Marine and Coastal news round-up in the Western Indian Ocean Region (29 September 2017)

Date posted: 
Friday, September 29, 2017

New technologies Can Help Preserve Coral Reefs

An article published by Nature Ecology & Evolution outlines a range of new reef restoration and adaptation technologies to help protect reefs around the world in a time of climate change.  One of the technologies it discusses is assisted gene flow which may involve the relocation of corals from warmer to cooler reefs. Another approach involves enhancing the ability of corals to cope with climate change through selective breeding using techniques commonly used in agriculture. Researchers stress that exploring these technologies needs to go hand in hand with continuing and potentially increasing efforts in conventional management.

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Read a related article:  Early signs that bleached coral reefs could recover

Climate Change and Coastal Floods: The Susceptibility of Coastal Areas of Nigeria

The pressures caused by anthropogenic activities such as housing development and road construction, oil and gas exploration, economic development and demographic changes, have partly fuelled several environmental challenges faced in the coastal areas of Nigeria. One of these challenges is the flood events which have recently caused damage of properties and loss of lives in the areas. This study examines and predicts the susceptibility of the coastal region of Nigeria to flood hazard in a changing climate using geo-spatial techniques. Results showed that, areas lying along the banks of Guinea coast are highly susceptible to flood hazards with the degree of susceptibility decreasing towards the North and eastern part of the area. These areas are classified as swamps (water-log) with low water retention which gives rise to high susceptibility of coastal flood hazards. The study discovered that the flood risk map can be used as an effective tool for precautionary measures, early warning systems, and consequently reduce the damages that could be caused by flood events.

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Transboundary research in fisheries

Spatial boundaries have become an indispensable part of regimes and tools for regulating fisheries, with examples including marine protected areas, regional fisheries management organizations and Exclusive Economic Zones. Yet, it is also widely acknowledged that boundaries are a social construct, which may be resisted by both fishers and fish ecology. The ensuing spatial and institutional mismatches have been shown to frustrate management efforts, exacerbating issues of non-compliance and ultimately leading to conflicts and overfishing. Interestingly, the often static and rigid nature of these boundaries has also led to a concomitant research interest in ‘transboundary’. This paradoxical situation of more boundary-setting entailing more transboundary thinking warrants a deeper understanding about boundaries and the role of transboundary research in fisheries. This article provides a conceptual basis for reflecting upon boundaries in world's fisheries and opens up discussions for a more nuanced boundary application that can better cope with multi-level interactions and dynamicity.

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Practical steps toward integrating economic, social and institutional elements in fisheries policy and management

While international agreements and legislation call for incorporation of four pillars of sustainability, the social (including cultural), economic and institutional aspects (the ‘human dimension’) have been relatively neglected to date. Three key impediments have been identified: a relative lack of explicit social, economic and institutional objectives; a general lack of process (frameworks, governance) for routine integration of all four pillars of sustainability; and a bias towards biological considerations. Practical integration requires a ‘systems’ approach with explicit consideration of strategic and operational aspects of management; multidisciplinary or transdisciplinary evaluations; practical objectives for the four pillars of sustainability; appropriate participation; and a governance system that is able to integrate these diverse considerations in management. We challenge all involved in fisheries to immediately take five practical steps toward integrating ecological, economic, social and institutional aspects:

  1. Adopt the perspective of the fishery as a ‘system’ with interacting natural, human and management elements;
  2. Be aware of both strategic and operational aspects of fisheries assessment and management;
  3. Articulate overarching objectives that incorporate all four pillars of sustainability;
  4. Encourage appropriate (and diverse) disciplinary participation in all aspects of research, evaluation and management; and
  5. Encourage development of (or emulate) participatory governance.

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Relationships Between Structural Complexity, Coral Traits, and Reef Fish Assemblages

With the ongoing loss of coral cover and the associated flattening of reef architecture, understanding the links between coral habitat and reef fishes is of critical importance. This research paper investigate whether considering coral traits and functional diversity provides new insights into the relationship between structural complexity and reef fish communities, and whether coral traits and community composition can predict structural complexity. Across 157 sites in Seychelles, Maldives, the Chagos Archipelago, and Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, the research finds that structural complexity and reef zone are the strongest and most consistent predictors of reef fish abundance, biomass, species richness, and trophic structure.

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Refilling The Coral Reef Glass

Coral reefs around the world have suffered from 3 years of coral bleaching, following three decades of record high temperatures. It is now clear that coral reefs cannot survive, unchanged, under climate change. Their final state will depend not only on societal conviction to restore coral health but also on the ability to sustain investments and action that support this commitment. 

For tropical countries, reefs may be the prime national asset for the biggest global economic sector, tourism. These benefits are not formally recognized, so we have been paying only a fraction of the bill for the services that coral reefs provide. It is time to invest in sustaining and restoring reefs as major assets. Adapting financial instruments to support this investment is a vital first step and would signal the transformation in awareness of the value of reefs. In addition, reef protection requires action on an unprecedented scale. Grassroots and large-scale conservation initiatives throughout the tropics are aligning community interests, businesses, and governments to preserve reef health as an asset. These are necessarily long-term efforts, but they are at constant threat from short-term business and political interests.

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Call for expression of interest as authors


As part of the implementation of this initiative, the Nairobi Convention in collaboration with the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) is calling for expressions of interest from experts interested in authoring country chapters on MPA status and baselines. The process will involve 1 or 2 authors’ workshops, and peer-review, and is to be completed by April 2018. The proposed outline for country chapters is available for downloading from the WIOMSA website (

Anyone interested in being an author is requested to submit a copy of their CV by email to, copied to the Outlook editor, Lawrence Sisitka (, on or before 7 October 2017.