Sustainable Oceans, Livelihoods and food Security Through Increased Capacity in Ecosystem research in the Western Indian Ocean

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Over 100 million people in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region live within 100km of the coast, with over 1 million working in the fisheries sector.  The WIO is highly dependent on the ocean for economic stability, food security, and social cohesion. In recent years the region has seen dramatic and often poorly understood reductions in key fisheries, due to the combined effects of climate change, natural ecosystem variability, overfishing and degradation of key marine habitats. Understanding and managing WIO fisheries and the impacts of recent and future changes requires a mature capacity to implement an ecosystem approach to fisheries management (EAF) that is built on sound environmental and socio-economic information.

SOLSTICE-WIO is a four-year collaborative project funded by the UK Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF). Launched in October 2017, it brings together local knowledge and international research expertise to address challenges facing the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region in a cost-effective way.

Key to SOLSTICE is an approach that sees human-natural systems as a whole, integrated entity. Using state-of-the-art marine technologies and research methods SOLSTICE will conduct collaborative environmental and socio-economic research, to deliver decision support for policy development and resource management in the WIO.

Through hands-on training and mutual exchange of expertise and research skills, the project will increase the capacity of both the UK and WIO marine science communities to deliver research that can underpin regional efforts towards sustainable management of marine living resources. The project also aims to increase ocean literacy by working with local communities to build on their knowledge and understanding of the issues, and share scientific information resulting from SOLSTICE research. Ultimately this will contribute to improved food security for marine-dependent coastal populations in the region.

Regional case studies

The project will demonstrate its approach through three case studies, identified by the local project partners as important for food security and economic development in three WIO countries:

  • Kenya: Emerging fishery of the North Kenyan Bank: the next frontier for food security of the coastal population (led by Kenya Marine and Fisheries Research Institute)
  • Tanzania: Pemba Channel small pelagics: threats and opportunities of climate change (led by the Institute of Marine Sciences in Zanzibar)
  • South Africa: Ecosystem shifts & fishery collapse: South African Chokka squid fishery (led by Nelson Mandela University)