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Seychelles, an island nation 1,500 kilometers of the east coast of Africa, is known as the “Blue Economy Brand”. With an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.4 million sq.km, Seychelles has developed the National Blue Economy Roadmap that focuses on goals such as economic diversification, the creation of high-value jobs, ensuring food security & managing and protecting the marine environment in a sustainable and responsible manner.
Innovative strategic economic mechanisms like a debt swap deal between the Government of Seychelles and the Paris Club creditors have contributed towards financing Blue Economy initiatives. As part of the USD 30 million debt buyback, the Seychelles government expanded Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) to cover 30 percent of the EEZ.
Seychelles has explored the idea of using green bonds to finance national projects in sectors like aquaculture (Bodere, 2015).
Madagascar, another island nation off the coast of Africa, has been focusing on building sustainable management systems by partnering with local fishing communities. Fishermen living in the southwest of Madagascar are some of the poorest coastal people in the world. Octopus fishing is the only source of income and it directly impacts the livelihood of 80,000 actors throughout the entire value chain. These fishermen must fish every day to provide for their families.
In 2004, Vezo fishers closed off part of their fishing octopus fishing grounds to all fishing. Upon re-opening, they discovered a massive increase in the size of their catch. This prompted a spree of closures with 250 temporary closures, spanning two to seven months, across 450 km of coastline.
Inspired by the success of short-term closures, these fishing communities established MPAs or Locally-Managed Marine Areas (LMMAs). The LMMAs are under the management of communities who divide these areas into different zones. Some of these zones are set aside for temporary closures while others allow communities to pursue fishing on a regular basis. Key habitat areas are permanently protected from any fishing or extraction.
60,000 people are now directly involved in the network of LMMAs. The success of LMMAs has driven the Government of Madagascar’s Sydney Vision which aims to build a greater network of community-managed MPAs and expand the area of protected marine habitats (Cripps, 2015 ).
Bangladesh’s export sector is expected to surpass $50 billion by 2021. With inadequate marine infrastructure and the economy’s lifeline, Chittagong port about to exceed capacity by 2018, there is an immediate need for a deep sea port, not only to facilitate the burgeoning trade of the country but also be a key player in the most important shipping channel in the world. While neighboring countries like Pakistan and Sri Lanka have managed to build deep sea-ports with the assistance of China, Bangladesh is yet to start work on its own. Neighbors Myanmar are also planning to build a US$7.3bn deep-sea port with assistance from China. While Bangladesh has agreed on a deep sea-port with Japan in Matarbari, the project is still a few years away. Bangladesh should act fast in building a deep sea-port or run the risk of losing its attractiveness to Myanmar.
Myanmar has already discovered gas within its maritime boundary, adjacent to one of Bangladesh’s offshore blocks. While neighboring countries have ramped up exploration efforts, there has been no offshore drilling initiatives taken in the last seven years. Gas reserves on land stand at 13 trillion cubic feet which would run out within 10 to 12 years with very little chance of discovering new gas fields. Bangladesh must begin offshoring exploration efforts within its maritime boundary to support its growing demand for gas.
Out of a total 8 million tons of fish available in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh manages to catch only 0.70 million tons every year. Due to lack of facilities, fish trawlers fail to travel more than 100 km from the coast, although fish can be caught up to 650 km from the coast (Tribune, 2018). This results in countries like India, Myanmar, and Thailand benefitting more from the resources available in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh should invest heavily in improving its existing infrastructure, encouraging the use of modern fishing trawlers and designating MPAs to promote sustainable fishing practices.
Potential partners: Island nations such as Seychelles, Madagascar.
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