The MeerWissen Initiative With Six New Partnership Projects

Eels, penguins, algae, spatial planning for the marine ecosystem, scientific data gathering and easier access to data

Photo © Agostino Merico

Marine and coastal resources are essential for food security and economic development in Africa and beyond. Ocean economies are among the most rapidly growing in the world, with potential benefits for many sectors, such as fisheries, transport, biotechnology, energy production, tourism and others. At the same time, the ocean is facing increasing threats due to human activities, such as habitat destruction, pollution and over-exploitation of natural resources.

In response to the need for building sustainable pathways for ocean economic development, the concept of a sustainable blue economy has emerged and is discussed at international, regional and national levels. More and more coastal nations in Africa are developing strategies to implement a sustainable blue economy. This stresses the need for ocean science to build a knowledge basis for informed policy decisions for the protection and sustainable management of marine and coastal ecosystems and resources.

Science and research — Pillars of a sustainable blue economy approach

Ocean science allows us to understand ocean processes as well as impacts of economic activities and helps us to identify solution-oriented and sustainable options. Feeding research results into decision-making processes can enable African coastal nations in developing economic activities that are in balance with the long-term capacity of the ocean ecosystem.

The MeerWissen initiative responds to the need for a strong knowledge basis and the newly launched six partnership projects play an important role in shaping a sustainable blue economy in their countries of implementation.

Looking at the eel economy

The project “BIOEELS” in Tanzania will assess the biodiversity of migratory eels, map the eel fishery value chain, examine landings and catch rates of eels and empower communities to monitor and manage their resources. Local fishers will be involved in data collection, participatory mapping of eel habitats and dissemination of results. The University of Dar es Salaam, the Tanzania Fisheries Research Institute and the Thünen Institute of Fisheries Ecology Germany work together to assess the status and effectiveness of existing governance frameworks and make recommendations for an improved governance framework for the management of eels at all levels.

Protecting the endangered African penguin

In South Africa and Namibia the University of Pretoria, the University of the Western Cape, the University of Namibia and the Freie Universität Berlin engage in optimizing conservation policies to stop the massive decline of African penguins. The influence of diseases and chemical contaminants on African penguin population dynamics will be investigated. The partnership project “Penguins” engages key stakeholders in the identification of factors responsible for the population decline through data and models with the goal to build strategies and monitoring tools as well as early-warning systems.

Spatial planning for informed decisions on marine ecosystems

Currently, the full value of marine ecosystems and their wide-ranging benefits for society are not reflected in decision-making processes in Namibia. The partnership project “NAMares” will support marine spatial planners in making more informed decisions by improving the available knowledge basis on marine ecosystem services. The University of Namibia and the Helmholtz Centre Geesthacht collaborate to develop decision-support methodologies, including a spatial cost-benefit approach, which allows to assess trade-offs.

Generating a base of scientific knowledge on fish

The project “INDUCE” will produce scientific knowledge for the conservation of fish functional diversity in Senegal. Despite functional diversity being an important ecosystem service, this metric is rarely considered in the discourse. The African Institute for Mathematical Sciences, the Oceanographic Research Center of Dakar and the Leibniz Centre for Tropical Marine Research collect data to constitute the basis for the development of capacities and management strategies in support of the National Biodiversity Strategies and Action Plan (NBSAP) and sustainable blue economy activities.

Is there economic potential in algae?

The MeerWissen project “CLIMALG-SN” is implemented in Senegal and will investigate the potential of marine algae for the local economy. The project will develop a road map for policymakers, finding a balance between exploitation of seaweed and the preservation of natural seaweeds habitats as an important habitat for fish. Seaweed aquaculture cannot only be a profitable and sustainable source of income, but also a tool for carbon sequestration and nutrient uptake from over-fertilized coastal waters. The Senegalese Institute for Agricultural Research, l’Institut de recherche pour le développement Senegal and GEOMAR will update the current seaweed inventory in Senegal and assess ecological and biogeochemical interactions as well as bottlenecks in seaweed use.

Making oceanic and coastal data more easily accessible

Finally, the MeerWissen project “Pulse of the Ocean” will work in Senegal to increase the access to user-friendly data of the coastal area. By using cost-efficient devices to measure temperature, salinity and chlorophyll, the Laboratory of Atmospheric Physics and Ocean Siméon Fongang and the Alfred-Wegener-Institut Helmholtz-Zentrum für Polar- und Meeresforschung engage scientists, local authorities and beneficiaries in data sharing. The beneficiaries of this project will be coastal inhabitants, especially Senegalese fishing communities, local politicians and education hubs as universities and schools, which will be able to access and use the data via smartphone devices.

These six new partnership projects between African and German marine research institutions are part of a growing portfolio of MeerWissen projects all working at the interface of science and policy.  All projects aim to improve the knowledge base that countries can draw on to help formulate policies for the protection and sustainable use of the ocean. Accordingly, the projects contribute to the vision of the African Union’s “2050 Africa’s Integrated Maritime Strategy” (2012) and to the upcoming UN Decade Ocean Science for Sustainable Development (2021-2030).

About the BMZ initiative MeerWissen

The African-German Partners for Ocean Knowledge is supporting six new partnership projects between African and German marine research institutions with a thematic focus on “Strengthening biodiversity conservation in sustainable blue economy approaches in Africa”.

Over the next two years, the projects will carry out activities in Senegal, Tanzania, South Africa and Namibia. They’ll address a wide range of issues, from the protection of African penguins and related economic aspects to studies on the potential of marine algae habitats in “blue growth” strategies to improving the data basis and data management for the protection and use of marine coastal ecosystems.

For more information here.


Sven Stöbener, Advisor, /