Hub’s contributions to Africa-Europe partnerships on ocean governance

By Senia Febrica

The Africa-Europe Foundation, the European Commission Directorate-General for Maritime Affairs and Fisheries (DG MARE), and  the government of Portugal co-hosted a high-level debate ‘Fostering a cross-continental Africa-Europe dialogue on ocean governance: An Africa-Europe high-level dialogue on oceans’ on 14th February 2022. This blogpost reflects on the extent to which One Ocean Hub research contributes to critical areas of cooperation identified during the event, such as blue economy; fisheries; human health; climate change and ecosystem restoration; the integration of indigenous and local knowledge; and the participation of youth.

Blue economy

At the event, Josefa Leonel Correia Sacko, Member of the African Union Commission, in charge of Agriculture, Rural Development, Blue Economy and Sustainable Environmenthighlighted the importance of financial investments to support the partnership between Africa and Europe in the area of the blue economy, and the need for multilateral institutions to play a more integrated role. The Hub research integrates law, policy, economics, social and marine sciences to understand the causes of unsustainable and exclusionary blue economy initiatives, to ensure respect for the needs, knowledge and human rights of indigenous peoples and local communities (see our events here). As the Hub has already submitted to European Union in the context of its consultation on Horizon Europe candidate partnership ‘A climate neutral, sustainable and productive Blue Economy’ Strategic Research and Innovation Agenda’ (December 2020), a systems view of the indivisibility of sustainability and blue economy agendas is necessary, and needs to be supported by capacity building initiatives such as the Commonwealth of Learning’s Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) series on the Blue Economy. Such an integrated approach is essential also in the context of deep-sea mining as an emerging blue economy in marine areas beyond national jurisdiction, as the Hub discussed in two submissions to the International Seabed Authority on Stakeholder Engagement Strategy and draft Standards and Guidelines on the exploitation of the deep seabed.


At the event, Ricardo Serrão Santos, Minister of Maritime Affairs, Portugal,drew attention to the European Union’s and the African Union’s shared interest in tackling IUU fishing, including to fight hunger. One Ocean Hub research contributes to identifying  the determinants of IUU fishing,  finding a workable definition, and revealing the complexities of this challenge, such as  the fishing practice known as ‘saiko fishing’ in Ghana. This phenomenon concerns the trade in by-catch fish that takes place across the decks of industrial trawlers and small-scale fishing fleets in Ghana. Almost all the stages of the ‘‘saiko’ trade are illegal, the practice continues openly, in part because disrupting the trade would leave many impoverished people without a livelihood and food security, even if  the trawling that produces the  by-catch is one of the main reasons for the decline in fish stocks [in Ghana and West Africa]’ (Major and Lancaster, 2020). In order to support low-and-middle-income-countries to address IUU fishing the Hub is improving capacity of governments and small-scale fishers in legislating for sustainable fisheries, monitoring fisheries stocks, planning adaptation for climate change through modelling and developing low-cost technology to improve fisheries law enforcement (see Ameyaw, 2021; Cook et. al, 2021).

In addition, at the event, Gaoussou Guèye, Secretary General of the African Confederation,suggested that sustainable fisheries should be made priority action in the collaboration between Europe and Africa to achieve SDG 14. He highlighted the need to respect the human rights of artisanal fishers and their access to resources, recognise areas dedicated to artisanal fishers,ensure that women working in small-scale fisheries have decent working conditions, support initiatives for women supplementary livelihoods and promote cooperation between governments, operators, businesses and artisanal fishers.One Ocean Hub researchers are working to integrate fisheries sciences and law, and investigating legal tensions between small-scale fishers (SSF) and recreational fishers, and national and international standards for the recognition of customary laws of SSF communities.  SSF human rights are central to the Hub’s collaboration with FAO, UNEP and the UN Office of the High Commissioner during the International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022, including to support the implementation of the FAO Guidelines for Sustainable Small-scale Fisheries and recognition of small-scale fishers as environmental human rights defenders. These international contributions draw on Hub research at the country level in Namibia linked to the development of the National Action Plan on Small-scale Fisheries, more integrated and inclusive implementation of South Africa’s Small-Scale Fisheries Policy and Marine Spatial Planning Act; and the implementation of Ghana’s 2020 Fisheries Co-Management Policy, with particular attention to SSF women’s human rights

