Ocean Action Hub

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Blue Economy: a sustainable ocean economic paradigm

26 Nov 2018 - The Blue Economy concept is the use of ocean resources for human benefit in a manner that sustains the overall ocean resource base into perpetuity.

26 Nov 2018 - From 26-28 November, Kenya will host the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi. This conference represents an important opportunity to take stock of both the opportunities – and the challenges – which the Blue Economy concept presents, in the context of SDG14 - Life Below Water.

As the single largest natural asset on the planet which represents some 99% of the earth’s living volume, the ocean delivers numerous benefits to humanity.

  • The ocean is responsible for the oxygen in every other breath we take. It supplies 15 percent of humanity’s protein needs.
  • It helps to slow climate change by absorbing 30 percent of carbon dioxide emissions and 90 percent of the excess heat trapped by greenhouse gases.
  • It serves as the highway for some 90 percent of internationally traded goods, via the shipping sector.
  • If the ocean were a country, at several trillion dollars per year of economic activity, the ocean would rank 7th on the list of largest nations by GDP.
  • It is the source of hundreds of millions of jobs, in fisheries, aquaculture, shipping, tourism, energy production and other sectors.
  • It is also the source of some 30 percent of the world’s oil and gas resources but this equation must change if we are to succeed in the necessary transition to a low carbon development pathway.
  • Millions of the world’s poorest people depend heavily on the ocean and coastal resources for their sustenance and livelihoods.
  • Small-scale fishing provides about half of the world’s harvested seafood – but provides 44 times as many jobs per ton of fish as industrial fisheries do!

For the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), the Blue Economy paradigm is a natural next step in the overall conceptualization and realization of sustainable human development. It mirrors our long-accepted definition of sustainable development as one that meets the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their own needs. Simply put, it is the utilization of ocean resources for human benefit in a manner that sustains the overall ocean resource base into perpetuity.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/blue-economy-sustainable-ocean-economic-paradigm.html

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What is the Blue Economy? Part 2: Show me the money

15 Nov 2018 - The blue economy represents the long-term sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources. This UNDP blog looks at ways this can be financed in the Caribbean.

15 Nov 2018 - Efforts to exploit the Caribbean’s ocean resources are not new; coastal tourism and fisheries are well established industries. However, the blue economy concept represents a (relatively) new paradigm shift in that it is centred on the long-term sustainable use of ocean and coastal resources in both traditional and new ocean-based industries. Part 1 in this blog series offered four policy suggestions for Caribbean governments who wish to pursue this approach. Part 2 looks at ways this can be financed.

While governments may be inspired by the blue economy paradigm shift, their pockets may not be quite so deep. Innovative financing mechanisms – such as those discussed in the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and United Nations Development Programme’s (UNDP) recent paper “Financing the Blue Economy: A Caribbean Development Opportunity” – will be critical if the sustainable benefits of the blue economy approach are to be realised. This is especially the case in key blue economy sectors, such as marine renewable energy, which can carry high investment costs for relatively small economies.

Marine renewable energy remains an under-explored area in the Caribbean, yet it is one in which investment can – and must – be accelerated. Many Caribbean countries have set themselves ambitious targets to diversify their energy mix. For example, Barbados aims to derive 65% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030; Montserrat is aiming for a 100% renewable energy grid by 2020. Yet investments in renewables are low and the Caribbean region remains heavily dependent on fossil fuels. Electricity tariffs are high, averaging 35¢/kWh (compared to just 12¢ in the US and 20¢ in the UK).

The region has large untapped sources of renewable energy with huge solar, wind, geothermal and marine energy potential. There are however multiple challenges associated with leveraging private sector investment: limited economies of scale and substantial environmental vulnerabilities diminish the attractiveness of these opportunities for investors. This is coupled with a limited awareness of opportunities, the lack of a high-quality investment pipeline and weak national capacities for project design and implementation. These factors all contribute to high financing costs. Many investments in these areas have, to-date, been financed by bilateral and multilateral development partners; however resources remain limited.

