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Environment

Here's What Ocean Experts Have to Say About Sustainability

This piece was written by Dr. Krista Singleton-Cambage and Ms. Aya Mizumura of The Nature Conservancy 


Pollution; acidification; sea level rise; erosion; coral reef degradation; over-fishing and over-harvesting. Talk to an expert about the state of our oceans, and it can make for a sobering experience. But, amidst the alarming news are fascinating responses from an inspiring community, as we found out from our friends at The Nature Conservancy as they shared news from the recent International Symposium on Capacity Building for Sustainable Oceans, hosted by the Nippon Foundation & Government of Japan in Tokyo.

With participants from over 40 countries, the Symposium wove a rich tapestry of the successes and challenges facing those charged with creating a real blue economy – protecting the livelihoods of those that depend on the ocean for their survival and protecting the health of our oceans for future generations.  

Meet The Pioneers For Our Oceans

Bangladesh - Citizen Science - Mahmud photo.jpgMuhammad Mahmudur Rahman, The Citizen Science Fishermen Network of Southern Bangladesh

Muhammad Mahmudur Rahman from The Citizen Science Fishermen Network of Southern Bangladesh traveled outside his country for the first time to share with us how GPS technology is allowing fishermen to collect scientific information to fish in a more sustainable way. The technology is welcome because it also provides essential security, used to locate and rescue community members lost at sea in during storms.  

Read More: 1st Pacific Island to Crack Down on Illegal Fishing: Palau!

TRY Womens Assoc - The Gambia - Fatou.jpgFatou Janha Mboob shared the importance of female oyster harvesters to The Gambian Society.

Fatou Janha Mboob from The Gambia introduced us to the TRY Oyster Women’s Association. TRY’s mission is to give a voice to a marginalized population in The Gambian society, the female oyster harvesters, and to aid them in their quest towards sustainable livelihoods. Since its founding in 2007 it has grown from a single community of 40 members to 15 communities of more than 500 members who now have a recognized legal right to make decisions over their natural and financial resources.

What Those Closest to The Oceans Are Telling Us

In western environmental circles, we often pit conservation and social development against each other. To those who we spoke with at the Symposium, this was an artificial distinction. Literacy is a fundamental issue in achieving success. So is having the right pair of glasses for those who can read. Otherwise, datasets, maps, and signs are meaningless. And, as the speakers from Turkey, Madagascar, Peru, and the Coral Triangle forcefully pointed out, it is essential to invest in, and empower, women to get things done and build capacity throughout their communities.  

Read More: 4,000,000 Pounds of Trash Cleared in World’s Largest Beach Cleanup

The power of networks, across the developed and developing world, were reiterated time and time again. The ability to share expertise across islands in Hawaii, nation-states of the Caribbean, and along the west coast of Canada is essential to communities in all of these places staying updated on ecological and economic issues.  While innovation is important, sustaining, supporting, and growing what works is essential to successful capacity building.  

Listening to Bridget Adachi from the Republic of Palau discuss fisheries management in their Northern Reefs, Justin Kenga from the Watamu Marine Association in Kenya talk about waste management and environment protection for local youth, and Tuhiira Tucki Huke from Easter Island discuss their program for youth education and reducing beach pollution, the political leaders and institutional representatives also embraced the messages they were hearing. For those leaders who are working globally, from President Remengesau of Palau, to Chairman Sasakawa of the Nippon Foundation, to Ambassador Olsson of Sweden, and Ambassador Jumeau of Seychelles, and the World Bank and the United Nations who are investing in nature and people, the community leaders provided much to ponder.   

What’s Next For Our Oceans?

Over the rest of this year and looking ahead to 2017, there are meetings on the international policy calendar which will focus on the role of healthy oceans in making the Sustainable Development Goals real. The importance of building and maintaining capacity at the local level is an essential cornerstone of achieving ambitions on a global scale; and global policy processes should be driven by what is needed and what is working for those managing our fisheries, reefs and coasts. The discussions in Tokyo sparked new connections between and among regions and offer valuable insights into the gaps in time and investment to achieve sustainable marine resources and coastal communities.  

As agendas are written around the world, the urging of Budi Setiawan from Kelompok Pudul Lingkungan Belitung (KPLB) Coastal Community Group in Indonesia - to ensure that we actually leave beautiful real resources for our children, and not just beautiful stories of what was once there - is a reminder for us all.  There is much work to be done, and this Symposium in Tokyo brought of experts together from around the world to start a very important dialogue about what it takes to enable communities to build a sustainable future.  


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Founded in 1951, The Nature Conservancy is the world's leading conservation organization. The mission is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends.” The mission of the Nippon Foundation is to “achieve, through social innovation, a society where all people support one another, reducing the burdens and challenges they face together.