IJMS Themed Set - Building the knowledge base to support blue growth in small island developing states

Learn more about Small Island Developing States on their journey toward a sustainable blue economy and the challenges they face in the latest themed set in ICES Journal of Marine Science.
Published: 16 October 2023

​The journey of Small Island Developing States (SIDS) towards the blue economy concept is a compelling story of dedication and collaboration. We spoke with Silvana Birchenough from MarineSpace​ (United Kingdom) and the main motivator behind the latest themed set, to dive into the subject and shed light on the challenges these nations face.

 "In 2015, I embarked on a journey funded by the UK Commonwealth Marine Economies," Silvana began. "My role was to lead scientific work across the Caribbean and the Pacific SIDS, particularly focusing on Belize's vulnerable commercial species. The opportunity to work on common challenges faced by SIDS sparked my mission to support, build capacity, and help these nations achieve the 'Blue Economy' concept. Discussions and collaborations shaped my thinking and eventually led to this themed set."

Tackling marine litter: A remarkable success
While all of the seven papers within the themed set are equally significant, one success story stands out. It revolves around tackling marine litter. "The results of developing an action plan in Belize have been nothing short of remarkable," Silvana shared with pride. "The government phased out the use of plastics and proceeded to develop waste management strategies, promoted alternatives, and engaged the community from government officials to businesses and the public. The concept and actions were fully endorsed. It's a testament to the power of a solid concept, solutions, and implementation. Belize, in particular, holds a special place in my heart for its commitment to the environment, from schools to government ministries, including the Ministry of Blue Economy."

Resilience in the face of natural disasters
Silvana's dedication to the cause mirrors the challenges faced by SIDS as described in the themed set. These small island nations are on the front lines of climate change, grappling with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and the ever-present threat of natural disasters.

But it's not just the successes; it's also the resilience of these island communities that is inspiring. Facing natural disasters, hurricanes, and storms, SIDS are constantly on the frontlines. "Yet they continue time and time again, building their businesses, educating their families, and always acting with a strong sense of resilience to protect, conserve, and manage their environment," Silvana emphasized. "I've been on these islands before and after these challenges, and their perseverance and tenacity are worth following, with very tangible actions to survive."

Lessons for a Sustainable Blue Economy
In closing, Silvana had a message and a call to action for ICES community and beyond. "It's a two-way street, for sure! SIDS and ICES can complement each other's efforts and learn valuable lessons. Climate challenges, traditional fishing knowledge, adaptation strategies, and sustainable financing are areas where both communities can connect, benefit, and network. I hope that these angles are considered in ICES/PICES networks at our workshops, conferences, and events. Together, we can make a substantial difference in supporting these island nations in their pursuit of a sustainable blue economy."

Small island communities exemplify courage, determination, and a firm commitment as they navigate the challenging waters towards a sustainable blue economy. The challenges and triumphs they face, as detailed in ICES Journal of Marine Science, underscore the urgency and importance of their mission.

Read all submitted articles in ICES Journal of Marine Science latest themed setBuilding the knowledge base to support blue gr​owth in small island developing states.​​​

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​Cartoon: Bas Köhler. ​Click to enlarge.​​​​​​​

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IJMS Themed Set - Building the knowledge base to support blue growth in small island developing states

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