World Oceans Week webinars highlighted the links between livelihoods, heritage, and ocean governance

By Senia Febrica and Laura Merilainen

For the second year in a row, the One Ocean Hub was an official partner of the UN World Oceans Day (8 June) and hosted four events during the World Ocean Week. The events linked the themes of livelihoods, heritage, and ocean governance. Recordings of these webinars are available on our YouTube channel.

Here’s a summary of the key messages of these webinars.

Small-scale fishers and ocean well-being: vital partners in enhancing biocultural diversity, human rights and sustainable livelihoods
Key messages:
  • Small-scale fishers are on the frontlines of responding to ocean pollution, the negative environmental and socio-cultural impacts of coastal mining and off-shore oil and gas explorations, and human rights violations in marine protected areas.
  • International instruments such as the Convention on Biological Diversity and the FAO Small-Scale Fisheries (SSF) Guidelines emphasize the obligations to include small-scale fishers in decisions and management of marine resources. Yet, small-scale fishers are marginalised from ocean decision making and have to fight for the recognition of their traditional knowledge and customary fishing grounds.
  • Panellists highlighted common challenges faced by small-scale fishers in South Africa, Ghana, and Namibia including lack of representation in blue economy initiatives, lack of access to fisheries investment, and declining fish stocks. They also recognized that small-scale fishers are at different points of their journey towards self-organization and better inclusion in each country, and therefore have different needs that could be addressed in partnerships with academic researchers.
  • There is a pressing need to mainstream human rights in fisheries management, and to give sufficient visibility to ocean-related human rights issues in international human rights processes.
Way forward:

“The One Ocean Hub looks forward to working with FAO and UNEP to create momentum on the need to protect the human rights of small-scale fishers, including as environmental human rights defenders, during the United Nations International Year of Artisanal Fisheries and Aquaculture in 2022” Elisa Morgera, Director of the One Ocean Hub says.

Intangible cultural ocean heritage and participatory research
Key messages:
  • We need to acknowledge that all stakeholders have the capacity to generate and share intangible cultural heritage.
  • Arts have potentially positive powerful disruptive capacity to advance participation due to their ability to engage emotions and senses; transgress value boundaries; engage with contentious issues; and cross border between performance (lying/exaggerating) and telling the truth.
  • Arts-based participatory research involves adapting the tenets of the creative arts in a social research project.
  • Drawing on literary writing, music, dance, performance, visual art, film, and other artistic mediums, arts-based participatory research enables collaborative partnerships between researchers and co-researchers to shift and invert power dynamics.
  • In participatory research, the voices and contemporary realities of indigenous peoples and local communities are offered as insight to their intangible cultural heritage. They provide a composite view of how they engage with the ocean, how they feel about the ocean, and what they have ‘lost’.
Way forward:

“Ocean leaders and managers should recognise and prioritise art and artists as important contributors to ocean conservation, because art articulates the aesthetic heritage and material culture of humanity. Art uses diverse platforms to share its message and to engage stakeholders across social and economic divides”, Hub researcher, Prof Rose Boswell says.

Canoe Culture and Heritage in Ghana
Key messages:
  • Historical analysis of canoe culture and heritage in Ghana shows the close links between canoes livelihoods, experience of power struggle and resistance, and adaptations in precolonial and colonial Ghana.
  • The canoe is both a tangible and intangible object of heritage – as a vessel it literally and symbolically embodies important beliefs, rituals, and customs.
  • Canoe usage is shaped by the politico-legal and spiritual functions of certain traditional organisations and authorities with important social and cultural value for communities.
  • There is an urgent need for better appreciate indigenous knowledge and ensuring it holds a central position in transformative approaches to ocean governance.
  • A full recognition of indigenous peoples’ human rights in marine spaces is an essential element of integrating indigenous knowledge and indigenous peoples in transformative ocean governance.
Way forward:

“Local knowledge is key to progress in sustainable fisheries management and inclusive ocean governance. This calls for a critical understanding and appreciation of the intangible heritage of a people in making inroads with the obvious and tangible aspects of their lives and livelihood”, Hub researcher Georgina Yaa Oduro says.

Inclusive Ocean Conservation: Innovations in Marine Spatial
Key messages:
  • Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) is key to address issues of equity and inclusion in the management of ecosystem services in remote marine areas, such as areas beyond national jurisdiction
  • Exploring ways in which we can include all forms of knowledge in the production of tools to support MSP, not just those ordinarily used to date, is essential for inclusive ocean governance.
  • The development of decision-support tool for MSP needs to include all stakeholders, otherwise we can expect low compliance and inability to achieve inclusive MSP.
  • Partnerships with stakeholders are often determined by lifecycle of research funding. We have to find innovative ways to develop long-term partnership with various stakeholders after the research funding cycle has ended.
  • States have international legal obligations to provide information, consult stakeholders, and protect communities’ rights to benefit from marine resources and a healthy ocean.
Way forward:

“Exploring the varying perceptions and experiences of inclusion as it relates to MSP from the different angles of our diverse experiences and disciplines (ranging from spatial ecology to the law) highlighted how inclusive participation in MSP is not easily won. To meet aspirational aims of the equitable and sustainable use of marine resources inclusion requires investment in capacity and time to ensure that governance from the top (i.e. law and policy development) to the bottom (law and policy implementation) is legitimate, facilitates relationship building and trust between actors, and meets the needs of society while promoting sustainable use. Each of our disciplines has a role to play in developing and responding to the capacity needs to foster inclusive MSP”, Hub researcher Holly Niner says.