Part 1 of this blog series showed how governments could take policy measures to accelerate private investment in the blue economy through, for example, de-risking investments and improving the business environment. The joint CDB-UNDP paper also shows that innovations in finance can also play an important role to catalyse investment.

For example, contingently recoverable grants (where a grant is converted to a loan should the project go ahead) and new insurance products can help reduce the risks and upfront costs associated with the exploratory phase of capital intensive projects. CDB has explored a mix of loan, grant, and contingently recoverable grant financing on a number of sustainable energy initiatives in its borrowing member countries. This strategy has helped to strengthen governments’ positions when coming to the table with major private sector interests, and enabled them to negotiate fairer terms and resource allocations. Opportunities for blended finance in support of the blue economy also remains underexplored across the Caribbean.

Green and blue bonds should also be explored. Fiji recently became the first small island state to issue a green bond for investments in renewable energy and resilience to climate change. The Seychelles has piloted a blue bond for investments in sustainable fisheries development, with partial credit guarantees issued by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility to help lower interest costs.

High debt ratios in the Caribbean (in 2017, the average public-sector debt stood at 64.3% of GDP compared to 48.3% across emerging and developing countries) make debt-for-nature swaps an attractive avenue to pursue.

Extreme environmental vulnerabilities also create opportunities for new insurance schemes, such as the coral reef insurance being piloted in Mexico by The Nature Conservancy and UNDP. The restoration of key ecosystems which can effectively and rapidly sequester carbon could also help to position Caribbean countries within the international carbon sequestration market. UNDP and Grenada’s Blue Innovation Institute are currently exploring whether impact investment could be harnessed to support coral reef, mangrove and seagrass bed restoration.

Aside from investing in renewable energy and resilience-building ventures, there are opportunities for the Caribbean to transition established industries, e.g. fisheries, tourism and marine transport to more sustainable practices. The implementation of marine reserves or no-take areas as well as more sustainable fisheries and aquaculture practices have emerged across the Caribbean and can yield a triple dividend: ecosystem and biodiversity preservation, the protection of livelihoods while at the same time serve as a major tourist attraction. It is equally important that individuals and enterprises operating in these sectors are formalised so they can contribute tax revenues, and access finance and insurance.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/show-me-the-money.html

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Finance, partnerships and innovation: Large ocean states pave the way to the 2030 Agenda

14 Nov 2018 - The old ideas of “smallness” and “remoteness” of SIDS are giving rise to “agility,” “potentiality,” and what are now called “large ocean states.”

14 Nov 2018 - Luis Felipe López-Calva, UNDP - Small Island Developing States’ (SIDS) communities have long been blessed with vast ocean and island resources, inspiring rich heritages and cultures. But this geography also exposes them to common challenges, vulnerabilities, indebtedness and dependencies that make their paths towards sustainable development even more complex.

For this reason, nations gathered in Samoa at the 2014 International Conference on SIDS reaffirmed commitments to the sustainable development of SIDS,  identifying 17 priority action areas to help achieve the 2030 Agenda. These priorities range from climate change, to sustainable and inclusive economic growth, gender equality and partnerships.

This week I joined the implementation progress review of the Samoa pathway, which emphasizes concerted actions at the national, regional and global levels. These action areas mirror the common vulnerabilities and challenges SIDS face and provide guidance for the needed joint actions thereafter.

The landscape of SIDS’ vulnerabilities is constantly changing along with the world’s development dynamics. In the recent special report by the IPCC, the vulnerabilities of SIDS were projected to be significantly exacerbated by a 1.5 C warmer climate - threatening SIDS population’s health, livelihoods, food security, water supply, infrastructure, human security, cultural heritages and economic growth.

The anticipated decline of marine fisheries of 3 million metric tons per degree warming would have serious impacts for the Indo-Pacific region and the Arctic. Yet, simultaneously, various development opportunities are in play to help mitigate vulnerabilities and dependencies. Tourism, one of the world’s fastest growing sectors, is becoming the main economic activity for many SIDS, creating employment and generating income and foreign exchange earnings that are equivalent to over 20 percent of GDP in two fifths of the SIDS (where data is available).

