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News round-up: 2012

Marine and Coastal news round-up in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) Region
The news round-up aims at informing partners, stakeholders, national working groups and all interested persons on the news, events, activities and publications on the Western Indian Ocean region compiled from various sources that include our partners, projects/programmes, various websites, newspapers and articles.

December, 2012

19 December, 2012

Nairobi Convention calls for cooperation on marine World Heritage in Indian Ocean

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During the recent 7th Conference of the Parties for the Nairobi Convention (December 2012, Maputo, Mozambique), dedicated to "Partnering for a Healthy Western Indian Ocean", important discussions on the potential for new Marine World Heritage sites in the region were held. On the basis of these discussions, the Parties to the Nairobi Convention encouraged its Secretariat, the World Heritage Centre and other parties to work together to assess the possibility of new Marine World Heritage sites, and build capacity in the region to undergo the identification and nomination process.

The discussions followed presentation of the outcomes of the recent initial assessment of sites in the Western Indian Ocean undertaken by the World Heritage Convention and CORDIO East Africa, which has identified a number of sites that could meet the natural criteria for World Heritage site nomination. The potential sites include among others, the Mozambique Channel, and the Mascarene Plateau both of which are transboundary sites in the Nairobi Convention area. The assessment provides initial guidance for States Parties in identifying priority sites for designation under the World Heritage Convention.  This work was financially supported by the Government of Flanders through the Funds in Trust for the World Heritage Marine Programme.

“This decision taken by the Parties to the Nairobi Convention is an encouraging step forward following the technical contributions,” said David Obura, lead expert on the regional study. “The governments are acutely aware of the challenges to establishing new World Heritage sites, not least of which are the needs of the countries to develop and exploit the resources of areas such as the Mozambique Channel – the fish in the water column, oil and gas buried beneath it, and others. A top priority for the next few years will be to build a stronger foundation for managing large marine areas and dealing with the large scale threats that affect these, as well as with the challenges of establishing the multi-sectoral support within countries for the World Heritage process, and the transboundary mechanisms that will be needed to bring new sites to reality.”

The Nairobi Convention* provides a mechanism for regional cooperation, coordination and collaborative actions toward marine conservation in the Indian Ocean, and enables the Contracting Parties to harness resources and expertise from a wide range of stakeholders and interest groups towards solving interlinked problems of the coastal and marine environment.

Source of article

Seychelles: 30 years of conservation success on Aldabra

A new world class visitor centre and ecological attraction called Aldabra House will be built at Roche Caiman to give Seychellois people and visitors the chance to experience this environmental wonder.

This was announced by the chairperson of the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, at a special ceremony yesterday to mark the 30th anniversary of Aldabra’s inscription as a World Heritage Site and of its conservation success.

Attending the event, held at the School of Education, were President James Michel, who is the SIF’s patron, ministers, high government officials, chief executive of SIF Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley and members of the diplomatic corps, among others.

The project set to recreate Aldabra on Mahé is due to start next year. The government, through the Ministry of Land Use and Housing, has granted the SIF the lease of a parcel of land at Roche Caiman for the project.

Addressing the guests, Mr Loustau-Lalanne said the Aldabra House project is another demonstration of the government’s ongoing support for the SIF.

“This commitment to Aldabra by both people and the government is seen in the conservation milestones it has achieved,” he said.

Mr Loustau-Lalanne added that the 30 years being celebrated is a remarkable chapter in the atoll’s history and has been written thanks to the efforts of the many individuals who fought for Aldabra’s protection and paved the way for it to seek the World Heritage site status.

Another project announced during the ceremony and being undertaken by the SIF is the creation of the Professor David Stoddart scholarship.

Under this scholarship, the SIF will fund a young Seychellois to undertake a first degree at the University of Seychelles (UniSey).

The scholarship will be targeted primarily towards candidates interested in the Bachelor of Science in environmental sciences and it may cover other similar disciplines as the UniSey’s curriculum grows.

Professor Stoddart is one of the ‘founding fathers’ of Aldabra as a United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) world heritage site.

During the ceremony, guests were able to enjoy a short drama performed by students of the Baie Lazare primary school on the importance of conservation and protection of Aldabra.

Richard Felix and Helena Sims shared experiences on their visit to Aldabra more than a decade ago when they were still students and how this has had a positive impact on their lives.

Dr Fleischer-Dogley then gave a presentation on the atoll’s conservation success story and a video depicting a congratulatory message from Unesco was shown.

President Michel was then presented with a painting donated by Michael Adams and family in appreciation of government’s dedication in protecting Aldabra.

