The marine environment is a vital resource for life on Earth. Marine eco-systems provide a number of key environmental functions: they regulate the climate, prevent erosion, absorb carbon dioxide, and maintain biological control. Seas and oceans represent the greatest source of biodiversity. Healthy marine species like cetaceans, sea turtles and coral are important for maintaining balanced and healthy marine ecosystems. Moreover, the marine environment contributes significantly to prosperity, social well-being and quality of life. Yet it is increasingly faced with a number of threats including land based activities, marine pollution and the impact of climate change. The Western Indian Ocean is not spared; its marine ecosystem is also facing threats and many of its marine species are listed on the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List of threatened species. World Oceans Day is therefore an opportunity to raise awareness of citizens on the protection of oceans in the region based on scientific experts' knowledge.
Therefore, we have organised a free webinar entitled "Innovation and biodiversity: a blue deal for the Indian Ocean?" The objective of this online event was to highlight the work that is ongoing in the region to protect marine ecosystems and marine life. High-profile personalities and environmental experts from Europe and the region (Mauritius, Seychelles and Réunion) have participated in this live event. The Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs and the Blue Economy of the Republic of Seychelles, H.E. Mr Barry Faure highlighted the bold initiatives taken Seychelles to protect its marine ecosystem. Ms Amanda Serumaga, UNDP Resident Representative for Mauritius and Seychelles and Ms Gina Bonne, Head of 'Sustainable Environment and Climate Change' Department, Indian Ocean Commission also participated in the webinar. Dr. Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles Island Foundation, who explained the work of the Foundation to protect the Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. François Sarano, a former expedition leader of the Calypso of Commander Cousteau talked about his work with the Marine Megafauna Conservation Organisation, a Mauritian organisation on the Maubydick project - a study of the population dynamics of sperm whales in Mauritius. Two experts from the Mauritius Oceanography Institute who are implementing the GMES programme for Africa (Global Monitoring for Environment and Security), an EU-funded pan African programme also talked about how they monitor oceans from space using data from the European satellite Sentinel which is part of the Copernicus Programme.
In his opening remarks, the EU Ambassador, H.E. Mr Vincent Degert stated: “We need bold recommendations and ideas that mobilize the energy of each and every one. The global response to the threats to oceans can only be done with collective, coordinated action at all levels: national, regional and international."
The event has provided the experts with the opportunity to present their remarkable work to protect marine ecosystems and marine species in the Western Indian Ocean and share their views on the challenges ahead. The event has also confirmed that ocean protection is a key interest of citizens in Mauritius and Seychelles. It augurs well for the organisation of similar events in the future and to promote the European Union's leading role in ocean governance at global level.
The webinar is an initiative of the Team Europe in Mauritius (the Delegation of the European Union to the Republic of Mauritius and to the Republic of Seychelles, the French Embassy, the Agence Française de Développement and the local branch of the Région Réunion in Mauritius) in collaboration with the United Nations Development Programme in Mauritius.
Photo : sperm whale tail (Hugues Vitry)