Additional public sources of environmental financing, such as the Green Climate Fund (GCF), are also changing SIDS’ state of affairs. In June 2018, 15 projects totalling $786 million, or 21.4 percent of the total GCF approved funding, began implementation. The projects will increase SIDS’ resilience to the environment and economic shocks and improve the management of their natural resources.

It is critical to recognize that today’s SIDS have evolved away from 2014’s SIDS. Through innovation and the amalgamation of technologies, SIDS are paving a way towards enhanced productivity, resilience and inclusion, by turning some of the challenges they face into opportunities and re-conceptualizing the traditional perceptions of SIDS. The ideas of “smallness” and “remoteness” of SIDS are giving rise to “agility,” “potentiality,” and what we call “large ocean states.”

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: http://www.undp.org/content/undp/en/home/blog/2018/Large-ocean-states-pave-the-way-to-the-2030Agenda.html

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Meet Vincent Diringer (Vince), UNDP Ocean Action Volunteer

13 Nov 2018 - Vince joined UNDP Ocean Action Hub’s global campaign to #respect and help #SaveOurOcean in September 2018. He shares his story from the campaign.

13 Nov 2018Vince joined the UNDP Ocean Action Hub’s global campaign to respect and help #SaveOurOcean in September 2018. He shares his story from the campaign.

The ocean has always held a special significance for me. As a child I spent most of my holidays with my family in Fiji, where I first learnt the importance that the seas had not only on local culture and history, but also their wellbeing. I grew up in various countries, but my respect and understanding for the oceans would continue to grow. I learnt to sail, got involved with snorkeling, took marine biology electives at school and eventually decided to pursue Environmental Management at James Cook University in Australia’s far north, where I had the Great Barrier Reef at my front door.

From there my interests grew past the oceans. Science, sustainability and conservation were all topics that I wanted to learn more about, to master. Being able to work and volunteer for the United Nations has always been a childhood dream of mine. The opportunity I was given to help the UNDP Ocean Action Hub with identifying and registering different entities’ Voluntary Commitments towards the UN’s Ocean Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14) was one that I was excited to take part in.

Creating networks of like-minded NGOs, companies and other interested groups to enable them to work towards a common goal is one of the first steps towards not just raising awareness about environmental issues, but also solving them. Working with the Ocean Action Hub to help set up these networks was an eye-opening experience for me. The Hub’s extensive list of Commitments and National Consultations gave me hope that we can all work together to help protect the oceans, being able to add to them felt truly fulfilling.

Although some organizations never answered or weren’t necessarily interested, they are now aware that they weren’t alone in trying to promote sustainable development, that there was indeed a large network in place that they can join; for those who hadn’t started or thought about in participating, my hope is that raising awareness will not only inform them, but push them to do their part! My biggest highlight from working on this project was being able to help the Ocean Action Hub grow. To be a part in promoting SDG 14 was not just fulfilling as a scientist looking to advocate for sustainable resource management, but also as a global citizen with roots to a small island nation where the ocean represents so much more than just a holiday snap - it's #OurCulture, #OurHistory, #OurWayOfLife.

However, it isn’t just Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are affected by unsustainable ocean use - it's everyone. Education is the key to promote conservation and sustainable development. Being able to advocate for environmental causes also means following through with them! Making smart choices as a consumer, let it be from choosing a plastic-free option or a brand you know sources its produce from sustainable methods are easy transitions to make. Being more aware of your waste, recycling it where applicable and opting for less polluting forms of transport are all steps in the right direction. However, I believe that enrolling in local programs that raise awareness of environmental issues and aim to tackle them head on is one of the best decisions one can make! The pen might be mightier than the sword, but actions speak louder than words. You can make impacts as an individual, but as part of a group, the #SkyIsTheLimit.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.facebook.com/notes/ocean-action-hub/meet-vincent-diringer-vince-undp-ocean-action-volunteer/890487104409093/

