Project objectives

  1. Improve scientific understanding and capacity for monitoring, assessment and analysis of high seas biodiversity and fisheries around seamounts
     
  2. Enhance governance frameworks for high seas resources conservation and management
     
  3. Identify options for conservation and management measures applicable to high seas areas in the southern Indian Ocean
     
  4. Learning, awareness raising and knowledge

 

1. Improve scientific understanding and capacity for monitoring, assessment and analysis of high seas biodiversity and fisheries around seamounts

The project aims to enhance the knowledge base necessary to develop effective conservation and management options for high seas biodiversity.

Two research expeditions of 40 days each will study five selected seamounts in the southern Indian Ocean. The first cruise will focus on the pelagic ecosystem, fishery resources and oceanography, and the second cruise on benthic ecosystems. They will help answer key scientific questions, including:

  • What is driving the seamount ecosystems and fisheries?
  • How diverse are seamount fishes, crustaceans and other invertebrates?
  • What are the benthic communities of the studied seamounts like?
  • Are the predictions of coral diversity based on global modelling studies accurate?
  • What are the impacts of past and current deep-sea fishing activities?
  • Do the benthic protected areas make a significant contribution to conservation of vulnerable seabed communities and do they benefit fishing?

The scientific expeditions, planned for the end of 2009 and 2011 respectively, will comprise a multidisciplinary team of international scientists, paired with experts from the region. This will provide opportunities for capacity building, as well as expanding the global network of scientists interested in oceanography and deep-sea applied research and conservation.

The major partners on this research cruise are IOZ/ZSL, FAO and its EAF-Nansen project, the ASCLME Project, ACEP, IMR and SIODFA. The work is funded by the Global Environment Facility, The Natural Environment Research Council, UK, and the FAO.
 

2. Enhance governance frameworks for high seas resources conservation and management

In order to support the enhancement of the governance and regulatory framework for the conservation and management of high seas marine biodiversity of the southern Indian Ocean, the project will:

  • Develop an institutional and legal gap analysis for the Indian Ocean
  • Develop a comprehensive list of possible options for the improvement and strengthening of the legaland institutional framework to achieve sustainable fisheries and biodiversity conservation
  • Closely follow developments at internationaland regional fora and feed project results into them
  • Liaise with key governments and international, regional and technical entities and networks to maximize cooperation and coordination

The ASCLME Project, which also addresses high seas governance in areas that fall within the Large Marine Ecosystem boundaries but fall outside of national jurisdictions, is an important partner. Cooperation and liaison with relevant entities, such as FAO, the South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Commission (SWIOFC), the Indian Ocean Commission, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, etc. will be actively sought as well as SIOFA if and when it comes into existence.
 

3. Identify options for conservation and management measures applicable to high seas areas in the southern Indian Ocean

The proposed project will facilitate the identification and assessment of various options for conserving and sustainably managing deep-sea fishery resources and marine biodiversity. In particular, the project seeks to:

  • Identify conservation and management options based on a precautionary and ecosystem approaches applicable to areas in the high seas of the southern Indian Ocean
  • Identify options for managing deep-sea fisheries to prevent significant adverse impacts to vulnerable marine ecosystems and ecologically and biological significant areas
  • Identify appropriate monitoring, control and surveillance systems to ensure effective enforcement of, and compliance with, conservation and management plans
  • Develop a model management framework for high seas biodiversityand important high seas areas in the southern Indian Ocean
  • Identify threats from activities other than fisheries - such as maritime traffic or mining - that may negatively impact marine resources, and cumulate stress factors

The project will work in close collaboration with the fishing industry, to ensure feasibility and cost-effectiveness of measures, and encourage maximum buy-in and future compliance. It also seeks to provide a model that can be applied to other ocean areas, be expanded to a basin-wide scale, or include industries other than fishing.
 

4. Learning, awareness raising and knowledge sharing

The project will contribute greatly to global knowledge of seamount ecosystems and provide a concrete example of how remote oceanic ecosystems could be sustainably managed, in coordination with the fishing industry. To this end, the project will:

  • Regularly exchange project findings and information of mutual interest with other projects and entities concerned with the southern Indian Ocean and high seas resources, to ensure results and learning are shared as widely as possible and benefit from the experience of others
  • Widely publicise project findings and results to raise awareness of the importance of deep-sea biodiversity and highlight new discoveries for the attention of decision-makers, the private sector, scientific institutions and the wider public
  • Disseminate project results at international, regional and technical fora and feed outcomes and developments of policy-making processes into the project implementation

The project has already established cooperation and collaboration mechanisms with several entities and projects, including the ASCLME Project, ACEP and the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA).
 

  • Dr Fridtjof Nansen

    Dr Fridtjof Nansen

    Photo: © Tom Bornman

  • Seabirds

    Seabirds

    Photo: Sarah Gotheil

  • Fishing vessels

    Fishing vessels

    Photo: Sarah Gotheil

  • Knowledge sharing

    Knowledge sharing

    Photo: IUCN