10th – 15th October 2022
South Africa

Endorsed by:

Special Sessions

Photo credit: Simon Pierce

Photo credit: January Ndagala

WIOMSA, the Sustainable Seas Trust and the Nairobi Convention are pleased to invite proposals for special sessions at the 12th WIOMSA Scientific Symposium  to be held in Nelson Mandela Bay, South Africa on the 10-15 October 2022.
9th and 14th October 2022 have been set aside for special sessions convened by projects, programmes and organisations to discuss topical issues that are of global and regional importance. 
Find a brief description of each of the special sessions below:

Sunday 9th October 2022

The Western Indian Ocean region (WIO) is a global biodiversity hotspot and a priority area for conservation. The ecosystems of the region support the livelihoods and food security of people highly dependent on natural resources. Climate threats and human impacts continue to endanger the biodiversity and productive capacity of these ecosystems.

The Youth for Marine Protected Areas comprise a diverse group of South African marine enthusiasts, with a common goal – to advocate for the expansion of Marine Protected Areas in both South Africa and more broadly Africa. Since 2018, this youth network has been actively involved in efforts to expand marine protection in the South African Exclusive Economic Zone and played an instrumental role alongside other stakeholders  in increasing South Africa’s MPA coverage from 0.4% to 5.4%.

The understanding of the processes that explain the natural variations in fish stocks replenishment is a prerequisite for the implementation of resource management plans adapted to the biology of the species. Successful recruitment to a fish population depends primarily on processes that occur during the early life stages.

Globally, marine recreational fisheries (MRF) are being increasingly acknowledged to contribute significantly to overfishing, resulting (in some instances) in conflict with other sectors using shared fisheries resources. However, MRF attracts large amounts of fishing and tourism related spending to WIO countries, and they have been shown as an important source of food security during economic down turns. Marine Recreational Fishing is a broad term encompassing many different user groups with a vast array of motivations for participation. 


The interuniversity Master of Science in Marine and Lacustrine Science and Management (in short ‘Oceans & Lakes’ ) at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), University Ghent (UGent) and University Antwerpen (UAntwerpen) in Belgium and its root programmes FAME, MARELAC and ECOMAMA have created nuclei of graduates (alumni) over 3 decades.

This project builds on the current 12-month science to policy education and action research project led by Macquarie University (2021-22) and is positioned as part of a three phase 5-year program.

 Global demand for wildlife derived products, drives unregulated and exploitative fishing and poaching practices, posing significant threats to survival of species. CITES listed wildlife species are still being traded internationally, because they are disguised as non-regulated species and the infrastructure to detect trade of protected species at the national and international level is lacking. These issues are especially rampant in countries and regions with limited infrastructure and capacity to monitor fisheries, and biodiversity at land and sea. 

Friday 14th October 2022

WIOMSA, the Nairobi Convention, UNEA and UNEP and many institutions and organizations within the WIO region have published concerns about the current realities and growing threats of plastic pollution on land and its leakage into the seas. The consequences for human and environmental health, for local, national and regional economies, and the need for evolving appropriate policies and legislation are all part of both a burgeoning set of publications and ever increasing calls for action. 

Open and reproducible science becomes a key issue for all researchers. In particular, access to literature, along with related data and code is critical to foster research by ensuring that research objects won’t be lost beyond the lifetime of research projects. This is particularly true for the marine domain and open ocean where data are rare and hard to collect.

Blue Ventures has helped setting up an independent Observatory to promote sustainable artisanal fisheries and to help the government tackle IUU fishing in the EEZ of Madagascar, with three years of funding from Oceans 5 Foundation. Basically, the observatory is an informative monitoring tool that allows for real-time tracking of potential IUU fishing activities in the EEZ of Madagascar and in the Indian Ocean region.

In recent years, bottom trawling – the practice of dragging weighted nets and chains across the seabed to catch fish – has come under increasing scrutiny due to its social, economic and environmental impacts. A growing body of evidence shows that bottom trawling is contributing to the degradation of our oceans, undermining critical coastal fisheries, exacerbating conflict, and contributing to the climate crisis.

The key to successful community-based management of marine resources is ensuring effective engagement of local people from the beginning of the project; and ensuring that the initiatives are sustainable when NGO partners start phasing out and reducing their support.

Capacity building for local communities is a priority for all NGOs working on the frontlines of marine resources and fisheries management and conservation. It requires long-term funding to ensure effectiveness of training over time. There is also a need to show evidence of the impact of capacity building and organisational strengthening conducted by NGOs.

In recent years Co-design has been widely accepted as key element for transdisciplinary and transformative research. Effective science-policy transfer and knowledge-based decision-making benefit from solution-oriented research objectives, tailor-made approaches, and the shared ownership of research findings by a range of stakeholders, including scientists, decision makers and local communities.

The Western Indian Ocean- Early Career Scientists Network (WIO-ECSN) was established during the 10th Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) Symposium held in Dar es Salam, Tanzania from 31st October to 2nd November 2017. The main goal of the WIO-ECSN is to communicate research priorities from early-career scientists to the scientists of the WIO region and to provide a platform for facilitating interdisciplinary and regional research collaborations.

The special session will:

  • highlight the role of knowledge sharing through storytelling to facilitate the co-design of ocean science for sustainable development in the WIO, focusing on working with early-career ocean researchers to increase participation in both storytelling and ocean science.
  • offer a participatory approach and provide a platform for an open dialogue on how early-career scientists can share knowledge gained through research and contribute to the sustainable development and conservation of the WIO.

While the importance of marine and coastal ecosystems is increasingly recognised, EbA has still not developed the necessary political traction and is yet to be fully integrated across all sectors of government.