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Oceans suffocating as huge dead zones quadruple since 1950, scientists warn

4 Jan 2018 - The Guardian - Areas starved of oxygen in open ocean and by coasts have soared in recent decades, risking dire consequences for marine life and humanity

4 Jan 2018 - The Guardian - Areas starved of oxygen in open ocean and by coasts have soared in recent decades, risking dire consequences for marine life and humanity

Ocean dead zones with zero oxygen have quadrupled in size since 1950, scientists have warned, while the number of very low oxygen sites near coasts have multiplied tenfold. Most sea creatures cannot survive in these zones and current trends would lead to mass extinction in the long run, risking dire consequences for the hundreds of millions of people who depend on the sea.

Climate change caused by fossil fuel burning is the cause of the large-scale deoxygenation, as warmer waters hold less oxygen. The coastal dead zones result from fertiliser and sewage running off the land and into the seas.

The analysis, published in the journal Science, is the first comprehensive analysis of the areas and states: “Major extinction events in Earth’s history have been associated with warm climates and oxygen-deficient oceans.” Denise Breitburg, at the Smithsonian Environmental Research Center in the US and who led the analysis, said: “Under the current trajectory that is where we would be headed. But the consequences to humans of staying on that trajectory are so dire that it is hard to imagine we would go quite that far down that path.”

“This is a problem we can solve,” Breitburg said. “Halting climate change requires a global effort, but even local actions can help with nutrient-driven oxygen decline.” She pointed to recoveries in Chesapeake Bay in the US and the Thames river in the UK, where better farm and sewage practices led to dead zones disappearing.

However, Prof Robert Diaz at the Virginia Institute of Marine Science, who reviewed the new study, said: “Right now, the increasing expansion of coastal dead zones and decline in open ocean oxygen are not priority problems for governments around the world. Unfortunately, it will take severe and persistent mortality of fisheries for the seriousness of low oxygen to be realised.

The oceans feed more than 500 million people, especially in poorer nations, and provide jobs for 350 million people. But at least 500 dead zones have now been reported near coasts, up from fewer than 50 in 1950. Lack of monitoring in many regions means the true number may be much higher.

The open ocean has natural low oxygen areas, usually off the west coast of continents due to the way the rotation of the Earth affects ocean currents. But these dead zones have expanded dramatically, increasing by millions of square kilometres since 1950, roughly equivalent to the area of the European Union.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2018/jan/04/oceans-suffocating-dead-zones-oxygen-starved

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BIOFIN Webinar: Marine Protected Areas (MPA) Finance - The Seychelles case

Explore how different mechanisms can be used to finance Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).

There is a strong economic case for representative, ecologically coherent and well-managed networks of MPAs. According to WWF The economic rate of return in expanding networks of MPAs is as high as 24 % and the benefit-to-cost ratio of expanding MPAs can be as high as 20:1 (WWF, 2015).

Multiple finance mechanisms exist for Marine Protected Areas and some mechanisms can be more adapted in function of the situation. For this reason BIOFIN is starting a series on Marine Protected Area Finance in order to increase the awarness on the diversity of exiting finance mechanisms that can be applied.

As a country that’s 99 percent ocean, Seychelles and its citizens depend on a healthy, thriving marine ecosystem. Jobs in the fishing and tourism industries employ 43 percent of the country's workforce. This reliance on marine resources motivated the government of the Seychelles to develop an ambitious project to protect nearly 410,000 km2, or 30% of Seychelles’ waters, by 2022 (TNC).

At the end of this webinar participants will be able to understand how different mechanisms can be used to finance marine protected area. The webinar will include three phases:

  • Overview of Marine Protected Areas situation in Seychelles (5 min)
  • Presentation on the mix of traditional and innovative finance solutions developed and implemented in Seychelles to finance the Marine Protected Areas (30 min)
  • Presentation of the Debt Swap mechanism in Seychelles (10min)
  • Q&A (30 min)

The webinar is on Wednesday, 31 October 2018, between 9:00 AM - 10:15 AM EDT.