Guests then proceeded to the cafeteria where President Michel, along with Mr Loustau-Lalanne and Dr Fleischer-Dogley, cut a cake to mark the occasion.

Source of article

UN report highlights importance of ocean-friendly investments

Concrete action to reverse or mitigate environmental damage done to the world’s oceans must be initiated immediately before it is too late, a United Nations ocean expert has warned.

Speaking at the launch of a new UN Development Programme (UNDP) report held in Washington, D.C, Andrew Hudson, the head of UNDP’s Water & Ocean Governance Programme and UN-Oceans Coordinator, noted that continuing ocean degradation threatened the livelihoods of hundreds of millions of people, primarily in the world’s least developed countries.

“Oceans are an integral part of life on earth, regulating our climate and producing oxygen for the planet, yet they are under serious threat due to pollution, over-exploitation, habitat loss, invasive species, and climate change,” Mr. Hudson told reporters. “We need to improve the way we manage the oceans, before the damage is irreversible.”

The report – entitled Catalysing Ocean Finance and co-authored with the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) – indicates how sustainable ocean management could become a legacy of today’s global leaders if ocean planning and policy instruments are scaled up.

It also illustrates the accelerating degradation of the maritime environment as a result of market and policy failures, leading to the over exploitation of fisheries, skyrocketing low-oxygen zones in coastal areas, continued introductions of destructive alien species and increased ocean acidification.

According to research undertaken by the UNDP and GEF, these same market and policy failures have led to the under-financing of ocean-friendly projects such as better wastewater treatment facilities and coastal habitat protection, ultimately eating away at resources which contribute at least $3 trillion annually in global economic output.

The report’s goal was to help both the public and private sectors create “clear incentives and policies” to protect the world’s oceans, added Dr. Naoko Ishii, the Chief Executive Officer and Chairperson of the GEF – a UN-backed entity that partners 182 countries with international institutions, civil society organizations and the private sector to address global environmental issues while supporting national sustainable development initiatives.

“It is very reassuring to learn from this report that an initial public investment on the order of $5 billion over the next 10 to 20 years could be sufficient to catalyze many hundreds of billions of dollars in public and private finance,” Dr. Ishii stated.

“We now have the right tools to identify and remove those market and policy failures which have unfortunately sped up the degradation of marine environments,” she added.

Source of article

At General Assembly, Ban calls for universal commitment to ‘constitution of the oceans’

Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon today marked the 30th anniversary of the launch of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) by calling for a collective global effort to have all nations commit to the treaty, which is often called the “constitution for the oceans.”

“I am encouraged that support for the Convention has grown steadily through the years,” Mr. Ban said in an address before the 193-nation UN General Assembly. “Like a constitution, it is a firm foundation – a permanent document providing order, stability, predictability and security – all based on the rule of law.”

UNCLOS governs all aspects of ocean space, including the delimitation of maritime boundaries, environmental regulations, scientific research, commerce and the settlement of international disputes involving marine issues.

In his speech, the UN chief said the treaty was nearing the “goal of universality” that the Assembly set out, as he noted that 163 States and the European Union were Parties to the landmark measure, which the Assembly endorsed and opened for signature in 1982.

“Let us work to bring all nations under the jurisdiction, protection and guidance of this essential treaty,” Mr. Ban urged.

While it entered into force in 1994, UNCLOS is reflective of other international treaties in that it creates rights only for those who accept its obligations by becoming Parties. Exceptions are the provisions that apply to all States because they either confirm existing customary norms, or are becoming customary law.

Addressing the same meeting, Assembly Vice-President Ambassador Rodney Charles said UNCLOS had become a critical element of the international legal framework.

“The absence of a global legal framework led to the threat of maritime conflict as well as an often chaotic and unregulated exploitation of maritime resources,” Mr. Charles said. “Member States realized a universal law of the sea was urgently needed.”

Both Mr. Ban and Mr. Charles highlighted the expected central role UNCLOS will play as world governments and institutions set a global development agenda focused on sustainable resource use.

“The Convention on the Law of the Sea is an important tool for sustainable development, as affirmed this year by the Rio+20 Conference,” Mr. Ban said, as he referred to this summer’s UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20), which saw world governments and institutions gather in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, to consider a range of issues related to the topic.

Mr. Charles noted that Rio+20’s outcome documents recognized the importance of UNCLOS’ legal framework for ‘achieving the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans.”

“A sustainable future will involve renewable energies,” he said. “Marine renewable energies are an untapped potential in many regions of the world and can play a significant role in meeting sustainable development goals, enhancing energy security and creating jobs.”

