Burning issues

This is the section on the DLIST site where emerging or ‘hot’ issues related to coastal and marine resources are summarized to give a brief introduction and links to further information about the issue. If you are looking for more information about a particular topic or want to know more about the ‘hot’ issues in the region, then this will be an interesting section for you. You can also contribute by suggesting new topics and responding on discussions in conjunction with these burning issues. You can even create your own ‘burning issue’ feature by contacting the DLIST admin team.

Illegal logging in Madagascar

The dramatic increase in illegal logging of ebony and endemic rosewood trees in the protected rainforests of Madagascar has been ascribed to the political turmoil in the country. Discussion on DLIST-Benguela has raised the question of whether the logging could have been kept under control if local communities had a greater stake in protecting the forests. In this Burning Issue, we look at what is happening and ask the DLIST community to consider what can be done to help Madagascans who are trying to save these precious remnants.

1. Madagascar’s rainforests – an irreplaceable treasure – are disappearing

Madagascar, the fourth largest island in the world, is often referred to as the seventh continent and home of a ‘magnificent menagerie’. The island was formed when it separated from other land masses about 150 to 180 million years ago, and supports many species that are found nowhere else in the world (such as lemurs).

The entire eastern side of Madagascar receives exceptionally high rainfall (up to 6000 mm per year in some places), and used to be covered with dense rainforest but, due to slash-and-burn agricultural practices and the use of wood as fuel, only about 10% of the original forest cover remains.

Besides being a home to a ‘magnificent menagerie’, the forests are a valuable asset to the local people, not only for the resources and ecosystem services that they provide but also, as attractions to bring tourists into these remote areas. Tourism is a potential source of cash income for local people employed as guides or porters and through the sale of food and handmade goods.

The loss of forest habitats means that the animals and insects that live in the forests are also disappearing. Conservation International has listed Madagascar as one of the world’s biodiversity “hotspots” due to the combination of high levels of biological diversity and the real possibility that, if nothing is done to stop deforestation, many of these species may very soon become extinct.

Masoala Peninsula is one of the few places in the world where rainforests and coral reefs exist side by side. Slash and burn practices in the interior lead to erosion, and the soil that is carried in the rivers down to the sea settles on the reefs, smothering them and causing further loss of biodiversity and impacting negatively on the marine resources that sustain coastal communities.

2. What is being done to save the forests?

The former president of Madagascar was hailed for his plan to increase the extent of protected areas on the island from 3% to 10%. Since this announcement in 2003, new areas that were added included extensive corridors within the rainforest area and some wetlands. The parks were seen as a national asset to be managed by the national government organisation, ANGAP (now referred to as SAPM, System of Protected Areas of Madagascar). In an effort to ensure that local communities benefitted from the parks, 50% of the visitor entrance fees collected by ANGAP were earmarked for development projects in local villages, and visitors to the parks had to hire a local guide. Some guides attended training courses in conservation in Reunion, sponsored by ANGAP.

Marojejy National Park was previously a scientific reserve and only opened to tourists in 1998. Thanks to the efforts of local people and volunteer conservation workers, an accountable park management staff was finally installed and by 2006 small groups of ecotourists were beginning to visit and a healthy industry was building up around this.

However, during the period March to May 2009, the Park was closed to visitors due to lawlessness in the region and the presence of armed gangs illegally removing rosewood trees from the forest. The closure had huge implications for the people in the area that had come to rely on tourism for their livelihoods.

3. Logging activity, the timber ‘mafia’ and its impacts

Reports on the internet reveal ongoing ‘cat-and-mouse’ actions by authorities and hardwood exporters in Madagascar. Logs of rosewood and other hardwoods are hidden, sometimes even buried, until a change in the law or a political crisis provides an opportunity to cash in. The change in government in March 2009 and ensuing political instability created a governance vacuum and opportunists are taking full advantage. The local rosewood traders who supply markets in China are said to be based in Antalaha, a coastal town approximately halfway between Marojejy and the Masoala Peninsula and are referred to locally as the “mafia”.

Normal boat trade along the north-east coast has been disrupted because all available boats are being commandeered by the timber traders. They employ bands of men who are armed and use intimidation tactics. There are reports on the internet that villagers have been threatened with beheading and that a park ranger based in Mananara had both his feet broken.

The areas hardest hit by illegal logging are the lowland rainforest on the Masoala Peninsula, and the montane rainforest and cloudforest at Marojejy. Not only has the logging disrupted tourism activity and caused economic hardship for those who depend on tourism, it has also had an impact on the wildlife: habitats have been disturbed and masses of birds and lemurs have been killed for eating or for sale at local markets.

The social impacts of the threats and intimidation are significant. Anyone who has been to the area will know how wonderfully gentle and peace-loving are the people of this region. Now they are living in fear and communities are divided, with some cashing in on the opportunity to earn a bit of money by working for the log traders, but it is hard and dangerous work and they earn only a little.

It is quite clear that the region’s riches are being plundered, and it is not the local people who are benefitting from it.

4. What can be done?

Many international organisations that normally provide conservation aid to Madagascar suspended their support after the government takeover in March 2009. Some internet reports have implied that there is complicity between government and the people who are profiting from the illegal logging. International conservation organisations have alleged that national government has used the opportunity to fill its own coffers.

Illegal logging apparently ceased in Marojejy after the authorities in the Sava Region introduced supplementary taxes on all forestry products. However, this has resulted in the timber traders moving all their efforts to Masoala where, according to Internet reports, there is no police presence and no political will to put a stop to the illegal activity.

