Saturday, 10 June 2017 12:45

Following the money in Western Indian Ocean’s Blue Economy

By Hary Razafindsionana

[Toliary, Madagascar] The total ocean asset base of the Western Indian Ocean is estimated to be $333.8 billion. This “shared wealth” is derived from coral reefs, fisheries, mangroves, carbon arbsoprtion, coastline in terms of tourism and seagrass beds.  

The new study Reviving the Western Indian Ocean Economy led by one of the region’s leading marine biologists Dr David Obura who leads the Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean- East Africa (CORDIO-EA) has found out. According to the report which brings to light the interface of the Blue Economy which remains as the region’s most ignored economic pillar, marine fisheries in the region are estimated to be worth some $135.1bn followed by mangroves whose worth is $42.7bn with seagrass and coral reefs coming in at $20.8bn and $18.1bn respectively. 

The net worth of Western Indian Ocean’s mangroves is estimated to be worth  $42.7bn [Image:IOO Archives]

Carbon absorption in the region is estimated to be worth some $24bn as a productive coastline can rake in some $93.2bn.

In the study conducted by CORDIO-EA partnering with the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the Boston Consulting Group some 10 eastern and southern African coastal and island countries namely Comoros, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Kenya, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa and Tanzania were covered. 

These 10 countries are an enclave of some 30million square kilometre supporting a population of some 60 million people living within 100km of the Indian Ocean shores. 

Maritime lanes activities such as shipping, port activities and mining (oil and gas) were not factored in the report. 

This region specific report follows a 2015 report by the Boston Group, WWF and Australia’s University of Queensland which estimated that the global value of oceans wealth stood at $24 trillion. 

The highly illuminating report further warns that the health of the Blue assets that provide these benefits is in danger. According to the report 35% of the fish stocks assessed in the Western Indian Ocean are fully exploited and 28% are over-exploited. 

The report further breaks down critical data which shows that in the past 25 years, both Tanzania and Kenya lost 18% of their mangroves. It further warns that over 50% of the sharks’ species assessed in the region are considered threatened with 71-100% of the region’s coral reefs are at risk, with the exception of those in the Seychelles. On top of this the report makes a stark warning that if no action is taken the yellowfin tuna stock in the western Indian Ocean will collapse.

Owing to overexploitation through population growth, infrastructure development, overexploitation of marine resources and associated demands, oceanic assets are becoming strained in the region. “Many coastal communities are facing increasing economic hardship from degradation of their resource base, due largely to growing pressures from infrastructure development, extractive industries, population growth and climate change. Coral reefs and mangroves are in decline from the combined impacts of local use and global threats. Important fish stocks are under threat from overfishing and inadequate management. Coastal and urban developments are burgeoning with limited planning guidance. The natural capital of the Western Indian Ocean region is being eroded, undermining the ocean’s value for present and future generations.” The report notes.

“If no action is taken the yellowfin tuna stock in the western Indian Ocean will collapse” [Image: CC-IOO]

The report has come at an opportune moment for the region as they realign their national development plans in line with the UNs Sustainable Development Goal especially SDG14 which candidly states, “to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources”.  The question currently facing policy makers, economic planners and scientists in the region is whether the Indian Ocean can be sustainably harnessed to meet the ever growing demands of these economically ambitious countries

“As our current economic system ignores or externalizes most environmental costs,  the ocean’s benefits are often perceived as provided ‘for free’ and thus frequently taken for granted.” The report warns. “Unless their value is recognized and strong action taken to preserve the natural assets that underpin them, they will diminish rapidly over the decades ahead.”

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