Sustainable Oceans, Livelihoods and food Security Through Increased Capacity in Ecosystem research in the Western Indian Ocean (SOLSTICE-WIO)

Lead Research Organisation: National Oceanography Centre (WEF011019)
Department Name: Science and Technology


Ten percent of the world's population depend on the ocean for a readily accessible source of protein and employment, with the majority (95%) living in developing countries. Poor coastal communities are at the frontier for climate change impacts, compounded by population growth and food demand, but are among the least resilient to the challenges of the future.

SOLSTICE-WIO will focus on coastal communities in nine developing countries and island states in eastern Africa, interlinked culturally and ecologically and collectively known as the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region. All nine (South Africa, Mauritius, Seychelles, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Somalia, Madagascar, Comoros) are on the list of Official Development Aid recipients, with five identified as Least Developed Countries.

In the WIO over 100 million people live within 100 km of the ocean, with a significant proportion employed in local fisheries. This leaves the region highly dependent on the ocean for economic stability, food security, and social cohesion. These coastal communities have limited adaptive capacity to cope with dramatic reductions in fish stocks caused by overfishing, habitat destruction, and increasing environmental pressures - all aggravated by climate change. The decline of WIO fisheries has had profound socio-political ramifications, from the rise of piracy to general political instability.

A clear example of the devastating effect of a fish stock reduction is the collapse of the Chokka Squid fishery in South Africa. SOLSTICE-WIO will use this as a case study to demonstrate the strengths of a holistic approach to human-ecosystem-fisheries research and the potential solutions this can offer. The squid fishery was the 4th most valuable fishery in South Africa, bringing foreign currency into one of the poorest provinces. It was directly employing 5000 fishermen with 30,000 dependents. The 2013 crash had a devastating effect on the Eastern Cape, yet the underlying reasons are unknown: local fishermen believe the collapse was caused by environmental change. Until the mechanisms behind the collapse are understood, there is little potential for aiding recovery or guiding adaptation. SOLSTICE-WIO will provide this urgently needed understanding to help inform the fishery and Government as to the fate of the local ecosystem, whether it will recover, and whether the crash could have been predicted or prevented.

How will SOLSTICE achieve this?
The key to stability of living marine resources lies in an ecosystem approach to fisheries (EAF), which sees human-natural systems as a whole, integrated entity rather than separately considering individual target species. Simply put: you cannot manage something you don't understand, nor can you adapt to change through management improvements unless you can describe, measure and understand the changes. The core strength of SOLSTICE-WIO lies in its integral approach to food security, drawing on UK expertise in physical oceanography, marine ecology, autonomous observations, environmental economics and the human dimension,and WIO expertise in fisheries, the marine economy and regional policy development.

SOLSTICE will provide the region with the state-of-the-art technology to deliver cost-effective marine research and provide the information needed to achieve maximum potential from the region's living marine resources. In the UK marine robotics, ocean models and novel data products from satellite observations have developed rapidly in the last decade, and now underpin Blue Economies and Ocean Governance in Europe. These technologies are highly agile and ready to be applied in the developing world as cost-effective ways to maximise understanding and sustainable exploitation of living marine resources. Such "technology leapfrogging" can overcome the severe lack of research ships in the WIO and save decades of effort in developing predictive modelling systems from scratch.