WildMadagascar.org suggests that the international community can help by lobbying for the resumption of aid to conservation agencies working in the affected areas and by supporting local NGOs like Fanamby. They suggest local advocacy through letters to the press and calls to the radio to demand that government take action to stop the illegal logging.

What can be done? Are there effective ways of supporting communities surrounding the parks that are being targetted by illegal timber traders? Should international conservation agencies resume their aid programmes?

5. More information – web-links, library resources

Association Mitsinjo, a Malagasy NGO located in Andasibe. Amongst other activities, they have nurseries where they grow over 100 endemic tree species and can produce more than 100,000 seedlings per year. http://mitsinjo.googlepages.com/home

Butler, R. Destruction worsens in Madagascar. WildMadagascar.org, August 20, 2009 http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0820-madagascar.html

Conservation International. Makira Forest Initiative, Madagascar. http://www.conservation.org/learn/forests/Pages/project_makira.aspx

Global Witness and EIA. 2009. Investigation into illegal felling, transport and export of precious wood in SAVA Region, Madagascar. http://www.dlist-asclme.org/document-library

Hance, Jeremy. International community calls for action against gangs’ illegal logging in Madagascar. Mongabay.com, June 08, 2009. http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0608-hance_madagascar.html

Kara Moses and Derek Schuurman, Forest Recovery Programs in Madagascar. Wildmadagascar.org, June 01, 2009. http://news.mongabay.com/2009/0601-moses_schiirman_madagascar.html

Marojejy National Park, an independent website owned by local people not affiliated to ANGAP/SAPM. http://www.marojejy.com/Intro_e.htm

Wildlife Conservation Society. Save Madagascar. http://e.wcs.org/site/PageNavigator/WC_camp_madagascar

WildMadagascar.org / Mongabay.com seeks to raise interest in and appreciation of wild lands and wildlife, while examining the impact of emerging trends in climate, technology, economics, and finance on conservation and development. http://www.mongabay.com/about.htm

WWF. Madagascar accused of profiting from illegal timber. 05-Oct-2009. http://www.panda.org/who_we_are/wwf_offices/madagascar/?175761/Madagasca...

Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach: Sustaining the Last Public Beach Along the Kenyan Coast

Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach (JKPB) is located in Mombasa, in the Bamburi area. This is the only remaining stretch of beach in Mombasa that is not under private management and where the shoreline is not blocked by private hotels as is the case along most of the beach in Mombasa, this is why it is referred to as a “public beach”. The beach attracts many local and international tourists and is always buzzing with activity. Due to increased activity, the beach is currently under pressure from overcrowding and pollution from various sources. As such, timely intervention is needed to ensure that the beach and the ocean continue to serve both their ecological and social functions without losing their value in the long run.

1. Tragedy of the Commons

The Jomo Kenyatta Public Beach in Kenya is like any other public resources, it is currently facing the dilemma of the Tragedy of the Commons. Everyone is entitled to use it but no one is charged with the responsibility of conserving it. The situation is that the tourist numbers have increased rapidly with the promotion of local tourism along with an increase in local population. The growth of tourism activities in turn puts a lot of pressure on the beach’s natural ecosystem. The public beach has turned into a mini economic hub and the marine and coastal resources are under threat as most of the economic activities rely on the marine environment.

2. An Uncertain Future

The coast line of Kenya is famous for its glorious weather, attractive white sandy beaches, wide range of activities on offer and a variety of sites of special interest. The beaches along the coast are a daily crowd puller for both local and foreign tourists on holiday who enjoy the attractions offered as well as swimming and sun bathing. Apart from swimming and basking, the beach visitors also enjoy a wide range of water sports such as snorkelling, wind surfing, sailing, scuba diving, glass bottom boat trip to the reef and deep-sea fishing. Camel- and horse riding has also become a major attraction along the beaches.

Over the years, the public beach area has shrunk, being pressured on all sides by private developers. The developments and the unregulated beach activities have increased pollution of the waters and the beach with untreated effluent and plastic waste from the establishments finding its way to the beach and the ocean. The fishermen are complaining that they now have to go further to get any fish due to high pollution levels and less productive ecosystems.

Tourism in the area is also under threat as private developers grab every inch of prime beach front property where they build holiday villas. In the process, they are fencing off areas along the beach that were once public access areas, limiting the extent of these popular areas for day visitors from town. This fast and sometimes unregulated development puts increased stress on the remaining resources both for tourism, recreational and other means of resources.

To the local youth, who have managed to secure income generating activities at the beach as a result of increased tourist activity, the exploitation of JKPB has been very positive. However, with time, the increased pollution and pressure from these activities is most likely to have an adverse impact on the marine resources. Along with the changing climate causing stress on the coral reefs and beach erosion, the dwindling marine resources and increased pollution levels as well as overcrowding of the public beach area is likely to cause a decrease in the tourist arrivals at this beach in the coming years as most tourist prefer less crowded beaches. The pollution and overall pressure on the resources is also a threat which could result in loss of critical habitats for marine organisms such as coral reefs, sea grass areas and mangroves.

The level of trade activities is high in this area and pollution has become rampant as garbage from the food kiosks, fish market and other activities is not properly looked after. The mismanagement of garbage has a very negative impact on the beach area and the surrounding natural ecosystems. The amount of waste collected on the beach makes it a less attractive place which has led to reduced visitation of the beach as most people prefer clean beaches.

The future of the valuable marine resources such as coral reefs and fish is highly dependent on what action will be taken to counter the increased pressure on these resources. Without proper management planning, personal responsibility and increased awareness among the resource users, both the marine habitat and the resources extracted from them are facing an uncertain future. Also those people who benefit from these resources stand to lose in the long run unless management is improved.