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Plastic in Paradise: why the SDGs matter in the Maldives now more than ever

19 Oct 2018 - Despite the pretty postcards of blue lagoons and white sand beaches it's a country for which many of the SDGs are extremely urgent.

19 Oct 2018 - Once every so often the Maldives makes the international news. With presidential elections taking place this week, it is about that time again.

Mostly, the Maldives is famous for its stunning marine splendor and luxury beach resorts (David Beckham is rumored to visit every year). With 1,190 small islands clustered in 26 atolls over 90,000 square kilometers in the Indian Ocean it is more sea than land.

But besides the politics, there is something else going on in the Maldives. While not immediately obvious to outsiders, despite the pretty postcards of blue lagoons and white sand beaches it is a country for which many of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are extremely urgent.

As you can imagine, with 80% of land lying less than a meter above average sea level, climate change and sea level rise are pressing concerns. Even by conservative estimates of sea-level rise due to global warming, 77% of its land could be lost to the sea by 2100.

However, a more immediate concern is the issue of waste management. Some beaches need to be cleaned daily so they don’t overflow with washed up trash. The United Nations has already warned that plastic waste, particularly in oceans, is becoming a “planetary crisis”. The top six countries mismanaging plastic waste are all in Asia, across the ocean from the Maldives. For the Maldives, heavily reliant on tourism and its ocean resources, it is a growing catastrophe.

Access to public services is another challenge. With high transportation costs and only small numbers of people on islands far apart it is impossible for the government to provide basic services everywhere. But people still need medical care (SDG 3), judicial services (SDG 16), electricity (SDG 7) and trash collection (SDG 11). To allow people from the outer islands to relocate closer to where the services are and accommodate the growing population, the government has built a new island next to its capital island Male. With only seven square kilometers and a third of the population, the capital city is already bursting at the seams.

With support from the local UNDP office, the SDG Unit in the government is taking on the Herculean task of reorienting the country towards a sustainable development path. As with other countries, it is not easy to generate enthusiasm and interest from everyone. Actors focusing on economic issues are particularly hard to convince of the need to take social and environmental concerns into consideration. While per capita national income and the Human Development Index scores have risen, the government is still the largest employer for its citizens and economic growth and jobs are key priorities for many.

Enthusiasm has come from civil society organizations. They recognize the value of the SDGs as a global vision to be adopted and localized for the Maldives. They see a possible avenue for more broad scale adoption through the political parties. One of the Maldives idiosyncrasies is the fact that it does not have a national development plan; instead the country’s direction is set by the political manifesto of the party in power. To influence these, civil society has been working on a People’s Manifesto.

To help to bring people’s voice to the fore, UNDP plans to launch a Maldives MyWorld Survey 2030. The Survey will allow anyone to vote for their priorities among the Sustainable Development Goals and rate progress against the Goals they care about. If enough votes are gathered the MyWorld Survey can function as a powerful tool to keep tabs on what is important to people in the Maldives.

There is so much more to say about the Maldives. Did you know, for example, that among a population of 436,000, there are approximately 59,000 migrant workers, with possibly an additional 140,000 undocumented migrants (SDG 8, 10)? That it has to import over 80% of its goods, including staples like rice (SDG 2)? That almost every local meal includes some form of tuna caught in its own seas (SDG 14)?

Sustainable development is evidently a must for the Maldives. And the country is also clearly dependent upon how the rest of the world performs on the Sustainable Development Goals. This interdependence is one of the reasons that #NextGenUNDP is creating a global as well as national SDG Country Platforms to connect stakeholders, partners and sectors to achieve the SDGs.

