Each year the Edinburgh Ocean Leaders (EOL) annual meeting brings together the EOL network for a week of networking, leadership coaching, learning and cohort-building. This year, we were delighted to bring together 27 Ocean Leaders from across the globe, members of our International Advisory Panel and the EOL Team for our 2023 Annual Meeting, which took place in our hometown from March 13th to March 17th.
The meeting began with the introduction of the latest cohort of 2023 Ocean Leaders, marking the first time many of them had met one another. The EOL team and Ocean Leaders headed outside of Edinburgh to the village hall of Tyningham, where following an introductory session of getting to know one another, they explored the local beaches and traditional fishing harbour, learning about the Scottish coast and coastal culture. The first leadership coaching sessions with the EOL executive leadership coach Sandra Morson were held on the following day, marking the start of several coaching sessions that will occur throughout the year for the 2023 Ocean Leaders.
Wednesday saw the addition of the Ocean Leader Fellows from the past three years, as we convened at the Edinburgh Climate Change Institute, our base for the week. The atmosphere was filled with enthusiasm as the Ocean Leaders made new connections and reconnected with old friends, having established strong and supportive professional and personal bonds during their time in the EOL program.
On Thursday, we opened our doors to researchers, organisations, and students from the ocean community in Edinburgh, providing an opportunity to make connections and learn more about EOL. After a brief introduction to the program and interventions from Ocean Leader Fellows Hugo Tagholm and Javiera Calisto, we held a Radical Roundtable session that encouraged honest and open discussions about hot ocean issues such as MPAs, restoration, blue carbon, and fisheries. With 50 attendees from different ocean and non-ocean sectors, the discussion brought together a variety of viewpoints and expertise.
The Edinburgh Ocean Leaders Gala Dinner was held on Thursday evening, with Professor Sir Peter Mathieson, the Principal of University of Edinburgh, in attendance. The evening began with a few words from the Principal about the history of the university and its role in the ocean space and Dr Meriwether Wilson, cofounder and director of EOL. Next, we heard updates on global ocean developments from Ocean Leaders, including Diva Amon on deep-sea mining, Harriet Harden-Davies on the recent High Seas Agreement, Shirley Binder on CITES and the 30 x 30 Marine Protected Area target and Umair Shahid on updates from the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission. Supporters and friends of the EOL program joined us for the dinner, which was catered by the Grassmarket Community Project, a social enterprise supporting vulnerable members of the local community with work-related skills, experience, and training.
Friday, the final day of the 2023 Annual Meeting, brought the group back together for group networking and coaching, as well as time for reflection on what they had gained from the week. One of our final activities was a marine education exercise led by 2020 Ocean Leader Yolanda Sanchez, in which the OLs designed a deep-sea ocean creature. The competitive activity resulted in lots of laughter and a great ending to an inspiring, uplifting, and educational week.