3. Attaining Equlibrium in Conservation and Utilization

The urgent challenge to be addressed as soon as possible is achieving equilibrium between conservation and tourism in this important area. The natural ecosystem must be protected while at the same time give tourist and other resource users the chance to utilize the beach, the coral reefs and other areas for their recreational activities which in turn creates employment for the local population and the youth.

Further grabbing and privatization of public beach areas must be discouraged through legal mechanisms which will stop private developers from encroaching on the beach. The Kenyan Legal Framework provides for legal measures to be undertaken in case of land grabbing and encroachment on public property. The enforcement, however, has not always been very effective due to existing problems with corruption and weak institutional frameworks.

It is also of outmost importance that the resource users learn how to extract the resources in a more sustainable way – i.e. stop using destructive fishing gear such as spear guns and drag nets when fishing. Tourism activities also have to be carried out in a sustainable way ensuring that people don’t damage the corals when visiting the reefs.

An intervention that is most likely to succeed is using a participatory approach in creating a sustainable management plan for the area. Increased public awareness through the dissemination of conservation education is also very important. In liaison with conservation authorities like the Kenya Wildlife Service, different stakeholders can be furnished with relevant knowledge that will go a long way in ensuring the beach and marine resources are utilized sustainably. The youth who are engaged in economic activities on the beach could for example be organized into groups that can take part of efforts to create awareness among the locals as well as the visitors on best practices aimed at reducing pollution and unsustainable resource use of the beach.

A participatory approach has been successful elsewhere along the coast where communities have been mobilized to use their resources without neglecting the need for conservation. Areas within the larger coastal ecosystem where communities have succeeded in conservation efforts include the Mwaluganje Community Elephant Sanctuary, The Mida Creek Conservation Community, Muliri Farmers Conservation group of the Arabuko Sokoke, Nyuli Community Conservation Group among others. When the communities who live near the resources are appointed to be guardians of the common resources, setting up the plans for how to conserve the resources, the success rate is usually higher compared to when using fining and strict legal mechanisms are enforced from above or by high level decision makers.

Marine Protected Areas in the Western Indian Ocean – can they help save our fish and corals?

It is amazing how a tiny little organism like the coral is responsible for defining to a large extent the nature of inshore coastal areas. One group of these tiny animals secrete calcium carbonate which form the coral reefs. These hard structures line long distances of the shore in the Western Indian Ocean. Sometimes the reefs are almost right next to the shoreline, and sometimes they are much further from the land. Sometimes the reefs form a barrier against the waves coming in from the open ocean, so that there are calm lagoons between the barrier reefs and the land. Other places coral reefs are deep and never show above the surface, not even at extreme low tides. Whatever the case, these coral reefs are very, very important to millions of people. Yet it is no secret that these reefs are in danger because of many pressures on them. Today coral reef degradation in the Western Indian Ocean is a terrible threat, and the consequences of a collapse of the reef systems may be worse than we can ever imagine. This ‘burning issue’ needs to be addressed, and we need to share whatever knowledge we may have in the hope of reversing the trends of destruction that we are currently witnessing.

Coral reefs are an extremely important natural resource, supplying food and income for millions of people in the tropics. One of the economically most important resource humans extract from the marine environment is fish, but another industry linked to healthy ecosystems with increasing importance is tourism. Coral reefs can also provide a number of non extractive services to the local community, like natural harbours, sites for aquaculture, and biological support for important pelagic species. One way of protecting these valuable resources against increased human pressure and other threats such as climate change is through the establishment of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), with one of the main goals to maintain biodiversity in the long term. However, the effectiveness of an MPA varies with many factors such as the basic design, the existence of management plans and the collaboration with the local communities.

1. The importance of the coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean

The coral reefs in the Western Indian Ocean are no exception from the trends in the rest of the world. They are subject to a number of threats, like the large-scale bleaching event caused by high water temperatures, increased coastal populations leading to higher sewage loads, destructive fishing methods, uncontrolled coastal tourism, coral mining and increased fishing. The pressure on the marine environment to continue providing goods and services to the people in the region is continuously growing.

In many coastal areas in the Western Indian Ocean up to 95 % of the marine catch is from small-scale, artisanal fisheries, using traditional vessels and gear. However, there are some studies showing that many reefs in the region have been damaged and degraded by destructive fishing methods such as dynamite fishing and a total fishing pressure far beyond sustainable limits in the entire area. Despite increasing fishing efforts, there are many reports on declining fish catches, which clearly indicate that the fish stocks are severely reduced.

Fishing is however not the only economically important activity related to coral reefs in the area. Tourism related to the marine environment is also increasing, giving a substantial income and employment opportunities to people in the region. Both fishing and tourist activities contribute to reef habitat degradation and Marine Protected Areas, where access is restricted, are gaining popularity as a tool for conserving coral reef habitat and fish stocks.

MPAs can not directly protect the ecosystem from natural or threats caused indirectly by humans, such as Crown-of-Thorn outbreaks, increased sedimentation load or increase in temperatures or sea water level rises due to climate change. However, a healthy ecosystem with high species diversity and all functional groups intact, can cope better with all these types of disturbances. Since MPAs preserve the natural ecosystem resilience, they have been seen as a powerful tool when trying to preserve the ability of the coral reef to generate resources also in the future.