But you don’t have to work for UNDP to do your bit for the SDGs. Combating climate change and consuming and producing more responsibly are actions each of us can contribute to. So, next time you take public transport or say no thanks to a plastic straw think about how you are helping countries like the Maldives, near and far.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.asia-pacific.undp.org/content/rbap/en/home/blog/2018/plastic-in-paradise--why-the-sdgs-matter-in-the-maldives-now-mor.html

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Protecting and conserving marine and coastal ecosystems in the Maldives

18 Sept 2018 - The Maldives is host to a globally significant coral reef ecosystem that provides vital services to the citizens and the internationally significant mega fauna such as whale

18 Sept 2018 - The Maldives is host to a globally significant coral reef ecosystem that provides vital services to the citizens and the internationally significant mega fauna such as whale sharks, rays and turtles.

The coral reef ecosystem is the seventh largest in the world with an area of 21,300 km2 and constitutes 3.14% of the world’s coral reefs.

Watch the video to learn more about how we continue our commitment to sustainably use and conserve our oceans.

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BEATING PLASTIC POLLUTION IN PARADISE
16 Sept 2018 - UNDP's Ahmed Shifaz writes about how plastic is drowning the ocean and beaches of Maldives and what we can do about it.

INDIVIDUAL ACTION, COLLECTIVE RESULTS

It’s amazing how accustomed we have gotten to the sight of our beaches covered in plastic trash. It’s as if we have accepted that’s the way things are and will be. In a world that is increasingly drowning in its own waste, some of the statistics around plastic are staggering. And most of it winds up in our oceans. 13 million tonnes of the stuff are thrown into the sea each year. That is equivalent to dumping one garbage truck load into the ocean every minute.

The Maldives imports everything, including plastic. Most often plastic comes into the country as a raw material to cater to Maldivian dependence on PET bottles. It also comes as packaging wrapped around the goods that we buy, and as single-use plastic bags.

And at the end of its use, it simply becomes waste and very little of it (if any) leaves the country. Worse still, they accumulate on our tiny islands. So much so that our islands’ topography now include growing hills made of PET bottles and assorted plastic. Without proper waste management practices most of this ends up in our ocean.

I remember going swimming with my father when I was a child. We’d swim and snorkel around the capital island Male’ and sometimes other islands. The waters around Male’ unlike other islands weren’t necessarily the most pristine, but there was one distinct difference between then and now: The amount of plastic floating around and tangled up on the house reefs.

Today, all of our lagoons and reefs are suffocating. This is posing real threats to marine animals and their ecosystems. Majestic sea animals such as turtles and whale sharks are being caught in discarded fishing nets. Entire reefs lie under ghostly layers of plastic bags. With much of our country made up of the ocean, plastic is an immediate threat to the reefs that sustain our economy and industry. So then the question all of us need to ask ourselves is, is this ok? Are we going to accept this simply as the way things are? The answer must be a resounding NO. We are at a unique point where we are able to recognize the harm that we are causing, as well as have the means to do something about it.

As the problem grows, cities and countries across the world are making bold decisions to ban single-use plastic such as shopping bags, cups and straws. In the Maldives, UNDP supported to build several waste management centers in Laamu Atoll, where communities have been equipped with waste management facilities, including plastic chippers. The aim is to reduce the plastic footprint on the islands, and help prevent things like plastic bottles being thrown into the sea.

Photo: Ashwa Faheem/UNDP Maldives 2017.

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://undpmv.exposure.co/individual-action-collective-results

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When life gives you lionfish: Innovation in fighting invasive species in the Caribbean

13 Sept 2018 - The GEF - Seeing a lionfish while diving in the Caribbean is a cause for mixed emotions.  On the one hand, one marvels at the exquisite beauty of the fishes’ flowery fins an

13 Sept 2018 - The GEF - Seeing a lionfish while diving in the Caribbean is a cause for mixed emotions.  On the one hand, one marvels at the exquisite beauty of the fishes’ flowery fins and its amazing adaptability to a range of habitats, from shallow estuaries with low salinity to deep reef environments. But then you remember that these fish don’t belong in the Caribbean, and that the very versatility noted above makes them an invasive menace. Indeed, if the fish you are looking at is a female, she may be carrying up to 30,000 eggs, and may have thirty or more native fish or crustaceans in her stomach.

