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Nairobi Convention COP10 Agrees to New Actions to Protect Critical Habitats, Improve Climate Preparedness in the Western Indian Ocean

Parties to the Nairobi Convention for the Protection, Management, and Development of the Coastal and Marine Environment of the Eastern Africa region (Nairobi Convention) concluded the 10th Conference of Parties (COP10) today (25 November) with new actions on protecting critical habitats like mangroves and combating climate change in the region.

More than 65 million people live within 100 kilometers of the Western Indian Ocean coastline and depend on the food, employment, and recreation it provides – services and resources valued at an estimated 20 billion per year. In addition, the Western Indian Ocean is also home to between 11,000 and 20,000 marine species, many of which can be found nowhere else on earth.

The Nairobi Convention's COP10, hosted by Madagascar, brought together the 10 signatory countries to the treaty from 23 to 25 November – Comoros, Kenya, France, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia, South Africa, and Tanzania – to decide on the direction and strategies for how they will work to collectively and interactively protect, manage and develop the Western Indian Ocean over the next two years.

“The Nairobi Convention has become a critical platform for addressing the degradation of the Western Indian Ocean through actions to improve ocean governance, restore and monitor ecosystems, assess climate change impacts, and more,” noted Susan Gardner, Director of the Ecosystems Division at the UN Environment Programme, host of the Nairobi Convention. “Strong, regional collaboration remains essential to accelerate meaningful action to combat issues like climate change, marine pollution, and biodiversity loss.”

Climate change

Increased carbon dioxide in the air is not just catastrophic for nature on land, it also wreaks havoc on marine and coastal ecosystems. More carbon dioxide causes the ocean to become more acidic, harming organisms – including oysters, clams, sea urchins, corals, among others – that are a vital source of food and jobs for coastal communities around the Western Indian Ocean. Under Decision 9 of COP10, Contracting Parties resolved to develop a Regional Action Plan to monitor, mitigate, and minimize ocean acidification.

Mangroves

Equally important to a healthy Western Indian Ocean are thriving ecosystems, like mangroves, that allow biodiversity, food sources, and employment to flourish. Yet, despite the services supplied by mangroves, such as food, jobs, coastal protection, and carbon sequestration, some areas in the region have lost up to 88% of their mangroves. At COP10, states agreed to develop a Regional Mangrove Action Plan to confront these losses, one that could, for example, outline priority needs for mangrove restoration, channel investments into restoration, and mainstream mangroves into national development planning.

Additional decisions by the COP to protect and manage the Western Indian Ocean include, among others:

  • Increasing oil spill preparedness and response by preparing oil spill sensitivity maps and reviewing National Oil Spill Contingency Plans. These measures, the urgency of which was demonstrated by the 1,000 tonne oil spill in Mauritius in 2020, will help countries to prepare for and rapidly respond to oil spills in the region, protecting the tens of thousands of unique species in the region as well as jobs linked to tourism, fishing, and other sectors;
  • Improving management of marine litter and municipal wastewater treatment by establishing a Regional Task Force on Water Quality. The task force will assist states to prevent the loss of ecosystem services, economic opportunities, and health impacts caused by poorly managed wastewater and marine litter.
  • Developing an Ocean Governance strategy for the region to ensure that marine and coastal ecosystems continue to provide the services that form the foundation of a vibrant and sustainable blue economy.

“These COP decisions will help provide the political will and resources we need to maintain a healthy Western Indian Ocean, an ocean that can continue to be a sustainable, prosperous resource for our future,” said Jacquis Rasoanaina, Focal Point of Madagascar to the Nairobi Convention, whose government was elected as incoming Bureau Chair at COP10.

For a full list of COP10 Decisions, please click here.  

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