2. MPAs in the Western Indian Ocean today – what is there?

A survey done by WIOMSA notes that there are 83 Marine Protected Areas in the Western Indian Ocean region, with the Seychelles having as many as 16 officially gazetted marine conservation areas. The largest of all MPAs in the region is the Quirimbas National Park in Mozambique which spans over 7,500 km2. Mozambique also has the oldest MPA with “Ilhas da Inhaca e dos Portugueses” Faunal Reserve which was gazetted as early as 1965. Kenya followed a few years later (1968) by gazetting three large MPAs in the Malindi-Watamu area.
Some of these 83 MPAs are strict “no-take” areas while others are “multiple use areas” where fishing is still allowed, but somewhat restricted in terms of fishing gear and methods, seasonal closures etc. There are some MPAs where management plans are in place, but a majority of the existing areas fall under the category of so called “paper parks” where no or insufficient management exists.

There are however many studies carried out in the region showing that the conservation efforts have indeed have a positive effect on both fish communities and benthic substrates – with higher live coral cover, higher species diversity, higher wet weight of fish and improved resilience to large scale disturbances such as bleaching events inside the protected areas. How much positive effect the conservation efforts have had seem to depend on many factors such as size of the MPA, years of protection as well as level of management and enforcement.

3. What are the conflicts related to MPAs?

Especially in poor countries it has proven to be very difficult to enforce laws and regulations limiting the fishing effort on the local communities, who are totally dependant on the resource for their daily sustenance. Some studies suggest that regulating type of fishing gear in certain areas is more successful than a total ban both in terms of implementation and in achieving positive results on the fish stocks. A reason for this is that it is easier and cheaper to control the type of gear that is used in a large area by for example checking landing sites of fishing boats rather than enforcing a strict no-take area by constant patrols.

To totally exclude poor local communities from a certain areas is very difficult, especially if the area has been used as fishing ground traditionally – at least unless other livelihood alternatives are introduced, and that is not always easy to make happen. Not only is it difficult from a management and enforcement perspective, but it also has severe consequences for these local communities in terms of threatening their food security in an environment where no alternative livelihoods can be provided.

Some studies have shown that fishers are benefiting from the marine sanctuaries by so- called “spill-over” effects, where the increased fish populations inside the protected area are increasing the catch just outside the borders of the protected area. Many fishers who fish just outside the protected areas agree that fishing is better there, than say, for from protected areas where there are no restriction. This makes a lot of sense, but the positive effects are unfortunately very difficult to quantify, positive effects from a MPA are also often quite delayed since the fish populations need a few years to start recovering from overfishing (before the protected areas was established).

The lack of direct benefits in the conservation efforts understandably often leads to conflicts between the park management and the local fishing communities. If the management is politically connected, which is often the case; this conflict can also result in reduced enforcement efforts to increase political popularity. It is difficult to convince people to respect a MPA before they see benefits coming to them – especially if they are poor and there are no alternatives.

4. Community initiatives, multiple use areas and other alternatives...and more questions

There are a few areas in the Western Indian Ocean where community conservation efforts are emerging or where Government initiated conservation efforts are collaborating closely with the local communities when it comes to enforcement, monitoring and management. In Zanzibar for instance, fishers committees are established in many communities with the purpose of making resource use more sustainable. Government is increasingly forming links with those fishers committees. This seems to be the way forward when dealing with isolated communities where traditional values are still strong and the local communities are the only ones using the resource. When the communities can do conservation the way they have always done it, utilizing indigenous knowledge and traditional value systems the potential conflicts are minimized and the chance to achieve successful resource management increases.

In areas where there is open access for people from many communities and from far away, it is however more difficult to enforce even local conservation efforts, as outsiders come in and fish the way they want without considering the local communities. In these cases it is more likely that a more strict management system will have greater success, particularly if strict zoning is implemented and non-destructive fishing is allowed in some areas while small strict no-take areas can assure recovery of the resources.
Some big questions come up that will need to be addressed if we want to see artisanal fishing on a more sustainable path. Some of the questions that come up are:

1. Who should have the right to fish in a Marine Conservation Area - only the local communities or anyone coming from anywhere in the country?

2. How can local fishers who depend so much on the dwindling resources be convinced to use better methods even if it may mean less fish in the short term?

3. How can local communities be convinced to leave alone some “core areas” and not fish there at all?

4. How can local communities be involved in the demarcation and establishment of MPAs?

These are only some of the important questions that we need to find answers for. There are more questions, and the answers may be few. However, let’s share what we know from the different parts of the Western Indian Ocean about what works, and what does not work.

5. More information – web-links, library resources

Here are some resources that can be visited. There are surely more. Please post them in the DLIST library, or in the discussion forums:

Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean (CORDIO) are working in the entire region with research and other issues related to coral reefs and marine resources, http://www.cordioea.org/

The Coral Reef Targeted Research & Capacity Building for Management Project have a lot of useful articles, reports etc on their website, not only for the Western Indian Ocean Region, but for the entire world. http://www.gefcoral.org/Home/tabid/2967/Default.aspx

IUCN Eastern Africa Regional Office, P.O. Box 68200, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel. + 254 20 890605/12; Fax. + 254 20 890615; Email: mail@iucnearo.org or mail@iucn.org

The Western Indian Ocean Certification of Marine Protected Area Professionals (WIO-COMPAS) offer training courses for MPA professionals in the region and have a lot of useful articles and resources on their website http://www.wio-compas.org/library

Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) provide support for research in the region, arrange scientific symposia and have a lot of useful information on the website www.wiomsa.org - particularly the MPA toolkit has a lot of links and resources

WWF Eastern Africa Regional Programme Office (WWF EARPO), 5th Floor of A.C.S. Plaza along Lenana Road, Nairobi, Kenya. Tel: + 254 20 577355; Fax: 577389; Email: eafrica@wwfearpo.org

The Environmental Effects of Tourism in the Western Indian Ocean

Islands located in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) attract tourists from all over the world. Tourism in WIO region contributes substantially to the economies of many countries and islands in this part of the world. These include Mauritius, Madagascar, Comoros, Seychelles, Reunion, and Zanzibar in Tanzania. However, tourism has significant environmental effects in the Western Indian Ocean region. One might ask what these environmental effects can be. Read more about this issue in the Burning Issue about coastal tourism in the WIO-region.

