MeerWissen | Transforming scientific knowledge into policy making: 3 examples that protect Africa’s ocean and coasts

66 scientists, 12 projects, 7 countries – MeerWissen supports cooperation between African and German marine scientists, thus improving the knowledge available to enhance the level of decision-making around the conservation and sustainable use of Africa’s ocean and coasts.

Our ocean is under threat and the deterioration is increasingly posing a danger to people’s lives and livelihoods. Pollution, overfishing and climate change are having a particularly severe impact on 800 million people whose livelihoods depend on fisheries and aquaculture. In order to protect the oceans in the long term, policymakers need a sound basis of knowledge. But in many developing countries the transfer of knowledge between scientists and policy-makers is lacking. Research agendas and the data generated often do not meet the needs of decision-makers. Equally, many developing countries cannot afford to undertake research on the required scale and need more capacity to evaluate data systematically and to draw action able conclusions for knowledge-based decision-making. MeerWissen addresses these challenges and provides policy-makers with the scientific information they need to take profound decisions for the effective management and conservation of the marine environment in 7 African countries.

The MeerWissen initiative responds to the need for a strong knowledge basis and three examples show how knowledge transfer between science and policy is being enhanced.

Fishing for data in East Africa

The “Fishing Data East Africa” (FIDEA) project addresses the challenge of lacking sufficient data and expertise in East Africa by developing a regional framework for the collection, sharing and analysis of fisheries data. The project has successfully linked policy-makers, research institutes with the fishery sector during joint workshops and through the support of local and regional partnerships, such as the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO). FIDEA is seeking to strengthen partnership with the Southwest Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC) and the Nairobi convention secretariat. Linking with FAO enabled the project partners to conduct an extensive review of the fisheries information system in Tanzania, Zanzibar and Mozambique and gave the opportunity for the countries in the Western Indian Ocean Region to review and submit their first report on the progress towards SDG 14.4. Through this process, FIDEA worked closely with the FAO to facilitate communication and coordination at the national level between Research and Management institutions on technical matters relevant to SDG 14.4. Some of the outputs of this collaboration include high-level ministerial meetings in Tanzania and Mozambique, which were held to discuss the review of the fisheries information system and agree on the way forward in changing their current fisheries information system. The upcoming and thus last period will be focusing on anchoring the data infrastructure to sustain a lasting effect and applicability of the research outputs for local decision makers. FiDEA is facilitated by the National Institute of Fisheries Research (IIP), Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute (TAFIRI), Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT) and the Institute of Marine Sciences – University of Dar es Salaam.

Sustainable management of Mauritania’s marine biodiversity

Today, access to existing data is very limited for local stakeholders, the public and even for scientists. The full value of marine ecosystems and their wide-ranging benefits for society are not reflected in decision-making processes, for instance, in Mauretania. The “West African Biodiversity under Pressure” (WASP) project addresses the need for marine biodiversity data for developing long term marine research, communication and outreach strategies. The Institut Mauritanien de Recherche Océanographique et des Pêches (IMROP), Senckenberg Gesellschaft für Naturforschung (SGN) and Nature Mauritanie (NM) collaborate to strengthen national knowledge infrastructure and dialogue platforms for the sustainable management of Mauritania’s marine biodiversity. An inventory of marine species including fish and invertebrates cataloged and kept at IMROP was carried out, accompanied by a photographic collection of reference specimens to establish a national reference collection. WASP develops concepts of marine protected areas (MPA’s) in Mauritania’s special economic zone with a special focus on the role of cold-water coral reefs as essential fish habitats on the continental slope. Face-to-face meetings with Ministers and regular dialogues with national authorities are being planned in order to build strong relationships. The project conducts independent ecosystem-based environmental assessments for the oil and gas sector operating in Mauritania. This whiteboard video underlines the importance of having data to regulate the growing offshore oil and gas sector, with which the project partners are in a lively exchange. A direct cooperation with BP was achieved and upgraded their management to the latest scientific findings into the ecological vulnerability of Mauritania’s marine environment.

Scientific networking platform on ocean governance

The „West Indian Ocean Governance & Exchange Network“ (WIOGEN) is a scientific networking platform and an integrative vision of social learning approaches. WIOGEN focuses on ocean and coastal governance and bridges social and marine sciences in the Western Indian Ocean Region. While the project is hosted by the International Ocean Institute (IOI) and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research (ZMT), WIOGEN is led by the members of the network and follows a bottom up approach. The project hosted several online trainings on the science to policy interface, ocean accounting and stakeholder engagement. Working groups were formed to exchange knowledge and to contribute to meaningful capacity development in the region. A new working group was established by Ken Findlay (Cape Peninsular University of Technology) on Ocean Accounting, that has been introduced to the community during an online webinar. In October 2021, WIOGEN will host an Ocean Governance Conference to support regional science-policy exchange Governance in the Western Indian Ocean. The conference will also focus on „Policy in Practice“ discussing supporting science for the regional ocean governance strategy. On May 18th, in preparation to the Ocean Governance Conference, WIOGEN hosted a policy brief writing training.

3rd MeerWissen Call for Concepts

These aforementioned three partnership projects between African and German marine research institutions are part of a growing portfolio (of currently 12 projects) working at the interface of science and policy. The MeerWissen Secretariat will announce a new open call for proposals this coming autumn focusing on marine nature-based solutions (NbS) in African coastal states.

More information

Source: MeerWissen, African-German Partners for Ocean Knowledge, 07 June 2021