Transforming ocean-decision making through innovative solutions

By Senia Febrica, Lynne Shannon, and Stuart Jeffrey

Hub researchers, Lynne Shannon (University of Cape Town, South Africa) and Stuart Jeffrey (The Glasgow School of Art, UK)’s remarks during the 3rd World Biodiversity Forum emphasised the role of inter-and trans-disciplinary development research to advance science to ocean-biodiversity conservation actions and solutions and set us on a path towards sustainable transformation. The 3rd World Biodiversity Forum was held in Davos, Switzerland, from 16-20 June 2024, under the “From Science to Action” theme. At the Forum Lynne Shannon and Stuart Jeffrey shared their new and novel methods and research findings across an array of topics including inter-species communication, climate-fishery-conservation scenarios and community art and indigenous cultural heritage to practitioners, societal actors, and researchers.

Photo: Stuart Jeffrey

The World Biodiversity Forum was organised against the backdrop of calls for urgent and transformative action to halt and reverse biodiversity loss. The Kunming-Montréal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), for example, calls for “urgent and transformative action by Governments, and subnational and local authorities, with the involvement of all of society, to halt and reverse biodiversity loss (Section B4, Introduction to the GBF). The ongoing Intergovernmental Science-Policy Platform on Biodiversity and Ecosystem Services (IPBES) Nexus and Transformative Change Assessments “explore linkages between biodiversity and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) identify leverage points for transformative change across society” (World Biodiversity Forum, 2024).

Lynne Shannon is on the Scientific Steering Committee of the Forum and co-convened several sessions including a novel and exciting one on “Tapping into alternative knowledge systems to transform biodiversity and conservation management” where she presented on “Transforming ocean decision-making through intuitive interspecies communication”. The latter is a truly transdisciplinary, exploratory study across diverse scientific disciplines ranging from physical science, ecology and ecological modelling, law, geography, business management, anthropology, social sciences, as well as indigenous and local knowledge holders and inter-species communication practitioners. Three pilot case studies have been identified in Southern Africa and will be the focus of the “Ocean Transformation” team’s continued work: coastal mining, educational activities focused on turtle conservation, and Dugong conservation off the coast of Mozambique.

Lynne shannon presenting at the world biodiversity forum 2024 – Photo: Stuart Jeffrey

Lynne also represented her ecosystem modelling team and showcased their work on “Modelling marine climate-fishery-conservation scenarios in southern Africa.” The Ecospace model of the Southern Benguela, presented by Lynne at the Forum is important in reconciling knowledge needed to manage fisheries and to protect marine biodiversity by means of ecosystem-based management in South Africa, and to advance management advice under future scenarios of climate change. This complex model is under final calibration and the paper will be submitted for publication in the latter half of 2024.

Stuart Jeffrey presenting at the world biodiversity forum 2024 – Photo: Lynne shannon

Stuart Jeffrey delivered a joint presentation titled “Undercurrents: Community Art, Indigenous Cultural Heritage and Ocean Governance” that was prepared in collaboration with the Hub Director Elisa Morgera (University and early-career researcher Lisa McDonald (Glasgow School of Art, UK). This presentation discussed in detail One Ocean Hub’s Deep Emotional Engagement Programme (The DEEP Fund), a novel funding and support methodology that focuses on sharing the emotional connections to the ocean of those most directly impacted by its health, governance and human rights challenges.

As stated in the UN Special Rapporteur on Cultural Rights 2022 report, “A/77/290: Development and cultural rights: the principles” makes clear “a human rights approach with a strong consideration for cultural rights is both a framework for and a guarantee of success for any development agenda” (para.1). It further states that “creative projects address the challenges of development, utilise decolonisation processes, and recognise the complexities of traditional development paradigms rooted in colonialism” (para. 55). Although actually initiated several years before this UN report, the DEEP fund aligns with its principles by striving to avoid modes of engaging with communities where values and priorities are defined by academics, professionals or practitioners. Instead, artists and communities have been supported in the co-design of creative content from which expressions of their values, priorities and relationships emerge. In tandem with the emphasis on community priorities the DEEP fund’s impacts were recognised as being embedded in the production process as much as the actual creative outputs.

Stuart Jeffrey presenting at the world biodiversity forum 2024 – Photo: Lynne shannon

The DEEP fund has impact in terms of both foregrounding traditional knowledge and indigenous protocols in knowledge recording and sharing, as well as in fostering creative economies with a special focus on women and young people. These approaches have been extended through the dissemination phase of the DEEP Fund where communities have been supported in identifying audiences and dissemination strategies that speak directly to community priorities as well as those of the One Ocean Hub more broadly. The presentation was illustrated with examples from the eight DEEP fund projects (three in the Pacific, two in Ghana and three in South Africa), highlighting the range of outputs including murals, tapestry, documentary film, song and video, an illustrated children’s book, wearable art and digital content (for a digital exhibition see this link).

The continuing impacts from the Hub funded community-led art/research projects, as shared by Stuart at the Forum, are reflected upon in a book co-authored with artists and local community members titled Undercurrents: Art and ocean in Africa and the Pacific to be published by Sidestone Press. The book is scheduled for an Autumn publication (September/October 2024).

Lynne Shannon who co-chaired the arts-science session at the Conference, noted:

I found this conference enormously enriching and inspiring. The arts-science session I co-chaired was utterly fascinating and beyond our imagination! The richness and depth and diversity of ways in which arts and science are being combined to provide innovative and effective means of moving science into society and decision-making is just so exciting!”

Lynne Shannon

Please see the full information on the workshop and panel debates at the Forum the link provided (here and here). The World Biodiversity Forum Resolution will be made available here.

Related SDGs:

  • Reduced inequality
  • Sustainable cities and communities
  • Responsible consumption and production
  • Climate action
  • Life below water