The 8th edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative (MBI) will take place in Monaco, on April 2nd and 3rd, 2017 under the presidency of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco.
Launched in 2010 upon the initiative of H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco, the Monaco Blue Initiative is a platform for discussion co-organized by the Oceanographic Institute, Foundation Albert I, Prince of Monaco and the Prince Albert II of Monaco Foundation. Its members meet annually to discuss the current and anticipate the future global challenges of ocean management and conservation. This event provides a valuable framework for fostering discussions between business, scientific representatives and policy makers and for analysing and highlighting the possible synergies between the protection of the marine environment and socio-economic development.
The first editions brought forward the issues on large marine species and the deep seas as focal points for protection and conservation and raised the interest of Marine Protected Areas as efficient and tested tools for effective protection. Marine Protected Areas also emphasize the need for cooperation between all the stakeholders involved, theme that was discussed during the third edition in Yeosu in the frame of the international Exhibition.
This collaboration and the need for synergy between economic development and environmental protection was also discussed during the fourth edition through the concept of blue growth which is becoming more prevalent today, as new industries, renewable energies, ecotourism and sustainable aquaculture are taking their place at the forefront of marine development and protection.
The fifth edition on Chile was the occasion to discuss fisheries and aquaculture management, in a country with a widespread and important marine industry, with a focus on the integration of local communities in the management process.
The 2015 edition in Monaco pursued these discussions with experts and decision-makers worldwide on the theme: Feeding and fuelling the world through sustainable aquaculture? Whilst the ocean is becoming an area for large-scale cultivation, it is crucial to consider the implications of this new situation in terms of environmental protection, regulation and collaboration in order to achieve a sustainable production system and make the best rather than the most of these new resources.
The discussions of the 7th MBI in Sao Paulo in 2016, confirmed that aquaculture, continuing its great leap forward, is a main issue both in terms of economy and marine conservation. With a lower environmental footprint than many other animal production systems, while offering high-quality protein, aquaculture is a major opportunity and still a good societal choice. If planned and managed sustainably, and conducted along circular economy guidelines, notably using multi-trophic and recirculating aquaculture and giving added value to the by-products, it can find its place within the Blue economy and contribute to address the challenges of economic development, food security, climate change and biodiversity.
However, lots of obstacles remain and Sustainable Aquaculture development requires more efforts from producers, science and governments through innovation, licensing, market mechanisms, incentives and regulations. Research itself ought to shift its focus to what is really needed for implementation and sustainability on the ground. Efforts are necessary to ensure aquaculture does not compete with fisheries and hence to integrate these two types of production. The consumers’ role in demanding, through information and traceability, a product that is socially, environmentally and nutritionally acceptable is a key factor. Standards and certifications put aquaculture high on a limited list of sustainable foods. Industry actors should work all together towards truth, transparency and transformation if we are to be successful in engaging consumers and stakeholders.
The next edition to be held in Monaco on April 2nd and 3rd 2017 will be the opportunity to tackle new issues and develop new perspectives such as the synergy between Aquaculture and Marine Protected Areas, which up to now has had very little mention in international gatherings. The stakes are however very high. In the face of an ever growing demand for seafood products and dwindling quantities of wild caught fish, aquaculture will inexorably continue to expand. In a context of rapid growth of economic activity on the one end (transport, tourism, energy, exploitation of marine resources) and on the other the fragility of the ecosystem (global warming, acidification, biodiversity loss), conflicts over use are bound to occur. We will have to anticipate and regulate these, including in protected zones.
It will also be the opportunity to focus on the Mediterranean from two different angles: development of sustainable aquaculture and fisheries and the relationship between MPAs and climate change. Concerning the latter, as was confirmed at the MPAs Forum in Tangiers, MPAs not only allow close monitoring the effects of climate change, but are also spaces that improve the resilience of ecosystems confronted with these changes. Certain components of these ecosystems such as Posidonia beds have proved to be effective at carbon capture and storage.
At last, the MBI will dedicate a session on the High Seas protection through an updating on the negotiations on the Conservation and the sustainable use of marine biological diversity of areas beyond national jurisdiction and the UNESCO World heritage program in the High Seas.
At the end of the day, several topical issues such as the Sustainable Development Goals 14, the feedback on the IUCN World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, the next International MPAs Congress (IMPAC4-Chile), the Trust Fund for the Mediterranean Marine Protected Areas, will be discussed.