Planned Impact

Western Indian Ocean (WIO) countries recognise that the welfare and livelihoods of their coastal populations are intimately linked to goods and services provided by the region's Large Marine Ecosystems (LMEs). While the WIO supports 4 million tons of fish catches annually yielding $943 million in revenues and employment, most fishers in the region are among the poorest in society.
FAO figures show that seafood exports from developing countries reach over $25 billion a year, higher than other agricultural commodities. Nevertheless marine capture fisheries are an underperforming global asset. Unlocking this economic potential for the WIO means tackling the challenge of decreasing catches due to over-exploitation, habitat degradation and climate change impacts which combine with increasing coastal populations to make food security an urgent issue. Fundamental to this is the WIO-wide adoption of the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) firmly recommended by the UNDP/GEF Strategic Action Plan (SAP) for Sustainable Management of the Western Indian Ocean LMEs, adopted and signed by Ministers from the nine WIO countries in 2015. The SAP has a mandate to build partnership for promoting sustainable management and shared governance of WIO ecosystems for present and future generations. However, its ability to deliver is limited by low scientific capacity, inadequate monitoring programmes, and poor integration of marine science into fisheries policies and management practices.
SOLSTICE will deliver impact by increasing regional capacity to support EAF by applying modern technologies to monitor marine environments and their societal impact and provide evidence-based information for decision support. Thus the project will make a substantial contribution to the implementation of the SAP by creating a step-change in the ability to manage and optimally exploit local fisheries.
The primary beneficiaries are policy makers and resource managers tasked with delivering sustainable management of marine living resources and climate adaptation options. They will benefit from an increased capability or the region's marine research bodies to deliver up-to-date environmental and socio-economic information relevant to their needs and in forms that meet their requirements. Increased regional capability to access outputs from global climate models, assess their reliability for regional and local environments, and interpret projections in the light of local information and knowledge will enable developing evidence-based adaptation options for consideration by policy makers.

Ultimate beneficiaries include:
- Commercial and artisanal fishers and their families will benefit from better yields and greater stability of sustainably managed fisheries, or from guidance on alternatives where existing practices are unsustainable.
- Enterprises engaged in processing, marketing, distributing and exporting seafood will benefit from higher yields and greater stability of optimally managed fisheries due to improvements in fishing practices arising from research recommendations.
- The tourism sector, dependent on attractive, ecologically sound natural environments and a culinary culture where seafood figures prominently, will benefit from their continued availability.
- Fishers, their families and the general public will benefit from a better understanding of the marine environment and the services provided by healthy marine ecosystems.
In the UK, DFID and NGOs engaged in supporting sustainable development will benefit from improved capacity of WIO marine research to deliver evidence-based guidance to decision makers. UK industries in the marine robotics and under-water sensing technology sector will benefit from improved links to WIO organisations engaged in marine environmental monitoring and research.

Engagement with these stakeholders to ensure they benefit are described in Pathways to Impact, as are plans for monitoring and evaluation of the impacts.



Michael John Roberts (Principal Investigator) orcid
Andrew Yool (Co-Investigator) orcid
Razack Lokina (Co-Investigator)
Stuart Carl Painter (Co-Investigator)
Charles Magori (Co-Investigator)
Tim Le Bas (Co-Investigator)
Jose Fernandes (Co-Investigator)
Stephanie Anne Henson (Co-Investigator)
Joseph Nyingi Kamau (Co-Investigator) orcid
Stephen Hall (Co-Investigator)
Ekaterina Popova (Co-Investigator)
Tammy Horton (Co-Investigator)
David Alexander Smeed (Co-Investigator)
Narriman Saleh Jiddawi (Co-Investigator)
David Christopher Obare Obura (Co-Investigator)
Dionysios Raitsos-Exarchopoulos (Co-Investigator)
ROBERT JOHN BREWIN (Co-Investigator)
Margareth Kyewalyanga (Co-Investigator)
Brian James Bett (Co-Investigator) orcid
Shigalla Mahongo (Co-Investigator)
Lucy Scott (Co-Investigator)
Eleni Papathanasopoulou (Co-Investigator)
Ana De Moura Queiros (Co-Investigator)
Harrison Ochieng Ong'anda (Co-Investigator)
Icarus Allen (Co-Investigator)
Daniel J Mayor (Co-Investigator)
Julius Francis (Co-Investigator)
Alan John Evans (Co-Investigator)
Paolo Cipollini (Co-Investigator)
Christopher John Banks (Co-Investigator)
Baraka Sekadende (Co-Investigator)
Margaux Alienor Noyon (Co-Investigator)
Henry Ruhl (Co-Investigator)
Alex Poulton (Co-Investigator) orcid
Helen Mary Snaith (Co-Investigator) orcid
Russell Barry Wynn (Co-Investigator)
Shankar Aswani (Co-Investigator)
Christine Pascale Gommenginger (Co-Investigator) orcid
Valborg Byfield (Co-Investigator)
Veerle Ann Huvenne (Co-Investigator)

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