Stakeholders are betting on technology in efforts to realise the potential of the blue economy, noting that the world should find ways to tap the tech-savvy youth to come up with solutions to spur the sector.
Jacqueline Uku of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) said that innovation in aquaculture could prove critical in saving marine life and boosting the livelihoods of communities living near oceans, seas, lakes and rivers.
“We need to tap the talent of the youth who can create digital tools and software to make marine management easy,” she said.
Speaking during a High-Level Side Event on blue economy at the culmination of the commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) in Gigiri, Nairobi, Dr Uku and other environmentalists asked countries to take the lead in pioneering innovative ways to ensure sustainable utilisation of the blue economy
Dr Jan Robinson, a government public sector representative from Seychelles narrated how his country laid out a blue economy strategy in 2014, banking on innovation.
“Despite the challenges occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic and the global geopolitical squabbles, innovation remains very important in sustaining the blue economy,” he said.
He urged governments to use technology to monitor fish migratory patterns and boost sustainable fishing.
Dean at the Faculty of Science and Technology at the University of Nairobi Prof Francis Mulaa demonstrated how Chiromo Tech, an aquaculture startup founded by the varsity is using technology to conserve marine ecosystems.
“We are focused with scoping, design, financing, building, operating and transferring of complete value chains locally and regionally,” he said.
The startup uses Big Data analytics and machine learning in its fish farm innovations to grow fingerlings, dispense feed, control fishing volumes, monitor fish health, check water quality, assess delivery grades and project business profitability.
Dr Uku said WIOMSA has created a science policy platform which links scientists and policy makers to inform decisions relating to the management of human activities affecting Kenya’s coastal marine environment.
Shipping and Maritime PS Nancy Karigithu emphasized on the need for world governments to decarbonise the blue economy.
“Reducing carbon emissions from the shipping industry and creating capacity in developing green energy projects will help protect marine zones,” she said.
Kenya hosts Africa's maritime technology centre at Jomo Kenyatta University of Science and Technology and according to Ms Karigithu, it helps prevent pollution from ships, works with port authorities and shipping stakeholders to ensure compliance with international requirements for a clean blue economy.
“It raises awareness on climate change, conducts pilot projects on ship fuel consumption and disseminates academic research to help achieve the Paris Agreement.”
Underscoring the urgency for governments to see science through a global lens, Executive Secretary of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) of UNESCO Dr Vladimir Ryabinin revealed that the global ocean economy is worth Sh280 trillion.
“While investments in sustaining global oceans have hit Sh110 trillion, with Sh30 million being set aside for coordinating ocean observations, only 1.7 per cent of total funds spent on science goes to marine research,” he disclosed.
He called for the use of data science in sustainable ocean planning, saying it could go a long way in reducing ocean salinity and regulating the ever rising temperatures and sea levels.
Globally, only 16 countries are creating standards on sustainable ways of managing marine environments with most blue economy projects being initiated in developed countries.
“We also need to see developing countries coming up with initiatives. Only Kenya, Ghana and Namibia are keen on the blue economy in Africa,” said Dr Vladimir.
Chief Administrative Secretary in the Ministry of Education Sarah Ruto hinted that the government will be considering creating courses for marine technology studies in universities.