at Institute of Marine Research, Norway, and Professor at University of Bergen, Norway. This talk on ‘Towards sustainable ocean economy and ecosystem-based ocean management in Norway’ covered the vision for clean and rich oceans and coastal regions. Three oceanic areas viz; the North Sea, the Norwegian Sea, and the Barents Sea off Lofoten were chosen for integrated ocean management and marine spatial planning in Norway that involves countries and municipalities. Interesting examples on Salmon farming highlighting on the crucial role of environmental regulation and management were discussed. Importance of traffic light system in regulating the level of salmon lice induced mortality on wild salmonids at production areas with risk levels of mortality was demonstrated. The talk also highlighted on the role of ocean panel in climate based solutions, along with ocean based climate mitigation measures prone to have more benefits than trade-offs.
The Session-1 was chaired by Dr. Venugopalan, Senior Member, IEEE, National University of Singapore and Session-2 was chaired by Dr. M. Ravichandran, President Ocean Society of India and Director, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), India.
Martine Hippolyte (COI, Mauritius) and Dr. Marie-Alexandrine Sicre, Sorbonne Université, France, talked on ‘Multifaceted blue economy actions in the Indian Ocean’ covering aspects on two categories of projects under the upcoming presidency of France of the Commission de I’Ocean Indien (May 2021-April 2022) that had two components. The first component involved engagement with civil society and local communities having a total of 22 projects, and the second category has 11 projects based on research and innovation from various research institutions. Three themes were discussed covering aspects on protection of biodiversity and ecosystems, waste recycling and water treatment, and coastal resilience and risk prevention. Different countries involved for this study are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa. Martine Hippolyte highlighted on the Indian Ocean Plastic Expedition with a mission to increase the living standard of human population emphasizing on the value of marine and coastal resources, promotion of socio-economic development conserving the environment. Primarily, the study focused on the problems with plastic pollution supporting behavioral development and commitment of stakeholders, in particular the companies involved.
Dr. Ali Bassal Mahmood, Iraq, presented the activities related to Blue Economy being pursued by Iraq in the Arabian Gulf – Indian Ocean region. This talk highlighted on the activities related to blue economy, sustaining marine resources, and managing the blue economy file. Importance of marine and river fishing and associated food processing industries involved in this activity have been discussed. The importance in sustaining marine resources such as preserving the safety of environment and ocean health of waters in the Gulf, rivers and marshes were also discussed. Finally, the talk also highlighted the potential to create enormous job opportunities and continuous food security aspects.
Dr. Arulananthan, Sri Lanka, delivered the talk on ‘Potential contribution of the blue economy to Sri Lanka’s growth’ covering different aspects on the opportunities, challenges, initiatives, and the way forward. In terms of opportunities, the talk covered the role of small island developing state to large ocean state highlighting on the expansion of outer limit of the exclusive economic zone. Factors that contribute to economic activities, such as marine fisheries, aquaculture, extraction of minerals, oil & natural gas, desalination, renewable energy, eco-tourism, and shipping aspects, were also discussed. Challenges such as the impact of climate change and its effects on habitat and livelihood aspects were elaborated. Also, the major challenges involved with environmental drivers such as acidification, rising sea water temperature, circulation patterns, extreme weather events, sea level rise, coastal stability, and mixing were discussed. Finally, the talk also highlighted some of the recent initiatives such as: ocean observation network, fisheries policy, artificial reefs, ban on bottom trawling, marine protected areas, oil spill contingency plans, offshore sand mining regulations, commitment to adhere to regional/global conventions and agreements. Importance of technical, institutional, technological, and financial capacity building for innovative use of ocean resources for economic development and good governance of ocean health management were highlighted in this talk.
Dr. Yasser Abualnaja, KAUST, Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, delivered a talk on ‘The Blue Economy: An Essential Pillar for Building a Development Model for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.’ The role of Red Sea and Arabian Gulf in contributing to strategic, economic and social values to the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and surrounding nations were covered in detail. Under Vision 2030, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia has placed different plans to enhance the non-oil revenues by diversifying the economy. The Red Sea and Arabian Gulf resources can provide huge opportunities for increasing Saudi economic growth – especially the tourism and aquaculture sectors, and tackle unemployment rates, poverty and food security. Blue economy approach in Saudi Arabia is aimed to improve the overall human wellbeing, as well as significantly reduce environmental and ecological degradation. The talk covered a detailed elaboration and importance of six sectorial areas such as: Fisheries, Maritime transport, Climate Change, Marine tourism, Renewable energy, and Waste management. Challenges in climate change such as dust storms in Saudi Arabia has been discussed.
