IORA countries met last week in Perth to call for Blue Carbon protection and restoration through including appropriate regulatory frameworks. Wetland vegetation such as seagrass, mangroves and saltmarsh, occupy only 2 per cent of the world's seabed area, but are responsible for 50 per cent of the carbon transfer to ocean sediments. The atmospheric carbon captured by living organisms is stored in coastal and marine ecosystems habitats which account to 50 and 70 percent. As this carbon can remain stored for millennia, there is great interest in Blue Carbon resources to respond to climate change and associated pressures.
The IORA Indian Ocean Conference on Blue Carbon, which was organised by Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, in collaboration with the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA), was held from 19-23 March 2018 in Perth, Australia. The conference was attended by participants from 17 IORA Member States, 4 Dialogue Partners and representatives from international organisations to share knowledge, experiences and best practices on Blue Carbon initiatives.
Ms Andrea Faulkner, Assistant Secretary, Climate Change and Sustainability from the Australian Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade read out a statement on behalf of the Honourable Julie Bishop, MP, Minister for Foreign Affairs, which reiterated Australia’s commitment to support the Blue Economy to address poverty, food security, and sustainable livelihoods. A regional Blue Carbon agenda is essential in bringing together scientists, policy-makers, businesses and communities to protect and conserve Blue Carbon ecosystems. In her Inaugural Address, Professor Narnia Bohler-Muller, Chair of the IORA Academic Group, highlighted the importance of the oceans, including for climate regulation, and the need to protect blue carbon ecosystems given their crucial role in carbon sequestration.
The Conference shared information on the current status and developments in Blue Carbon in the Indian Ocean Rim; enhanced Member States knowledge on Blue Economy principles, including how Blue Carbon fits in a Blue Economy framework; as well as imparting practical skills in Blue Carbon assessment methods. There were a number of recommendations including an Indian Ocean Blue Carbon Assessment Project in which Member States would be able to send their samples to CSIRO for Blue Carbon analysis; improved data collection such creation of a blue carbon inventory and a regional knowledge sharing hub; exchange programs for young scientists; capacity building programs addressing specific issues such as rehabilitation of assets and ecosystems; and development of a regional network.