The Monaco Blue Initiative (MBI) is a unique platform that brings together major players in ocean conservation and governance in annual debates to explore solutions for the global challenges facing the ocean.
MBI is co-convened by the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation, a foundational partner in the establishment of Edinburgh Ocean Leaders (EOL). Since the creation of EOL in 2020, MBI organisers have drawn on the expertise of the ocean professionals in the EOL leadership programme as panellists for the event.
For the 14th MBI on the 20th March 2023, three Ocean Leaders were selected based on their knowledge and experience around the three themed sessions.
Session 1: Sustainable Fisheries: Reconciling Conservation and Exploitation in the Next Decade and Beyond
In this session, panelists focused on the reason behind overfishing and the impacts of bottom trawling.
Stephen Kankam, 2022 Ocean Leader and co-founder of Hen Mpoano (Our Coast) in Ghana, presented an example of how overfishing affects the food security of local communities. He emphasised that the absence of political determination, effective governance, and enforcement are all factors that lead to overfishing. Stephen urged for increased resources, capacity development, data gathering, and transparency to combat the problem.
Panelists discussed the harmful effects of bottom trawling, such as seabed damage and carbon emissions, as well as the influence of lobbies and corruption. The panelists identified non-compliance, lack of regulation, accountability, and transparency as challenges. They concluded that solutions to this complex issue are not simple.
Session 2: Highly Protected Marine Protected Areas (MPAs): What is at Stake and the Vision for 2030
Discussion in this session was around financing, spill-over benefits of MPAs and involving local communities in MPA creation and implementation.
Shirley Binder, 2021 Ocean Leader and Senior Ministerial Advisor, Ministry of Environment, Panama emphasised the significance of financial resources for successful implementation of MPAs. On involving local communities, she said, “we need not necessarily convince them, but rather work with them,” and they will often even ask for MPAs to be expanded. Panelists proposed other ways to engage local communities, including establishing aquaculture businesses, managing invasive species, and handling waste. They highlighted the harmful effects of bottom trawling and emphasised the importance of moving towards a ban.
Session 3: The Role of Marine Ecosystem Restoration in Achieving the SDGs
This panel discussion focused on potential benefits, financing and success stories of restoring of marine ecosystems.
Peter Manyara, a 2022 Ocean Leader and Regional Program Manager at IUCN Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Office, highlighted the significance of mangrove ecosystems in southeastern Africa to local communities and their economies. Manyara brought attention to recent Cyclone Freddy, one of the most extended tropical cyclones on record, and the aftermath of its devastation to communities and the potential of mangroves to act as a barrier to future storms. He also mentioned key threats to mangroves, such as overexploitation for fuel and furniture. He highlighted the opportunity for large scale mangrove restoration in East Africa, but the need to jump from very small sized proofs of concept to the 40,000 hectare potential. He discussed the Great Blue Wall as an initiative to help with finance and political coordination.