Human health

At the event, Nancy Kagirithu, CBS: Principal Secretary, State Department for shipping and Maritime, Kenya, highlightedhuman health as a cross-cutting ocean issue for the EU-Africa partnership. One Ocean Hub research examines the nexus between health, the ocean and climate change, which has long been overlooked. Hub research explores potential innovative approaches to improve human health and climate change adaptation and resilience, by highlighting the role of different knowledge systems and stakeholders in contributing to One Health approach that recognises how the health of people is closely connected to the health of animals and our environment. In addition, Hub research has explored the importance marine ecosystem restoration for human health, and the importance of a healthy ocean for children’s right to health. All these areas of research were explored at Hub events at the UN Climate COP26 in Glasgow in 2021. Furthermore, ongoing Hub research is clarifying the need to consider potential impacts on human health in the context of deep-seabed mining, and the need for equitable approaches to marine bio-based innovation that can contribute to human health.

Climate change and ecosystem restoration

At the event, Catherine Chabaud, Member of the European Parliament, expressed her concern that we do not know much about the ocean and the impact of various stressors such as climate change on ocean, and called upon African countries to join coalitions for ecosystem restoration. Hub research on climate change stresses the need to prioritise policy coherence at the nexus between the ocean, climate change, biodiversity and human rights, so that the nexus can then be addressed across all relevant international processes. This research aims to remove the barriers that coastal communities who are reliant upon the ocean face in taking part in climate-action. In addition, Hub research in the marine sciences aims to increase knowledge of deep-sea species and habitats to better understand their role in mitigating climate change and the impacts climate change may have upon them. Hub research also examines the impact of climate change, over-exploitation, pollution, and changing ocean conditions on fish that are essential to coastal community livelihoods. Furthermore, the Hub is investigating how to better connect research and action on climate change, ocean science and ecosystem restoration through a case study in Algoa Bay, Eastern Cape Province, South Africa, to which One Ocean Hub researchers and funding contribute to supports integration across scales and synergies across  multiple benefits and replicable methods in integrating the ocean, climate change adaptation and mitigation, biodiversity (ecosystem restoration) and human rights (One Ocean Hub, 2021).

Indigenous and local knowledge

At the event, Helen Ågren, Ambassador for the Ocean, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Sweden, claimed that cooperation between Europe and Africa on high-tech development will need to take into account traditional knowledge to find solutions for healthier planet, on the basis of a rights-based approach. Hub research is clarifying the content of international human rights based approach to ocean research, conservation, and management by integrating ecological and human dimensions in marine spatial planning, biodiscovery, and capacity building activities. The Hub research has been designed to integrate the indigenous and local knowledge in accessing, analysing and synthesising data with them; co-producing legal tools, artworks, and co-designing models of fisheries distribution, climate change prediction and adaptation and ecosystem services valuation to inform spatial planning process. On these basis, the Hub has advocated for transdisciplinary research to support the fair, respectful and early integration of indigenous and local knowledge in ocean knowledge co-production and climate action at different scales.

Youth engagement

At the event, Adjany Costa, former Minister of environment, Adviser to the President, Angola, highlighted the important role for youth to play in ocean governance, and the need to listening to youth and support their participation in decision-making process.  The One Ocean Hub has sought to advance understanding of children and young people’s human rights to a healthy ocean through its research and engagement activities. During COP26 the Hub co-organised side-events to shed light on the role, rights, and needs of children and young people, important stakeholders that are often overlooked in climate action with UNEP and youth representatives (see here). Moving forward, the Hub has signed a  Memorandum of Understanding with Children’s Environmental Rights Initiative (CERI), an international multi-stakeholder platform established under the auspices of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and the Environment, to ensure that children’s rights are placed at the centre of environmental decision-making and action, including ocean-related decisions and action.