The Nairobi Convention Secretariat (NCS) and the Western Indian Ocean Regional Ocean Governance Task Force (ROGS TF), the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), GIZ (Western Indian Ocean Governance Initiative Project) and the Collective Leadership Institute (CLI) propose to organize a Special Session on Ocean Governance in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region to be held on 14th October 2022 at the 12th WIOMSA Symposium in South Africa.

The Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) was launched in 1997 with the broad objective to promote the sustained growth and balanced development of the Region.

Global growth in ocean resource uses and associated ocean or blue economies are being driven by the resource needs of growing human populations. Such growth also increases pressures on ocean environments and associated communities.

In the last decade human ocean use has changed, putting additional pressure on many areas of the ocean-based resources posing significant threat to social economic benefits. Traditional uses, such as marine transportation, sand and gravel mining, and marine recreation have continued to grow in importance and scale.

The WIO region hosts five species of marine turtles: Green turtle (Chelonia mydas), Hawksbill (Eretmochelys imbricata), Leatherback (Dermochelys coriacea), Loggerhead (Caretta caretta) and Olive Ridley (Lepidochelys olivacea), and multiple life stages (reproductive (mature adults and eggs), hatchlings, juveniles, sub-adults and adults). Marine turtles are highly migratory and move across multiple national jurisdictions during their different life history stages. 

Seabirds foraging at sea deliver and concentrate large quantities of nutrients onto the islands on which they roost and breed through guano, feathers, and dead birds. These seabird-derived nutrient subsidies can bolster plant and invertebrate biomass on islands, and leach into nearshore marine environments to enhance fish biomass and functions. However, introduced rats and other introduced pests have decimated seabird populations across 90% of the world’s island archipelagos.

Historical information suggests that dugongs (Dugong dugon) were once widely distributed throughout most of the Western Indian Ocean, ranging from southern Somalia to southern Mozambique as well as many of the Indian Ocean islands, in relative abundance. Today, dugongs are listed by the IUCN as Vulnerable to extinction globally, and a recent assessment identifying the East African coastal subpopulation as critically endangered is being submitted to the IUCN Red List in 2022.

Mangrove forests occurring in the countries of the WIO region face common conservation challenges, but under different governance frameworks and regimes. Accordingly, the WIO Mangrove Network was established in 2011 as a regional platform to guide and manage sharing of experiences, lessons and expertise on management and conservation of mangroves in the region, to secure their future. 

The IndoCet Consortium is a regional network of researchers and organizations striving to increase the knowledge and protection of cetaceans in the south-western Indian Ocean (SWIO). Initiated in 2014, the network now comprised 37 members, who are actively involved in cetacean research in seven countries of the region (Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, South-Africa, Madagascar, Reunion/Mayotte, Mauritius) and ten associate members.

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region is one of the world’s most species-rich areas for seagrass. Seagrass meadows form remarkable and diverse habitats that provide a wide range of ecosystem services. They also provide food for large marine mammals such as dugong and resources for local fisherman. Seagrass meadows are declining in many areas of the world, including the Western Indian Ocean due to human activities such as coastal development, fishing activities, pollution and eutrophication.

The Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is recognized globally for its unique biological richness, natural beauty and high ecological and socio-economic value. The WIO region’s coastal habitats, which include coastal forests, sand dunes, beaches, rocky shores, mangroves, seagrass beds and coral reefs, support rich and complex populations of marine species that rely on the integrity of the various ecosystems for their productivity.

There is growing recognition of the benefits of locally-led marine/coastal management initiatives (often referred to under the acronym LMMAs) crafted to fit the needs of local people and biodiversity. They can provide an equitable, inclusive and sustainable mechanism for designation and/or implementation of conservation management, and play a key role in achieving key national and international policy aims.

Historically, fisheries data has been collected in many tropical countries using a manual paper-based system, where data collectors and scientists in designated landing sites or on board commercial or research vessels manually enter data into pre-designed or free forms which are then hand entered into computers for processing and analysis.

The international calls (i.e., SDGs, CBD) for the establishment and effective management of marine protected areas (MPAs) strongly encourage governments to scale up their marine conservation efforts to urgently address biodiversity loss, resource exploitation, and to mitigate and adapt to climate change impacts.

Developing countries urgently need to address the Sustainable Development Goals of alleviating poverty and creating jobs. Coastal nations, such as those in the Western Indian Ocean, have opportunities to strengthen their ocean economies by diversifying and intensifying activities in the sea; however, this cannot come at the expense of their rich coastal and marine biodiversity on which the livelihoods of so many depend.

The Ocean Decade offers the ocean community a once in a lifetime opportunity to join efforts, mobilize resources, create innovative partnerships, and engage governments in moving towards the Ocean We Need for the Future We Want. Building on the several decades of international cooperation in ocean research and observations, as well as the policy-relevant goals defined by the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and other ocean frameworks, the Decade aims to catalyse action to achieve high level scientific and technological breakthroughs.

 Coral reef ecosystems play an important role for the marine environment and local people who depend on them for their sustenance. Amongst the many ecosystem services provided, such as provision of habitats for a diverse number of marine organisms, reefs support the local economies of coastal communities globally (Edwards and Gomez 2007). Degradation of coral reefs worldwide is threatening the delivery of these services, consequently impacting the livelihoods of coastal communities (Edwards and Gomez 2007; Goergen et al 2020).

Mesophotic (>30m) and deep sea (>200m) habitats, hereafter termed deep waters, comprise >95% of habitable space on the planet. Although less known than shallow-water systems, deep waters are also important for the well-being and prosperity of the global population. They provide ecosystem services which vary from supporting the regulation of the climate, to provision of protein for humans and a source of wonder and inspiration. Despite being remote, deep-water habitats are impacted by the consequences of human activities.