1. Environmental effects of coastal tourism

The overall environmental effects involve environmental degradation which hinders sustainability. Environmental effects related to tourism are problematic and may cause irreversible impacts. These environmental effects include urbanisation, over exploitation of resources, coastal erosion, deterioration of water quality, increased pollution levels, deforestation, and the destruction of coral reefs, mangroves and sea grass beds. Many of these factors reduce the resilience of the ecosystems, which increases the susceptibility of the WIO-region to climate change. More importantly, the tourism industry is also directly contributing to global warming by increasing the use of fuel and other non-renewable resources. Furthermore, it should also be noted that the environmental effects are further influenced by a lack of environmental evaluation and monitoring in the region.

2. Tourism as a generator of economic growth

Tourism in the Western Indian Ocean is a generator of economic growth. People tend to think that places with high biodiversity are also considered “nice”. The environment in itself is a tourist attraction that generates potential economic growth for many parts of the world. Furthermore, tourism development in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is growing rapidly.

Tourism in the WIO is valued in economic terms, and is an important contributor to local, national and international economies. Tourism diversifies the economies in the Western Indian Ocean region, particularly for the islands located in this region where other income generating activities and production might be limited. Tourism generates employment opportunities, which generates income for individual livelihood purposes. It accounts for much of the employment opportunities for both men and women. Employment opportunities in the tourism sector of the islands located in the WIO continue to grow. Tourism also increases foreign exchange in the region, which is beneficial in terms of economic development. Overall, tourism contributes substantially to the GDP. For example, in the Seychelles, tourism contributes to more than 50% of the GDP, and in Mauritius tourism contributes to around 30% of the GDP. Tourism is therefore promising and beneficial in terms of economic growth.

3. Tourism might very well result in coastal development

Tourism is undoubtedly one of the most dominant factors contributing to coastal development in the Western Indian Ocean. Accordingly, as the number of tourists increases so does the number of coastal developments in order to accommodate the number of tourists. These constructions significantly impact the economic development in the WIO region, and the tourism industry contributes largely to the economic growth of many areas. However, tourism may also result in devastating effects on the natural environment. Coastal development may lead to environmental consequences, which are accelerated by increased human activities in the coastal region.

Coastal tourism also contributes to coastal erosion. Coastal development in general is one of the central causes of increased soil erosion which causes sedimentation of rivers, streams and coastal marine areas. Furthermore, coastal development often contributes to deforestation, which is caused by the removal and cutting down of trees along the coastal areas for construction or cooking purposes related to the growing tourism industry. The coastal development ends up having adversative effects on the natural habitats and social contexts along many coastal areas of the WIO. Additionally, coastal erosion makes the WIO more vulnerable to natural disasters and extreme weather events caused by climate change. What is being done to minimize the environmental effects of coastal development?

4. Threatened habitats in the Western Indian Ocean

The WIO has diverse coastal and marine habitats, but environmental degradation is increasingly problematic. Tourism may increasingly become a threat to the coastal and marine habitats in the WIO. The ecological importance and the contribution to the local economy of the coastal and marine habitats may be partially neglected. Human activities caused by the growth of the tourism sector in the WIO are partially contributing to this environmental change.

What are the most threatened habitats in the WIO region? The natural habitats most at risk and vulnerable are the coral reefs, seagrass beds, and mangroves. These natural habitats are life support systems to an enormous amount of species and other habitats, but are nonetheless often give low priority compared to development issues for the important tourism industry.

Coral reefs in the WIO region are well known for their beauty and diversity. Coral reefs are natural habitats that support a high diversity of fish species and many other organisms. However, coral reefs are continuously being degraded by human activities such as unplanned and intense coastal development, in favour of tourism. Other threats to coral reefs include sea level temperature rise cause by climate change, destructive fishing methods, over fishing and increased pollution and sedimentation.

Seagrass beds form another important habitat that supports a variety of fish species, invertebrates and other organisms. Seagrass beds are very important as nutrient filters from land run-off. One of the big threats to seagrass beds is the physical removal of seagrass in front of hotels and developed areas to make the area look nicer and more attractive for tourists. Coastal pollution, increased silting and sedimentation and some destructive fishing also contributes to the degradation of seagrass areas. Consequently, these activities destroy the water quality and causes unforeseen environmental changes.

Mangrove is another important ecosystem that is very threatened by human activities in the Western Indian Ocean Region. The mangrove ecosystem supports a rich bird life and many fish species, as well as invertebrates. Mangroves are being harvested unsustainably to give wood for construction of houses, boast etc, as well as for fire wood and charcoal production. Mangroves are also being removed for scenic purposes, mainly in front of tourist establishments to give a better view of the beaches. The destruction of mangroves leads to a decline in fisheries and other locally used resources such as honey.

