Indian Ocean Blue Economy Summit – Part 1/2

EarthzineOcean Decade

"Boats and people on the Turag River, Dhaka, Bangladesh"

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 One of a series on the Indian Ocean Blue Economy Summit conducted in May 2021. In this part, we cover the aims of the webinar, and the discussions from the inaugural session and topical session-1 of the webinar. Part 2 will contain further comments from session-2 and concluding remarks.)

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. 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. Therefore, it is very important to address a deeper understanding of Oceanic processes and solution based approach that can result in generating deeper knowledge. The thematic areas that has direct societal implications are clean Oceans, identifying the source of pollution and its removal; ocean resilience mapping marine ecosystems and its protection; prediction based studies for current and futuristic scenarios; Ocean hazards and warning systems for emergency preparedness, and sustainable Oceans ensuring adequate food supply.

Related Stories

Sustaining Long-Term Ocean Observations

Sustaining Long-Term Ocean Observations

UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable development – Objectives and Planning (Part 1/2)

UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable development – Objectives and Planning (Part 1/2)

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. The event was chaired by Mr. Rear Admiral (Retd.) Khurshid Alam, Bangladesh and co-chaired by Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair IOCINDIO, India. It was jointly organized by many stakeholders - 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.

The video of the webinar can be accessed here:


Opening Session

Dr. M. A. Atmanand, Chair, IOCINDIO IOC, UNESCO & Senior Member, IEEE 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. The areas to be concentrated are on capacity building, shore line management, marine spatial planning, coastal vulnerability assessments etc. Blue economy in the region, especially with respect to fishing, ports, renewable energy, all need support and mutual cooperation. 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. 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 highlighted the need for integrated response for the challenges like climate change, marine pollution, natural hazards etc. There is a need for cooperation in the area of fishing, shipping, renewable energy towards achieving sustainable blue economy.  He reiterated the importance of IOCINDIO and the need to revitalize it into a sub commission. He briefed about the various IORA and other meetings hosted by Bangladesh in the area of Blue Economy.

Thereafter, the opening address 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. The region is important for shipping, bio diversity etc. but at the same time subject to hazards, which require sustained observations.  He gave the importance of the Indian Ocean region and the commencement of the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable development, from 1st January this year, indicating that science included all areas like natural sciences, human sciences etc. It is time to take action in global, regional and local scales to achieve the goals of 2030 agenda, he said.  

Dr. Vladimir Ryabinin, Secretary, IOC, UNESCO said that the Ocean is 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.

It is important to cross recognize the various UN conventions which deal with specific aspects like bio diversity, climate change etc. as solutions lie elsewhere. The solution is to main stream climate dimension, bio diversity dimension, ocean health dimension in modern means of managing the ocean, so that all the conventions will be helped. The high-level panel decided themselves to commit all EEZ to be sustainable by 2025 and request others to do it by 2030. This requires lot of new science to manage the oceans using existing technology. A decade program can be proposed to manage the oceans and can be taken as a new task for IOCINDIO, which will unite all and move forward.

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. He mentioned that there is true representation from the Indian Ocean rim countries including African States. It shows the commitment of the region and beyond to work together to achieve the IOC global programs. He expressed his happiness the presence of many organization with which IOCINDIO has not worked with earlier, like IORA, ROPME etc. Blue economy is as old as settlements in the coast even though it may appear as a new concept.  As an outcome of this Summit, concrete bankable proposals could be submitted to funding partners worldwide.

A section of the webinar participants.

A section of the webinar participants.

Inaugural talk - Towards sustainable ocean economy and ecosystem based ocean management in Norway
Prof. Peter Haugen, Former Chair, IOC, Programme Director at Institute of Marine Research, Norway and Professor at University of Bergen, Norway

This talk 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. Further, Salmon lice monitoring using traps/gill nets, sentinel cages, trawling, and modeling aspects in the wild since 2010 were highlighted. 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 importance of sustainable planning along with the commitment of ocean panel providing effective protection, sustainable production, and equitable prosperity have been highlighted in the talk.

Two parallel sessions were organized next between 9:15 AM – 10:30 AM UTC (02:45 PM – 04:00 PM IST). Session-1 was chaired by Dr. Venugopalan, 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. A total of 11 talks from distinguished scientists from different countries were scheduled in this session (five talks in Session-1 and five talks in Session-2).

Session-1, Talk 1: Multifaceted blue economy actions in the Indian Ocean
Martine Hippolyte (COI, Mauritius), Dr. Marie-Alexandrine Sicre, Sorbonne Université, France and Dr. Francis Marsac.

The talk covered two project categories under the upcoming presidency of France of the Commission de I'Ocean Indien (May 2021-April 2022). The first component involved engagement with civil society and local communities having 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. It was also mentioned that a book will be published that summarizes on the lessons learned and skills achieved on Blue Economy strategy at regional level. Different countries involved for this study are Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, and South Africa. 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. The objectives were to create conducive environment to change behavior and practices in the usage of plastics and to support the emergence of circular economy dynamics by encouraging the economic indicators. The ongoing project is of 5 years (2021-2026) having four different components. Under component 1 the various activities include: oceanographic campaigns, plastic waste observatory and study on its biodegradability in marine environment, ecosystem health impact assessment and its impact on coastal aquaculture practices. Component 2 deals with developing technical and economic knowledge on plastics around island along with online training modules for regional needs and dissemination of good practice manuals for control and treatment of plastic wastes. Under component 3, the study on marine plastics and risk among coastal populations were highlighted. Further, awareness programme through media and training were also discussed. Lastly, in component 4 the competitiveness cluster on circular economy with incubation of pilot projects were discussed.

Session-1, Talk 2: Activities related to Blue Economy being pursued by Iraq in the Arabian Gulf – Indian Ocean region
Dr. Ali Bassal Mahmood, Iraq

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. Manufacturing aspects of floating iron cages along the sides of rivers and Gulf, manufacture of fishing nets and refrigerators for freezing, and packaging techniques were highlighted. Further, the export of oil and gas, associated establishment of oil and gas derivatives, having implications on financial resources factories were discussed. The establishment and role of Al Faw port that is in progress facilitating loading/unloading operations of exported goods and its transport mechanism were highlighted. 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. Water pollution aspects by the installation of sewage networks and waste from factories were highlighted. Also, the international agreements between the upstream and downstream countries to ensure permanent flow and optimum water utilization were also covered. Finally, the talk also highlighted the potential to create enormous job opportunities and continuous food security aspects.

Session-1, Talk 3: Potential contribution of the blue economy to Sri Lanka’s growth- opportunities, challenges, initiatives, and way forward
Dr. Arulananthan, Sri Lanka

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. The expected expansion of the territorial seas after delimitation is approximately about 75,000 sq. km. Role of estuaries and lagoons in the coastal water bodies highlighting on the variety of socio-ecological systems and ecosystem services were highlighted. 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 unsustainable extraction of marine resources such as overfishing, illegal fishing, habitat degradation, and ineffective policy and governance were covered. Anthropogenic activities such as coastal development, degradation of critical habitats, mining, coastal erosion, and shipping are some of the major challenges. 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 on 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.

The next part of this article will discuss the rest of the talks from the sessions at the webinar. Stay tuned for the next part.