29/11/2021 | The WIOGEN Ocean Governance Virtual Conference aimed to bring together leading academic scientists, researchers and policy makers to exchange their experiences and results on all aspects of Ocean Governance in the Western Indian Ocean. Apart from presenting state of the art and research findings it also provided an interdisciplinary network platform for researchers, practitioners and educators to meaningfully discuss the most recent innovations, trends, and solutions for a future sustainable use and governance of marine resources under various themes, ranging from Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture to Co-Design, transdisciplinary research, and stakeholder engagement.

More than 300 people registered for this three day virtual event that included more than 50 presentations of a truly transdisciplinary nature. The three-day event (27-29 October, 2021) was hosted by the Western Indian Ocean Governance Exchange Network (WIOGEN) and  jointly organised by ZMT and the International Ocean Institute (IOI) South Africa.

Here we reflect on the conference:

WIOGEN Opening remarks WIOMSA

The first day started with Jacqueline Uku welcoming everyone on behalf of WIOMSA (one of the WIOGEN partners). She challenged the audience to give a voice to the ocean "because it cannot speak for itself". The Western Indian Ocean region had an opportunity to capitalize on the global prioritisation of ocean science in the UN Ocean Science Decade, she said

Dixon Waruinge welcomed participants on behalf of the Nairobi Convention. He highlighted how complex a subject ocean governance is, which could be challenged by working together in a transdisciplinary, collaborative way.

The first day was intensive, but inspiring, with parallel sessions that covered Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture; Biodiversity, Conservation, Habitat loss and Pollution; Legal and Institutional Analysis.

Angelique Pouponneau, the first keynote speaker of the day, joined from Glasgow where she was preparing for COP26. In her keynote she stressed the importance of stepping out of our comfort zones and working across silos for integrative ocean management. This is one of the key motivations behind the WIOGEN network. Anna-Katharina Hornidge, the motivation and instigator of WIOGEN, held the second keynote of the day, speaking on science for the future and covering topics from inequality, COVID19 and, of course, ocean governance.

The WIOGEN Ocean Governance Conference continued on 28 October with Alexandra van Hoek of MeerWissen welcoming the participants to the middle day of the conference. There is a new call for funding, so if you have a project in mind, contact them to find out more: https://meerwissen.org/3rd-call-for-proposals

Rashid Sumaila joined in from Canada to inspire and challenge the audience to consider the value of our oceans, the threats they face and how to think about fish as an infinite resource – and treat it accordingly! His new book is available and we consider it highly recommended reading! After all, “if we take care of this wonderful ocean, we will be able to have fish to infinity … the resource will also then take care of us.” https://www.sciencedirect.com/book/9780128238165/infinity-fish

WIOGEN Closing Address Paubert

After parallel sessions which covered a diverse range of topics from deep sea research, co-design and transdisciplinary research, to Sustainable Development Goals and Marine Spatial Planning and Ocean Accounting, the 2nd day of the conference was closed off with a recording from one of the key members of WIOGEN, working group lead Paubert Mahatante, who is a shining example of moving from science to policy, having recently been appointed Minister of Fisheries and the Blue Economy in Madagascar.

The third day of the WIOGEN Ocean Governance was devoted to a special session in collaboration with the Nairobi Convention Secretariat and their partners. This conference session formed part of the pathway to the development of the ocean governance strategy for the WIO region. The day started with a keynote from Kieran Kelleher on The Role of Science in Regional Ocean Governance.

The Western Indian Ocean Governance Exchange Network (WIOGEN) strives to be as inclusive and supportive of all scientists, policy makers and decision makers in the region, and this conference is just one of the ways the network is doing this. WIOGEN has been working with Early Career Scientists to develop their research outputs and runs trainings on stakeholder engagement, policy brief writing, social media for scientists, MSP. A special edition of the WIOMSA Western Indian Ocean Journal of Marine Science will be an outcome of this conference.

Recordings of the keynotes and various sessions are shared on the WIOGEN YouTube Channel. 

Find out more about the conference and network here: wiogen.org