A threatened marine region
Covering over 8% of the global ocean, the Western Indian Ocean is one of the least known, least protected and most threatened marine regions of our planet.
Shallow and deep coral reefs of the WIO are marine biodiversity hotspots with high numbers of species that are found nowhere else on Earth.
They are essential to the region’s 100 million people living within 100km of the coastline, including over three million people who are directly dependent on artisanal fishing for their livelihoods.
The population is projected to double over the next 30 years, driving greater stressors on the ocean’s biological capacity to support lives and livelihoods.
‘To ensure a prosperous and resilient Western Indian Ocean, it is essential that deep reefs are no longer ignored by scientists and policymakers, and they must be specifically considered in conservation and management strategies.’
Co-author, executive director of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
Recommendations for reefs
The scientific team has co-developed a new framework for conserving deep reefs including practical recommendations and specific actions for regional policymakers, conservationists and scientists.
The scientists are urging policymakers to use the COP15 biodiversity summit to agree to highly protect 30% of ecosystems by 2030 (‘30×30’), and include deep reefs in this target.
The team specifically wants to see deep reef ecosystems and their resources conserved through their inclusion in fishery regulations, marine protected areas and marine spatial planning.
They want current management efforts on shallow reefs to be extended to include deep reefs, as these ecosystems are often connected, and investment in research into deep reefs and their ecosystem services.
National, international, transnational cross-stakeholder collaborations should be developed to survey and conserve deep reefs in national and international (High Seas) waters, they say.
‘To halt and reverse nature loss, the UN Biodiversity Conference, COP15, must prioritise the conservation of unique ecosystems such as deep reefs, one of the least protected ecosystems on Earth.
‘We hope our recommendations and actions will be useful for decision-makers in the WIO, be applied within the new Western Indian Ocean regional policy and provide the springboard for deep reefs to become protected across the global ocean.’
PROFESSOR LUCY WOODALL
Co-author, professor of Marine Biology at the University of Oxford, Nekton Principal Scientist