Dr. Saja Fakhraldeen, KISR, Kuwait presented a talk on ‘Research Activities Related to the Blue Economy in Kuwait.’ The talk highlighted on the measures required to mainstream Blue economy into future sustainable development goals. It includes various aspects such as: Development of access and benefit sharing rules for marine bio-prospecting, Investment in R&D, infrastructure, capacity, and use of marine and other renewable energy sources, investment in sustainable coastal and maritime tourism and infrastructure, reducing marine pollution from land-based sources, sustainable management and protection of marine and coastal ecosystems, mitigation efforts for ocean acidification, regulating fish harvesting, and restoration of fish stocks to safe levels. Different research activities carried at KISR, Kuwait were highlighted. Some of the environmental challenges on desalination technologies, keeping in view increased salinity in waters off Kuwait, attributed due to damming of upstream rivers and reduction in flow, were highlighted in this talk.
Dr. Samina Kidwai, National Institute of Oceanography, Government of Pakistan, made a presentation on the topic ‘A step forward for Pakistan – Advancing Blue Growth through Cooperation and Innovation.’ This talk highlighted on the Pakistan perspective of blue growth, and national focus on preparedness and international cooperation. The importance of blue economy, its multi-sectoral and long-term benefits have been discussed. The ocean energy and seabed mining sector and joint cruises in collaboration with the Geological Survey of China for gas hydrates in the Makran coast, along with natural hazard studies, were highlighted. Blue partnership by opening CPEC regional office for environmental protection has also been discussed.
In the 2nd session, Dr. G. A. Ramadass, NIOT, India, delivered a talk on ‘Blue economy – Indian way.’ The talk started with an introduction and Ocean policy for Blue Economy in India. The role of different working groups under the Indian Government has been discussed. Different components of Blue Economy, such as extraction of non-living resources, harvesting of living resources, and ocean commerce and estimated blue resource potential in India, were highlighted. Further, the talk also highlighted different energy sources from the ocean such as waves, ocean currents, thermal gradient, and offshore wind as well as concentrated research efforts on wave devices and hydro-kinetic approaches for extraction of tidal energy. Efforts made on desalination from oceans and its implementation in Lakshadweep Island were highlighted in the talk. Involvement of India in exploration and technology development for harvesting deep ocean minerals such as polymetallic nodules was also covered in the presentation. In addition, the different technologies available for mapping ocean resources were also discussed. Research activities on coastal areas, such as the shoreline protection and management, marine and coastal pollution, and coastal vulnerability, coastal monitoring and protection measures, were highlighted.
Dr. Pierre Failler, University of Portsmouth, U.K., made a presentation on the topic ‘Blue Economy Strategies: African perspectives.’ The presentation covered aspects on Blue Economy and key principles for development covering strategies for Africa and Intergovernmental Authority on Development (IGAD). Value added in Blue Economy sectors and the value of Blue Economy components covering aspects, such as ecosystem services, education, research, etc., from 2018 to 2063, were discussed. Study signifies that Blue Economy sectors and components for Africa generate today 49 million jobs. It is projected that by 2030, the figures rise to 57 million, while in 2063 the estimates would be 78 million. Importance of Circular Economy, Good Governance, Environmental and social sustainability, Empowerment and inclusive decision-making were presented. Finally, the challenges such as insufficient structuring of the implementation of Blue Economy, lack of knowledge of blue potential, nutritional deficit, absence of accounting for Blue Economy activities and components, and the absence of an integrated and prospective approach to marine ecosystems and spatio-temporal management tools and strategic axes of intervention were discussed in the talk.
Dr Hussain Almuscati, Oman, presented on the topic ‘Fisheries sector in the Sultanate of Oman Blue Economy Review.’ The presentation covered aspects on: Overview of the Fisheries sector in Oman, Fleet Structure 2020, Evolution of Fisheries Landings, Long Term Strategy 2020, objective of the 2040 Oman vision, Objectives and Policies of the Eighth Five-Year Plan, Fisheries Sector Actions to meet Blue Growth Objectives, and Investment opportunities. Also, the ongoing projects, such as small & large pelagic resources, modernizing fishing fleet aquaculture development, artificial reef farms, and promotion of coastal women, were discussed.