One of the many impacts of the Anthropocene era on global biodiversity is the increased spread of invasive species, like the lionfish, due to rapid globalization. With the United Nations Ocean Conference, the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and marine resources is high on the international agenda.  While long recognized as an environmental and biodiversity threat, invasive species also pose a threat to livelihoods, particularly in developing countries where incomes may be heavily dependent upon a single sector or product.

Traditionally, efforts to eradicate or control invasive species have been focused on public sector interventions.  But control efforts are often expensive and are either out of reach, or pose severe strains on limited budgets of developing countries.  Hence there has been growing attention to identification of market-based control approaches which create commercial incentives for removing the invaders, providing a financially sustainable means of control. 

Such approaches were highlighted during a recent GEF Expanded Constituency Workshop (ECW), in Grenada, which brought together GEF partners and stakeholders from sixteen countries from across the Caribbean region.  As a special part of the workshop, participants learned first-hand about innovative initiatives to control invasive lionfish, which are threatening marine ecosystems and livelihoods across the Wider Caribbean. 

Much has been written about the incursion of lionfish, which has been described as the “worst marine invasion ever”. In a nutshell, two species of lionfish, which are native to the Indo-Pacific have invaded marine ecosystems in large areas of the Western Atlantic, particularly the Wider Caribbean. First sighted in the late 1980’s, they have spread throughout the region. They have no natural predators in the Caribbean and are able to reproduce as frequently as every four days with each female producing up to 2 million eggs per year.  Their population densities can reach levels more than 10 times those found in their native range.  They are known to prey on more than 100 species of fish and crustaceans including several that are commercially or ecologically important.

Scientists and marine conservationists agree that the only way to control the lionfish invasion is human intervention - basically removing as many as possible.  Indeed, there is growing evidence that if lionfish populations can be kept at low levels, native fish populations recover rapidly.  But due to the high reproductive rate of lionfish and the dispersal of eggs and larvae via marine currents, removals need to be undertaken regularly. Making the removal programs financially sustainable poses a unique challenge that requires innovative approaches and partnerships, bringing together the public, private, and civil society sectors.  GEF has supported such innovations in several countries.  These have ranged from support to environmental protection and fisheries authorities on incorporation of lionfish control into their marine ecosystem management strategies, to support for development of markets for lionfish products.

The good news is that lionfish are delicious (as attested by participants at the Grenada workshop, who had a chance to sample lionfish kebabs).  As such, the development of a commercial lionfish fishery is seen as the most effective market-focused control strategy.  The bad news is that lionfish can’t be harvested using standard large-scale fishing gear such as nets or lines. They either have to be hand-speared or hand-netted, which is very labor intensive and expensive. So, there is a need to somehow create additional incentives for removals. It is also necessary to create demand, as lionfish aren’t well known to consumers or restaurateurs.  

GEF-supported initiatives in Grenada, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Belize have supported training of fishers on safe handling of lionfish, consumer education, and awareness raising among chefs and restaurants, and GEF Small Grants Program projects in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines include eco-tourism components, enlisting divers to participate in lionfish hunts. 

A particularly innovative initiative, also highlighted in Grenada, is the development of markets for lionfish jewelry.  This jewelry, made from parts of the fish that were otherwise discarded, not only raises landed value per fish creating additional incentive for removals, but also creates new income and empowerment opportunities for women in coastal communities that are negatively impacted by the invasion.  Lionfish jewelry initiatives have been supported directly by GEF Small Grants in Grenada and St. Vincent and Grenadines, and indirectly by a GEF project in Belize, where a vibrant association of lionfish jewelry artists has been established, comprised of women from coastal communities across the country. 

CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://www.thegef.org/blog/when-life-gives-you-lionfish-innovation-fighting-invasive-species-caribbean

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