In addition, Mr. Ban said the treaty’s negotiation by more than 150 States had been a “testament to the power of international cooperation, multilateral negotiation and consensus-building.”

Both he and Mr. Charles also saluted Ambassador Arvid Pardo of Malta, who died in 1999 and whom Mr. Charles said is considered the founding father of UNCLOS. The Assembly Vice-President noted that before the Assembly in 1967, Mr. Pardo “proposed a radical treaty to ensure the peaceful use and exploitation of the world’s oceans.”

Mr. Charles also highlighted an additional oceans-related initiative Mr. Ban launched in August with the aim of supporting and strengthening the implementation of UNCLOS. The Oceans Compact: Healthy Oceans for Prosperity sets out a “strategic vision for the UN system to deliver on ocean-related mandates,” Mr. Charles said.

At its launch, the Secretary-General said the Oceans Compact will provide a platform to help countries protect the ocean's natural resources, restore their full food production to help people's whose livelihoods depend on the sea, and increase awareness and knowledge about the management of the oceans.

Source of article

12 December, 2012

Tanzania: Mwambani port project to proceed despite concern concernsconcerns about marine life conservation

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The government is adamant that the construction of Mwambani Port would continue despite concerns that the development would wreack havoc on marine life.The new concerns add to controversies that surround the project in the south of old Tanga Port since the idea was born.

Conservationists demand that the project be scrapped to preserve the coelacanth marine park and sea tourism.
However, the minister for Transport, Dr Harrison Mwakyembe, has recently cleared the air, assuring Tanga residents that the government has not forsaken Tanga.

 “The government would not postpone development activities to please a few disgruntled people who oppose development projects for various reasons,” the minister said.

The minister was clearing the air on the construction of the New Tanga Port at Mwambani, in Tanga City, and has assured Tanga Region development enthusiasts that the new port would be constructed as planned and no self-motivated persons would stop the development.

Dr Mwakyembe was reacting to reports by conservationists that the construction of the new port would be a threat to the Coelacanth, the primordial fish that was believed to be extinct since the end of the Cretaceous period. The activists say the project would disturb the fish’s habitat which has now been turned into the Tanga Coelacanth Marine Park.

The minister said the government was, however, very cautious over the matter, noting that it was why it has conducted a very thorough feasibility study to make sure it was on the right track. “We have not forgotten Tanga. Give us six months and you will see the progress towards construction of the new port,” he said.

He said the construction of new ports and port facilities were a priority because of the competitiveness that has grown due to the new East African Community spirit. And that was why the government has put forth plans to improve all ports.

He said the construction of the port was a joint venture with the Uganda government and it would also involve the construction of the Arusha-Musoma railway and a new port on Lake Victoria in Uganda.

The permanent secretary in the ministry of Transport, Mr Omar Chambo, revealed that several international and local companies have already come forward to vie for the construction of the new port and the Arusha-Musoma railway.

The proposed construction of the new port at Mwambani bay in Tanga has become an issue which has at times caused some political storms in the past over the commitment of the government. However, with the final report being awaited after the presentation to stakeholders, there are still some who are doubtful over its viability vis-à-vis modernisation of the old port.

A speaker at the recent Tanga Port Stakeholders’ meeting on the final report on the feasibility study conducted by the United Kingdom-based infrastructure and environment consulting corporation, United Research Service (URS), claimed that talks of the new port at Mwambani date as far back as 1968 when, he claims, a foundation stone was laid on the proposed site.

Since then the development of the port has been largely lip service with residents of the area seriously doubting the government’s commitment to developing Tanga. But when the report of the feasibility and design work for the proposed new port at Mwambani Bay in Tanga was presented to a stakeholder’s meeting it was met with mixed reactions.

For some, it now looks obvious that construction of the new port is no longer a pipe dream. But still the report of the proposed construction has drawn fresh outcry from environmentalists and a section of industrialists here who see no logic in constructing a new port at Mwambani as opposed to undertaking the construction at the old port.

A Tanga-based conservationist has once again expressed fear that the planned new harbor scheduled to be be built in the Mwambani area could be a bigger threat to the newly established port than illegal fishing activities that endanger the Coelacanth.

“It may be important to report that not only dynamite fishing threatens this new marine park,” said Ms Sybille Riedmiller of the Tanga Anti-Dynamite Fishing Network

Another stakeholder, Mr Eric Allard, suggested that if the new port was to be built on reclaimed land, why should the development be done at the existing port with a land port being constructed which would use the existing port as a gateway.

