The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region has a rich diversity of marine and coastal ecosystems, from a distinct evolutionary history over 100 million years old. The region has a geographic and marine identity encircled by the east coast of Africa and the mid-ocean banks ringing the southwest Indian Ocean islands and by marine currents south of the equator. The coastal and marine ecosystems of the WIO provide food and income for over 60 million people as well as other goods and services of strategic importance to national economies. Their respective coastal environments are under similar human pressures, as well as emerging threats such as climate change.
There is an increased attention to the climate change impacts and adaptation needs in the region. At national and regional levels, fisheries are under pressure from increased harvesting rates, inequitable markets, and competing uses. These are increasingly being dealt with in complementary ways to promote synergies and complementarities between environment and development strategies in the WIO. Specific activities include the creation and management of resilient marine protected area networks to protect ecosystem services, critical habitats, and priority species. Management measures to maintain fish stocks and environments are being improved to better foster climate-resilient fisheries systems and engage local communities.
Through regional frameworks such as the Nairobi Convention and Indian Ocean Commission, the management of coastal and marine resources has been identified as a common concern for all the island and coastal countries of the WIO. Many initiatives have developed in the region in the last two decades, but have yet to realize full synergies under a unified regional agenda. This workshop will discuss and debate the unifying drivers that could serve as the glue to achieve this and elevate marine conservation and sustainability in the Western Indian Ocean to a new level.