Indian Ocean Blue Economy Summit (2/2)

Hari VishnuEconomy, Fishing, Ocean Decade

A fisherman at sunset

What is the value and direction for the Blue Economy in the Indian Ocean region, in the context of the Ocean Decade ? A webinar involving numerous stakeholders explored this question.

9 June, 2021

M. Atmanand

(This article is Part Two of a series on the Indian Ocean Blue Economy Summit conducted in May 2021. In this part, we cover the last few talks of session-1 and talks from session-2 of the webinar, and the concluding remarks. Read Introduction and Part 1 here)

Oceans play a very significant role 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. 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 Ocean Decade was held on May 6, 2021.

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The video of the webinar can be accessed here:

Session-1, Talk 4: The Blue Economy: An Essential Pillar for Building a Development Model for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia
Dr. Yasser Abualnaja, KAUST, 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 significantly reduce environmental and ecological degradation. The talk covered a detailed elaboration and importance of six sectorial areas: 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. Two important initiatives “The Saudi Green Initiative” and “The Middle East Green Initiative” that were announced will be launched soon. Also, the achievement made by KAUST in launching Circular Carbon Economy (CCE) during December 2020 that focused on increasing energy efficiency, capturing and storing carbon, transforming carbon into useful product and integrating renewable resources were highlighted in the talk.

Session-1, Talk 5: Research Activities Related to the Blue Economy in Kuwait
Dr. Saja Fakhraldeen, KISR, 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. In context to oceanographic and fisheries management sector, the research activities at Kuwait and the dedicated research program Ecosystem based management of marine resources were highlighted in the talk. 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.

Session-1, Talk 6: A step forward for Pakistan - Advancing Blue Growth through Cooperation and Innovation’
Dr. Samina Kidwai, National Institute of Oceanography, Government of Pakistan

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. Important areas and sectors that have high potential for sustainable jobs and growth such as trade through seas, aquaculture and fisheries, ocean energy and seabed mining, coastal tourism, marine biodiversity and biotechnology were highlighted in this talk. Further the important components that contribute to achieve the goals of blue economy such as knowledge, legal certainty, and security aspects were discussed. Importance of aquaculture and fisheries sector and its growth potential was 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 have been discussed. Over the next five years, the areas of collaboration between SIO (SoA) and NIO in capacity building such as training, joint research, researcher exchange programs, and agreement with National Centre of Ocean Standards and Metrology (NCOSM), SOA was discussed.

There were five talks delivered in Session-2 chaired by Dr. M. Ravichandran, President Ocean Society of India and Director, National Centre for Polar and Ocean Research (NCPOR), India.

Session-2, Talk 1: Blue economy - Indian way
Dr. G. A. Ramadass, NIOT, India

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. The importance of maritime transport in India and its contribution to Indian economy were detailed. The role of different organizations under the Ministry of Earth Sciences were highlighted. Further, the talk also highlighted on 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 were also covered in the presentation. In addition, the different technology 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. The importance of ocean advisory and information services such as potential fishing zones, ocean state forecast, early warnings for high wave alerts, storm surge, tsunami etc., and special services for Indian Navy and Coast Guard were also presented. The flagship programme 'Sagar Mala' initiated by the Ministry of Shipping and its beneficial value were also highlighted in this talk.

Session-2, Talk 2: Blue Economy Strategies: African perspectives
Dr. Pierre Failler, University of Portsmouth, U.K.

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. In addition, the potential for employment generation during this period were also presented. 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. Various coastal marine ecosystem services in Africa were highlighted in the talk. Importance of Circular Economy, Good Governance, Environmental and social sustainability, Empowerment and inclusive decision-making were presented. Opportunities on a short- and long-term implementation for various sectors were highlighted. 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.

Session-2, Talk 3: Fisheries sector in the Sultanate of Oman Blue Economy Review
Dr Hussain Almuscati, Oman

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. Long term strategies 2020 covered a detailed discussion on Sustainability of fisheries resources/environment, competitiveness of national fisheries industries, promotion of human wellbeing, and better adaptation to climate change. The goals for 2040 Oman vision such as improving the economic added value of sector based on effective management and environmental sustainability, providing new investment opportunities for private sector, promoting innovation, improvement in production chain efficiency, and developing value added fishery products were discussed. 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. More details pertaining to rehabilitation of the current fishermen’s village, creation of two villages at Sarab and Heitam, providing adequate housing and other services for welfare of fishermen, encouraging Omani fishermen from neighboring areas to engage in fishing activities, improving the quality of landed fish, improving data collection processes related to species and quantity of landing, laws and regulations related to fisheries were discussed.

Session-2, Talk 4: Marine aquaculture in Iran
Dr. Abtahi, INIOAS, Iran

The speaker 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. Production capacity of fish farming in cages for Iran in the waters off Caspian Sea is stated as 8,000 tons, and in coastal waters off Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman the estimate vary from 25,000 to 400,000 tons. Further, the total capture and aquaculture production and aquaculture production by culture environment for Iran based on FAO estimates were presented. Dr. Abtahi also discussed on 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.

Session-2, Talk 5: Management and protection of marine resources within the EEZ of Qatar
Dr. P. Vethamony, UNESCO Chair, Qatar

A fisherman at sunset

A fisherman at sunset. The image by justDONQUE.images is licensed under CC BY 2.0

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. More details were presented on the fisheries and aquaculture market growth in Qatar including their trends and forecast. The status of desalination, mangrove swamps within the EEZ, seagrass beds, distribution of coral reefs and associated ecosystems in Qatar was presented. Further, the causes and consequences of coral bleaching event during 2017 in the Arabian Gulf region was highlighted. Interesting points were made on the mushroom forest artificial reef, a new patented design made at ESC, Qatar University. The technology biomimics natural aspects like habitat heterogeneity, hydrodynamics, material and general shape supporting the idea of Blue Economy in Qatar enhancing marine ecological growth, productivity and restoration of damaged ecosystems. 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. Further, the physical oceanographic conditions and regions of upwelling and well mixed zones attributed from Shamal and Nashi wind systems were discussed. The role of circulation and eddies on seasonal variations in the Arabian Gulf circulation and its implication on turtle hatchlings, dispersion of brine from desalination plants, sustenance of sea grass were discussed in detail. Aspects on seasonal hypoxia events and marine debris and associated biota, microplastics and tarmat distribution for Qatar waters were covered in the presentation.

Qatar government Ministry of Municipality Environment (MME) has completed an integrated coastal zoning management plan, according to Prof. John Wong. MME cooperate with Qatar University has commissioned and completed a coastal ecological baseline study. MME are in the process of preparing a National Action Plan for Conservation and Management of marine resources. With the establishment of a multidisciplinary scientific advisory committee. It is expected to set up MPAs covering 30 % of Qatari waters as support to UN OCEAN Decade. Dugong and Whale shark are used as flagship species to promote Marine conservation and blue Ocean Economy in Qatar and the region.

Concluding session

A section of the webinar participants.

A section of the webinar participants.

The concluding session of this event covered discussion on the outcomes of the webinar and future activities moderated by Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO. The panelists 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 asked to the panelist participants was: The 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:

  1. cooperation and collaboration is the key to success,
  2. mariculture is the best option to meet fisheries demand,
  3. special focus is required on natural hazards in the Indian Ocean region,
  4. studies on pollution, micro-pollution, ship related pollution needs to be emphasized by researchers from IOC,
  5. 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 lines 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 large number of participants with about 125 participants in WebEx and more than 368 views in the YouTube as of now.