“The feasibility report recognises that Mwambani is also a shallow water area. Could the proposal be transferred to the existing port if the idea is to build an offshore port?” he asked, adding that construction in the Mwambani area which would need the building of a 7-kilometer navigation channel from the shore could remove the tourism option provided by the Tanga Marine Park which conserves the rare fish coelacanth.

Dr Mwakeymbe has cleared the air over the old port saying that the government would abandon the it and is continuing to renovate it to cater for expanded business and would later be used for smaller ships.
“The initial capital cost estimate (CAPEX) of the project has been put at $515,514,031 with an additional $50,669,575 for the final equipment,” they revealed.

Recommendations of treport presented by consultants of the United Kingdom-based consulting company, United Research Service (URS) Infrastructure and Environment Corporation, Alan Stacey and Christopher Fewtrell has asserted the critical need for construction of the new port because the existing capacity would hit its maximum point in three years time (2016).

“Although the existing port capacity could be increased to accommodate short term traffic growth, it would become congested by around 2016,” the report asserted, adding that expected soda ash exports through the port from the proposed project in the Lake Natron would only be possible with new port facilities,” said the team.

Mwambani port project is crucial to growth of EA transport network
The construction of Mwambani port is part of a grand project to develop an alternative sea route for Uganda and other land-locked countries which have been depending on the port of Mombasa.

The project would cost close to $2.7 billion. It would also involve overhauling ports of Lake Victoria and building a new 800-kilometre long railway line that would link the proposed deep water port at Mwambani Bay in Tanga.

It will end up in Arusha nearly 400 kilometres away from Lake Victoria and a new extension will be needed to link it up with the port of Musoma about 400 kilometres to the west. The rail line will link up with the port of Musoma with onward connection to Port Bell in Kampala and Juba in South Sudan.

The extension is expected to pass through the world famous Serengeti National Park, a development which environmentalists had vehemently opposed, arguing that with noisy trains passing through the wildlife sanctuary the ecosystem would be disrupted. This is what had caused the plan to be shelved during the reign of the late President Julius Kambarage Nyerere when the idea was first mooted in the late 80s.

The officials of the two countries have said the project is provisionally estimated to cost $ 2.7 billion, out of which $1.9 billion is for the construction of the railway line, $672.6 million for the development of Mwambani Port and $72 million for the development of Musoma dock.

President Museveni of Uganda has repeatedly said that the Musoma port was the “lifeline” of Uganda’s dreams, adding that freight will be conveyed from Musoma dock by ferry to Port Bell pier – about 350 kilometers inside Uganda. A rail connection runs via Tororo to Gulu – nearly 600 kilometres on the Pakwach branch. North Gulu, a new line of roughly 250 kilometres will have to be constructed to Juba, and a further 550 kilometres to the Wau railhead in Southern Sudan.

The proposals arise from the continued difficulties of getting freight from the port of Mombasa to Uganda, and to Southern Sudan.

The cost of Kenyan route is said to be prohibitive and there are serious delays. The Dar es Salaam port has its own logistical problems too. Figures made available show that the Dar es Salaam port accounts for only one per cent of all trade from Uganda with 99 per cent passing through the Kenyan port of Mombasa.

With a rated capacity of 4.1 million tonnes of dry cargo, 6 million tonnes of bulk liquids, 3.1 tonnes of general cargo and a million cargo of containerized traffic, the port of Dar es Salaam is said to be severely stretched.

The Dar Port handles about 95 per cent of Tanzania’s international trade in addition to serving neighboring landlocked countries such as Malawi, Zambia, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo. Development Tanga Port which handles 500,000 tonnes annually would reduce the load on Dar es Salaam port significantly.

Source of article

Madagascar Gets Tough with Poachers: WCS congratulates authorities for clamping down on illegal harvest of sea cucumbers

The Wildlife Conservation Society congratulates Madagascar’s Ministry of Fisheries and local communities around Ankarea Marine Protected Area (MPA) for working together to eliminate illegal sea cucumber harvesting from an area known for highest coral species richness in the Western Indian Ocean.

Authorities from Madagascar’s Centre de Surveillance des Pêches or CSP, which is part of the Ministry of Fisheries, National Gendarmerie, National Navy, and the community of Nosy Mitsio banded together in October and early November to force out 80 divers who illegally entered Ankarea MPA to harvest sea cucumbers. Patrolling missions resulted in the confiscation of a speedboat, 48 dive tanks, 16 SCUBA diving regulators, and other equipment.