More importantly all these coastal ecosystems are linked and as one system or habitat becomes disturbed another system or subsystem also gets affected. Unplanned or too fast development of the tourism industry may not only threaten the natural habitats in the Western Indian Ocean, but may also threaten the livelihoods of the local people living within the Western Indian Ocean by degrading the resource base they depend upon.

5. How are the livelihoods of people affected by tourism?

Local people depend on coastal and marine resources. People living within the WIO region have close ties to the marine environment, which provides them with both food and income. The more the environment becomes affected by increased coastal development, the more the livelihoods of people living on the coastal areas within the WIO will be affected. Many of the people living along the coastal areas are heavily reliant on the fisheries sector and therefore play an important role in the WIO region. Essentially the livelihoods of local people within the WIO are secured by the fisheries sector. The fisheries sector has an impact on both the economic and the social sectors in society.

Firstly, the fisheries sector creates employment opportunities for the local people and contributes significantly to the economies in the WIO region. Secondly, the fisheries sector is very important for social development. It should also be noted that many households within the WIO are dependent on fish and seafood as a source for protein and hence the fisheries sector contributes greatly to food security on a local level. Overall, fisheries contribute to the well-being and health of the population and it enhance the quality of life of the local people and contributes to poverty alleviation in the WIO region.

Tourism on the other hand, sometimes contributes to destruction of the marine environment and threatens the livelihoods of the local people. Local fishers loose their rights to pass to the beaches in some areas where there are tourism developments constructed along the coast. This may even occur in areas that have high quality and quantity of fish which makes people lose access to rich resources. Local fishers will then need to find new areas to fish. The coastal development and unplanned tourism activities will also in some situations cause degradation of the natural environment, which will affect the fish stocks negatively. Both these issues caused by unsustainable tourism developments in the WIO region contribute to reduced livelihoods opportunities for the people.

6. Managing the environments in the Western Indian Ocean more effectively

The development of the tourism industry in the WIO-region has caused environmental consequences and may also threat the livelihoods of coastal communities. Therefore, there is an urgent need to integrate environmental considerations alongside social and economic issues when planning further coastal development, in order to move towards sustainability.

How can the tourism sector in the WIO-region be managed and developed more appropriately? One way to address the sustainability of the tourism industry is to put limitations to the number of tourists allowed to visit a specific area per year. A limitation in the number of visitors per year will reduce the environmental impacts on the natural ecosystem. Secondly, there should be more waste water treatment plants and improved techniques implemented for treatment and storage of liquid and solid waste within the WIO region. Thirdly, the marine environments and its natural resources should be managed more efficiently in order to minimize the environmental effects on coral reefs, mangroves, sea grass beds, and all other threatened habitats. This can, for example, be done through the creation of conservation areas and implementation of stricter laws related to the exploitation of these resources. Fourthly, it is recommended that mechanisms should be implemented to deal with pollution. Also, the unregulated cutting and harvesting of wood and other activities contributing to increased land run-off causing sedimentation and coastal erosion must be controlled and prevented where possible. Another important aspect to address is the issue of rehabilitation of destructed habitats such as coral reefs and mangrove forests.

Above all, there is a need for better management practices. Measures must be put in place to reduce the impact of tourism on the environments in the WIO. Negative impacts can be reduced and avoided by effective use and implementation of, for example, the tool of Environmental Assessments (EAs). In addition, environmental evaluations and adequate and regular monitoring are equally important when taking the environmental issues in account. Furthermore, the support from local governments and NGOs is necessary for more efficient management of the environment in the WIO region. To contribute to this, there is a need for better capacity building to ensure sustainable outcomes. Higher capacity to manage the resources will ensure that the three principles of sustainability (which are social, economic, and ecological considerations), are all underpinned and controlled within a broader framework of governance.

The tourism industry is very much linked to the state of the environment in the WIO region. Many of the tourist attractions in the region are directly linked to the natural environment and if they deteriorate, the tourist will not be interested in coming any more. So, conservation of the natural environment is very much in the interest also of the tourism industry. It is also important to note that marine based tourist activities, if not controlled, may have environmental effects and should therefore be avoided. By managing the environments in the WIO more effectively, there may be improved outcomes of sustainable tourism both in terms of financial and social benefits.

7. Implementing sustainable tourism and ecotourism

Tourism in the WIO effects marine and coastal environments, but still the industry is prospering and developing rapidly. Marine and coastal ecosystems in the WIO are well-known for high biodiversity and great beauty. Conservation efforts are thus very important as there is a great diversity of fauna and flora in the WIO that needs to be considered alongside an increased tourism development. The environment itself serves as a tourist attraction and should therefore be conserved at all times, together with the socio-economic benefits and livelihoods of the people in the WIO region. Tourism and tourist attractions in the WIO should not just be available to present generations but to future generations as well.

Implementation of sustainable tourism and ecotourism should therefore be encouraged at all times. The key factors in favour of sustainable tourism and ecotourism in the WIO are likely to be limited coastal development, conservation of the natural biodiversity, socio-economic benefits, and overall relief of environmental pressure caused by tourism. This can be achieved by stricter legislation and more enforcement of existing laws for coastal developments. Additionally, the existing environmental impacts need to be addressed in an efficient way, in order to ensure sustainability for further development of the tourism industry in the WIO.

8. Questions and reference material

We have added some questions for you to think about after reading about this challenging issue...

1. Will tourism be more of a benefit to the economies in the Western Indian Ocean region if managed appropriately, alongside environmental and social considerations?
2. Is there a need for more effective environmental management practices within the Western Indian Ocean?
3. By implementing sustainable tourism/ecotourism there will be a better future for tourism in the Western Indian Ocean, but will sustainable tourism and ecotourism reverse the environmental impacts already caused?
4. What are the alternatives of unsustainable tourism? What more can be done?

