It is estimated that 55 million people living in the countries that border the Agulhas and Somali Current Large Marine Ecosystems depend on marine and coastal resources for food, work and security.
But human activities, such as pollution, overfishing and environmental degradation, as well as the growing threat of climate change, have the potential to seriously undermine their futures.
Each day, off the coast of southern and East Africa, thousands of fishermen in dugout canoes or simple wooden boats travel between islands in search of the day’s catch. Casting their nets and lines into the Western Indian Ocean, the fishers catch prawns, squid, rock lobster, tuna and mackerel. As they work, women and children gather on the seashore to harvest mussels, clams, oysters and crustaceans.
The ASCLME Project
The ASCLME Project is centred on the two large marine ecosystems (LMEs) of the Western Indian Ocean region. These are the Somali Current LME – which extends from the Comoros Islands and the northern tip of Madagascar up to the horn of Africa – and the Agulhas Current LME which stretches from the northern end of the Mozambique Channel to Cape Agulhas.
The objective of the ASCLME Project is to clearly define the ecosystem boundaries, understand the major transboundary environmental impacts within these ecosystems (by conducting Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses) and develop Strategic Action Programmes (SAP) for effective management and governance of these ecosystems.
A Transboundary Diagnostic Analyses is a science-based assessment tool which identifies and quantifies the causes of environmental problems in a geographic region; a SAP is a negotiated and formally adopted regional agreement that identifies and implements the policy, legal and institutional reforms and investments that are required to resolve these problems.
The ASCLME Project is capturing essential information relating to the dynamic ocean-atmosphere interface and other interactions that define LMEs, as well as data on fisheries, coastal populations and critical habitats. The Project is building capacity at the national and regional level and helping to create effective strategies for evolving information into policies and governance mechanisms that support the sustainable management of marine and coastal resources.
Eight countries are participating in the ASCLME Project. They are Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, South Africa and Tanzania. A ninth country, Somalia, is preparing to become a full partner in the project.
To date, the ASCLME Project has succeeded in establishing National Coordination Groups which are working towards the production of Marine Ecosystem Diagnostic Assessment (MEDA) reports that will provide each country with comprehensive, up-to-date information on the state of the marine environment.
Good progress has been made towards establishing a long-term monitoring network which will help to prepare the governments of the western Indian Ocean for the impacts that climate change will have on their people and economies. The long-term monitoring network is at the cutting edge of global efforts to improve the link between science and governance.
The ASCLME Project is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). UNOPS provides administrative and logistical support to the project.
The ASCLME Project is part of a trio of GEF-funded projects that are being implemented in the western Indian Ocean. Its two sister projects are the GEF/World Bank funded South Western Indian Ocean Fisheries Project (SWIOFP) which is focusing primarily on commercial offshore fisheries, and the GEF/UNEP funded and administered WIO-LaB, which is addressing land-based sources of pollution in the Western Indian Ocean.