Sea cucumbers are sustainably harvested by local communities in Ankarea MPA, but are restricted from large-scale fishing operations including those that use oxygen tanks during the collection. Small scale, or traditional fishing, practiced without sophisticated gear, and generally done by accessing nearshore areas on foot or in small dugout canoes, is the primary source of subsistence and income for most of the local people.

“WCS congratulates national authorities, especially CSP, who were able, despite the current political and socioeconomic uncertainties in Madagascar, to conduct a very successful patrolling mission in Ankarea MPA,” said WCS Director for Marine Programs Caleb McClennen. “This empowers the Nosy Mitsio community to continue to fully engage in the management of their marine resources.”

WCS worked with the local communities to help establish the locally managed Ankarea MPA. One of the objectives of the MPA, as outlined by the community, elders, private operators, and local and national government officials, includes the conservation of resources that are heavily used in the area such as sea cucumbers.

Previously, such enforcement actions by CSP would have been difficult due to advance warning of patrols by more organized illegal fishing groups. However, the establishment of Ankarea MPA allowed for better coordination between local people and CSP.

According to official data from the ministry in charge of fisheries in Madagascar, sea cucumber fishery yield dropped by 80 percent during the last two decades. Sea cucumber harvesting in Madagascar started as hand gathering near shore. As stocks became depleted, fishers moved further offshore using snorkeling and SCUBA diving. Sea cucumber is not consumed locally and the majority of sea cucumber catch is exported in dried form to Asia.

At a local level, the arrival of many migrant divers from outside the community makes it impossible to use old methods (diving without oxygen) to gather sea cucumbers, and puts stresses on limited drinking water resources and subsistence food fisheries.

Ankarea MPA consists of a large island, Nosy Mitsio, and an archipelago of 16 neighboring islands. This remote region in northwestern Madagascar harbors a great diversity of marine ecosystems including mangroves, sandy and rocky intertidal zones, as well as fringing and patch coral reefs. An estimated 1,300 people live on Nosy Mitsio in approximately 25 small villages.

Ankarea MPA is in the northern Mozambique Channel, home of the world’s second-most diverse coral population. Research by WCS has found that northwest Madagascar’s high coral diversity and intact ecosystems are least likely to be undermined by climate disturbances in the near term. For this reason, these reefs are considered a high priority for increased management efforts that will reduce additional human disturbances, such as fishing, in order to improve the chances for their persistence.

WCS has been involved in the establishment of marine protected areas in northwest Madagascar for over a decade. WCS worked with Madagascar’s Ministry of Environment to create Sahamalaza-Radama Islands National Park, and two large locally managed marine protected areas that safeguard critical marine habitats around Nosy Iranja – Ankivonjy MPA and Ankarea MPA.

The Wildlife Conservation Society saves wildlife and wild places worldwide. We do so through science, global conservation, education and the management of the world's largest system of urban wildlife parks, led by the flagship Bronx Zoo. Together these activities change attitudes towards nature and help people imagine wildlife and humans living in harmony. WCS is committed to this mission because it is essential to the integrity of life on Earth. Visit www.wcs.org

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Blue Ventures wins Best Volunteering Organisation at the British Youth Travel Awards

Winners of the British Youth Travel Awards 2012 were announced yesterday evening at an awards ceremony in London. Blue Ventures won the Best Volunteering Organisation Award in a year of unprecedented nominations.

The British Youth Travel Awards are organised by the British Educational Travel Association (BETA) to recognise and celebrate the work of organisations engaged in youth, student and educational travel, to, from and within the UK.

Blue Ventures' work in Madagascar and Belize was recognised because of its commitment to using responsible volunteer tourism to aid marine conservation and community work in some of the world's most economically and ecologically vulnerable countries.

Blue Ventures is a multiple award-winning international marine conservation organisation that works with local communities to conserve threatened marine and coastal environments, both protecting biodiversity and alleviating poverty. Through its expedition programmes, volunteers from all over the world join conservation activities during career breaks and student gap years, working closely with field research teams and always in partnership with local communities.

Blue Ventures' Volunteer and Expedition Coordinator Kate Guy said: "We are obviously delighted to be the first winners of this new Award, especially considering the very strong competition in this category. We're committed to demonstrating the enormous potential of socially and environmentally responsible tourism for driving sustainable development in some of the world's most marginalised communities".

Blue Ventures' expeditions were featured in the BBC's Indian Ocean series earlier this year, when the show visited Madagascar. "Blue Ventures does magnificent work, helping communities and offering extraordinary volunteering opportunities that you'll remember for the rest of your life" said the series presenter Simon Reeve after filming Blue Ventures' expedition site in the village of Andavadoaka.

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