Below are some links where you can find more information about tourism in the WIO region and its consequences;

• Delmas-Ferre, M., Eddine Said Ali, N., Attoumani, S. and Andriatahiana, V. (1999) Tourism Environmental Assessment Training Program.
• International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). (2004) Tourism Policy and Planning.
• Gossling, S. (2006) Towards Sustainable Tourism in the Western Indian Ocean.
• International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). (2004) Visiting the reef
• International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN). (2004) Visitors and carrying capacity.

Apocalypse soon? Preparing for a Western Indian Ocean Deepwater Horizon oil spill

The recent Gulf of Mexico oil spill has created concern for many communities where the potential exists for the same events to occur. It is a great catastrophe with numerous immediate and long term impacts. What would the consequence be should such an event occur in the Western Indian Ocean. Like it or not, oil and fossil fuels are part of each person’s everyday life and the potential exists for many poorer African countries to benefit from exploration, provided it is managed properly and benefits reach the people in need. It cannot be stopped but communities should be prepared from the start to ensure the process is planned properly with working, reliable emergency plans should something go wrong.

1. Introduction

As a citizen of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO), the Gulf of Mexico oil spill* has me very concerned. Concerned that should Fortune look away from our shores for one second (and let us all remember that She favored us during the 2004 Indian ocean tsunami because it was not yet high tide on many mainland shores when that tidal wave hit), we shall be caught in a situation that will, without doubt, have a far graver impact on our coasts, economies, and lifestyles than the Deepwater Horizon oil spill* will have on the Gulf of Mexico. I know you are busy correcting me and reaffirming that the worst-case scenario for the region, seeing that it is a marine highway, is from oil tankers that have rarely spilled crude or heavy petroleum along the coast. Why am I so certain that a Gulf oil spill* on this western side of the Indian Ocean is imminent? In this burning issue I present what might sound like an apocalyptic view of the WIO’s future, but is entirely plausible, and provide four suggestions on how to prepare for a Deepwater Horizon oil spill* near you.

The Gulf of Mexico oil spill* has provided a particularly multi-faceted revelation of how you and I - who think of ourselves as decent, nature-loving and pro-conservation - are actually in bed with unethical corporations, helping them destroy that which we claim to love. What we all know for sure is that for the Gulf of Mexico, marine life, tourism, the economy and the southern states’ cultural heritage related to sun, sand and seafood are gone forever. They will not return to normal during our lifetime, or that of the next generation. Here are four insights I’ve gained from the past 72 days of watching raw petroleum uncontrollably enter a marine ecosystem:

First up is the case of British pensioners expressing displeasure that the American outrage over the spill* threatened to bankrupt BP. They were unhappy because one in six British pension funds is invested in BP stock which has lost nearly half its value since April 20th 2010; and should the company go bankrupt (which will not happen thanks to everyone agreeing that it’s not in the best interest of the global economy ), pensioners belonging to these funds as well as those invested in Swiss Transocean will live out their days in penury despite having saved for retirement. The second thing lesson from this oil spill* is how powerful the internet can be in the oil- and biodiversity-stained hands of spin masters, with BP PR managers purchasing, from Google and Yahoo, search terms related to the oil spill* in order to better inform people about what BP is doing to help. The third lesson is that the old tested and true tool of boycotting an offending brand - BP in this case – is no longer effective in the 21st century where corporate strategy is able to insulate the corporation from consumer wrath. In this case those boycotting BP petrol stations have been told that they are simply hurting the small business people who own the franchises, and that the only way to hurt BP would be to reduce consumption of fossil fuels. That certainly weakens one’s resolve to "make BP pay," because it shows the problem is not the corporation, the problem is we the consumers. The fourth lesson learned from the Gulf of Mexico spill is that the US is the ONLY country affected by the uncontrollable torrent of raw petroleum entering the waters of the Gulf at an estimated rate of 2.5 million gallons of oil a day. Let me know if you come across any coverage on how the other countries that border the Gulf waters, mainly Mexico, and Cuba.

Why do I think that the Gulf oil spill* could happen in the Western Indian Ocean? Several countries that border the Western Indian Ocean are currently finalizing their oil spill strategies or have just finalized them, and these strategies all consider the worst-case scenario for this region’s ocean and beaches to be an oil tanker spilling its entire cargo of oil close enough to shore to cause harm. These strategies appear not to have taken into account that (a) this is the century of the final global mineral rush where all land or water with resource potential – regardless of geographical location - is being bought and traded by global corporations at an unprecedented rate, (b) oil exploration and exploitation in Africa has shifted to East Africa.

There are currently, from a simple Google browsing of appropriate terms, at least six different companies involved in offshore oil and gas exploration in Mozambique, Tanzania and Kenya. These companies are looking to do exactly what Transocean and BP were doing when the Deepwater Horizon rig exploded: drilling into the ocean bed and tap the crude oil that comes from there. There is currently a deepwater rig – reportedly built in 1983 but ‘pimped out’ in 2007 being set up in Tanzania’s Mafia basin , . Tanzania’s reserves at this point are an estimated 1 billion barrels of oil . There are six companies prospecting off the coast of Mozambique with a couple already extracting natural gas and expecting to strike crude petroleum soon . Natural gas and tar sands have been found off this coast, with crude oil said to be located on Madagascar’s western coast .

