As Nairobi COP8 Closes, Western Indian Ocean’s Ecosystem Under Threat
On June 24th, the Eighth Conference of the Parties to the Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management and Development of the Marine and Coastal Environment of the Eastern African Region (COP8) concluded after meeting from June 22nd – 24th in Mahe, Seychelles. The theme of this meeting was “Conserving the Marine and Coastal Environment for the Western Indian Ocean for the Next 30 Years.”
During the conference, UNEP introduced a new report that detailed environmental threats impacting the Western Indian Ocean. Titled “Regional State of the Coast: Western Indian Ocean,” the report spoke of growing populations and economies in the region increasing risks to some of the world’s most ecologically valuable coastlines.The report concluded that ecosystem services along these coasts are conservatively valued at US$25 billion annually. Introducing the report were UNEP Executive Director and Under-Secretary General of the United Nations, Dr Achim Steiner and the Minister for the Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Seychelles, Mr Didier Dogley. The Western Indian Ocean Maria Science Association (WIOMSA) and the Nairobi Convention Secretariat were additionally involved in the report’s production.
Examining possible solutions, the report calls for stronger transboundary cooperation, integrated coastal management, and a surge in marine conservation areas to protect its pristine ecosystems. Urbanization, unsustainable fishing practices, and extraction of natural resources are some of the many issues that have contributed to a decline of biodiversity in the region.
“From fisheries to tourism, to energy, oceans support approximately 350 million jobs worldwide. When about half of the population of African countries along the West Indian Ocean will live in the coastal zone by 2020, this region has the capacity to drive employment and economic growth for countries up and down and off the coast,” said UN Under-Secretary-General and UNEP Executive Director Achim Steiner. He then added, “but as coastal centers urbanize, maritime resources are being stretched and stressed.”
COP8 was organized by the Nairobi Convention Secretariat, the Government of Seychelles, and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA). In a Focal Points preparatory meeting in May, the Nairobi Convention Secretariat outlined the key agenda for COP8. This included:
- Report on the progress and achievements made by the Contracting Parties to the Nairobi Convention in the conservation of the marine and coastal environment in the last 30 years.
- Discuss the Nairobi Convention Programme of Work for the period 2015-2017 within the framework of the Approved Work Programme for 2013-2017.
- Adopt a Regional Climate Change Strategy for the marine and coastal environment that provides a framework for regional collaboration on assessments of current and future ecological and socio-economic risks and options for adaptation to biophysical changes while maximizing on economic opportunities including value addition in the maritime economic sectors (blue economy) in the Western Indian Ocean Region
- Decide on strategies, tools, and mechanisms for ocean governance in the Western Indian Ocean Region including marine spatial planning and science to policy dialogues.
- Take note of the Protocol on Integrated Coastal Zone management (ICZM) to the Nairobi Convention.