The topic on ‘Marine aquaculture in Iran’ was presented by Dr. Abtahi, INIOAS, Iran. He stressed on the importance in reducing the pressure from fishing on living resources of the sea, and in turn reducing the impact of fish farming on limited freshwater resources in water-stressed countries like Iran. The presentation covered major cage culture producing countries and cage aquaculture production based on fish family around the world. Dr. Abtahi also discussed the various possibilities and advantages such as native species cultivated in all coastal waters for the southern and northern portions of Iran, environmental conditions and suitable ecological facilities available in the territorial waters, possibility of modern marine fish breeding system in cages, suitable sheltered areas in Persian Gulf for setting up marine fish farms in cages, increased production of marine farmed fishes to reduce the fishing pressure, and investment opportunities for the private sector.
Dr. P. Vethamony, UNESCO Chair, Qatar, presented on ‘Management and protection of marine resources within the EEZ of Qatar.’ A brief overview on the Arabian Gulf and Qatar EEZ was discussed, highlighting on the Blue Economy resources in the EEZ of Qatar. It involves sectors such as Oil and gas, seafood products, desalinated water, mangrove forests, intertidal mudflats, seagrass meadows, coral reefs, aquaculture, sea turtles, dugongs, and eco-tourism. The status of desalination, mangrove swamps within the EEZ, seagrass beds, distribution of coral reefs and associated ecosystems in Qatar was presented. Interesting points were made on the mushroom forest artificial reef, a new patented design made at ESC, Qatar University. Discussions were made on the impact of fisheries when sea turtles disappear. The importance of dugongs (sea cows), eco-tourism, land reclamation for Pearl, Airport and Seaport in Qatar waters were highlighted. Aspects on seasonal hypoxia events and marine debris and associated biota, microplastics and tarmat distribution for Qatar waters were covered in the presentation.
The concluding session had a panel discussion moderated by Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO. The panel-list participants were Mr. Rear Admiral (retd.) Khurshid Alam, Bangladesh, Chairman, Organising Committee, Dr. SSC Shenoi, Vice Chair, IOC, Mr. Christopher Whitt, President, IEEE Oceanic Engineering Society, and Dr. Pierre Failler, University of Portsmouth, U.K. The Question that was asked to the panel-list participants was the following: ‘Indian Ocean is least studied and its coasts are prone to many natural hazards. The Indian Ocean rim countries have lot of untapped resources as far as Blue economy is concerned. Where do you see the Indian Ocean region after the conclusion of the UN decade of Ocean science for sustainability taken up by IOC in 2030?’
The panelists from varied backgrounds gave their inputs. The final outcome and recommendations from this webinar based on discussions are: (i) cooperation and collaboration is the key to success, (ii) mariculture is the best option to meet fisheries demand, (iii) special focus is required on natural hazards in the Indian Ocean region, (iv) studies on pollution, micro-pollution, ship related pollution needs to be emphasized by researchers from IOC, (v) it is envisaged that the next generation should see more productive ocean health. It is also recommended to tap Blue Economy, keeping in view to increase the economy of people. More attention is required on climate change aspects. Also, the Indian Ocean is warming at a higher rate. Its relation to natural hazards like tropical cyclones, frequency, and duration etc., needs a thorough understanding in relation to ocean warming. Another aspect is sea level rise implications on climate change. Impacts on fisheries sector for sustainable developed needs to be focused. In line with the International Indian Ocean Expedition (IIOE-2), aspects of climate change affecting Indian Ocean region is required with collaborative efforts of IOC, SCOR, IOGOOS. It is important to transfer research to applications for sustainable development and governance for societal benefit.
Overall, the Blue Economy Summit was a successful event. The contents of lecture from distinguished experts was quite intense and provided valuable insight on various activities in the Indian Ocean rim countries. There was an overwhelming response from the large number of participants with about 125 participants in WebEx and more than 400 views in the YouTube as of now. Youtube link is available for viewing: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gzEARMitNzk.