2. What I am NOT arguing

I am not arguing against the exploitation of petroleum resources wherever they are found in East Africa. To do so would not only be unwise, especially given the collectively extent to which we are all intractably enmeshed in the fossil fuel economy, but it would also be selfish because if the proceeds from oil exploitation were used wisely, millions of African lives would be improved. If, however, an uncontainable torrent of raw petrol(eum) gushing from the ocean floor were to be unleashed into the Western Indian Ocean basin, one thing that might happen is that we would get the kind of media coverage that Mexico and Cuba have received. Maybe they have not been affected, or maybe they have been… we can’t be sure. Furthermore, as we do not know of the contracts signed with the global corporations running these dynamic oil rigs, we cannot be sure of the extent to which they would be held liable for an oil spill’s negative environmental effects and loss of livelihood .

3. What I am arguing

Because I honestly believe the exploitation of fuel reserves will march ahead regardless of any community or environmentalist protest against it, I recommend that we follow all four courses of action below.

1. Revisit the old fuel technologies we were using before, but that were discarded because they were cumbersome or inefficient compared to the glossy modern models. Revisit also, the newer technologies that looked promising but you were not ready to commit to. Modernize and increase the efficiency of these technologies, and use them. Don't do it 'cause you're an environmentalist or conservationist or because you support green or clean energy. Do it 'cause you are a pragmatist and are proactive enough to not get disorganized by load shedding or power rationing or by the rising prices of electricity and petrol. Do it because you want to remain in control of key conveniences in your life.

2. Prepare for the court case. Since we cannot stop the oil spill, the next best thing to do would be to prepare for the court case(s) that will seek compensation for damage caused by a gushing fountain of oil in this region. Preparation would include the following:
• Paying very close attention to and understanding the actions of the parties involved both in the Gulf of Mexico oil spill*, as well as in the other oil spill in the Red Sea.
• Understanding how compensation for those who have lost their means of livelihood is determined, and understand the strategies employed by BP and other energy mining corporate companies to limit their liability in the event of such catastrophes.
• There are already tsunami warning centers and networks in place, as are those pertaining to awareness and response to red tides and large-scale marine die-offs. My suggestion is that all the networks currently in place integrate into their programs the methods of responding to unstoppable deepwater oil wells.
• Marine and coastal environmental monitoring programs have done a sterling job in tracking the state of the marine environment and they should ensure their data can stand up to scrutiny in an international court of law.
• Those working with artisanal fisheries should streamline their databases and value chain studies of who benefits from these fisheries so that should they be impacted, those affected can be compensated.
• Those who have been hard at work on developing national oil spill plans should meet just a few more times to ensure that the danger of a Gulf oil spill* in the Western Indian Ocean is reflected and addressed by the national plans.
• A case that could inform the preparation for future cases would be the 1992 Katina P oil spill into Maputo Bay .

3. Crowdsourcing for preemptive and reactive solutions to oil spills of any magnitude within the region . Yes it is government's mandate to plan and respond to oil spills and they are doing the best they can. It is, however, important to have those who would be most affected working on possible solutions as well. From the social and community pressure perspective, since it appears that boycotts and activism are no longer effective tools in seeking justice for affected parties, perhaps newer and more effective methods of activism can be developed that take into consideration the diabolical cleverness of corporate PR and legal departments. Experts working in the region on fisheries, ocean currents, monsoon winds, and cyclones can start to model possible effects of combination of currents and seasonal weather shifts, so we can have an idea of which coasts would be most affected. That way we can have an idea of how many oil booms to start procuring, and whether chemical dispersants would be useful to limit environmental damage.

4. Live! Enjoy the great seafood, white/pink sand and clean blue waters. Take every opportunity to visit, enjoy and appreciate the coastal and marine environments. Visit sooner the places you had marked on your list of "things to do some time", because time might just run out. I know it ran out on me and my date with Margaritavilla.

4. References

Shell: deep-water oil drilling will go on http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/jun/27/shell-deepwater-drilling-...

Nations rethink drilling in wake of BP oil spill http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jEXHhvqTkq9PaHlVC4eS1P...

BP buys ‘oil’ search terms to redirect users to official company website http://abcnews.go.com/Technology/bp-buys-search-engine-phrases-redirecti...

West Polaris headed for Dar http://allafrica.com/stories/200911160188.html

Odfjell Semisub Contracted for 1st Deepwater Drilling Campaign in Tanzaniahttp://www.rigzone.com/news/article.asp?a_id=95187&rss=true

Tanzania’s oil prospects get even brighter. http://thecitizen.co.tz/news/4-national-news/2701-tanzanias-oil-prospect...

Andarko finds first deepwater gas off Mozambique http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-02-18/anadarko-reports-first-deepw...

Is East Africa the next frontier for oil? http://www.time.com/time/business/article/0,8599,1970726,00.html


Does Deepwater Horizon spell doom for offshore exploration? http://seekingalpha.com/instablog/142982-joseph-l-shaefer/68544-does-dee...

Google Earth files: oil spill http://earth.tryse.net/oilspill.html

East Africa sees momentum for more oil and gas sector deals http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/a5cec7d6-7aff-11df-8935-00144feabdc0,dwp_uuid=...

New deepwater drilling rigs extend search for energy http://www.chron.com/disp/story.mpl/business/energy/6950658.html

Mozambique seeks solutions to marine pollution http://www.clubofmozambique.com/solutions1/sectionnews.php?secao=mozambi...

BP to InnoCentive: sorry, we don’t want your 908 ideas for saving the Gulf. http://www.fastcompany.com/1663156/bp-to-innocentive-sorry-we-dont-want-...