From 28 June to 2 July this year, the MARE Conference offered again a platform for exchange of latest research results, joint learning and networking. The key theme invited critical reflection on the fact that 'sustainable development' as guiding concept for policy makers, has been replaced of late by the ‘blue economy’ and ‘blue growth’ mantra. We say instead, focus on people - they can correct the dangerous directions some investments are taking at the expense of the wellbeing of people and planet.

Notions on blue growth especially invite attention for new uses of the ocean, such as renewable energy through wind at sea, deep sea mining and deep-sea fishing, but also aim at highlighting ecosystem services that have societal value, such as coastal protection, CO2 storage and biodiversity. The concept aims to reconcile two seemingly opposing uses of the ocean: exploitation and conservation. The slogan also appears to promise that there still is a new frontier for economic expansion to be conquered.

The Mundus maris team composed of Cornelia E Nauen, Stella Williams, Maria Fernanda Arraes Treffner, Kafayat Fakoya and Aliou Sall contributed a paper to a session focused on Gender chaired by Cornelia. We followed up on our gender panel in 2019 and enriched the findings with recent experiences as part of the capacity reinforcement of women and men in small-scale fisheries through the Small-Scale Fisheries Academy in Yoff, Senegal. The emphasis here is on moving from an abstract understanding of the widely accepted equity principle to translating that into practice, individually, within the family, the community and more in general. The slides with explanatory text are available here. Other speakers in the session shared gender work in a marine park in Malaysia, conceptual framework to take gender into consideration for the protection of culturally significant sites and reported on mixed empirical experiences with promoting gender equity in the Galapagos Islands.

Most fittingly, our friends at the ZMT in Bremen translated into English the sound track of a significant interview with Awa Seye, one of the women leaders in artisanal fishing in Guet Ndar, in the north of Senegal. It remains as relevant as it was a few years back, when we first recorded it. The video was projected on demand during the entire conference, until end July 2021, and can now still be viewed on the Mundus maris YouTube channel here.

Several other interesting sessions touched on concerns high on our research and practice agenda to learn from other teams and contribute our insights in the debates. One of particular relevance to the on-going capacity strengthening efforts in the context of the Small-Scale Fisheries Academy was entitled "Adventures in international and interdisciplinary capacity building and research" chaired by Profs. Hong Ching Goh of the Universiti Malaya and Melany Austen of the University of Plymouth. The session addressed how to deal with disparities between countries, cultures, priorities and concrete working conditions through building collaborative relationships for identifying solutions.

Another focused on "Ocean storytelling: Alternative ways of knowing the sea and why these are important for ocean govenance" chaired by Taryn Pereira of One Ocean Hub / Rhodes University, South Africa. The session asked what we may learn for more inclusive and transformative ocean governance if we listened to a chorus of voices, in which multiple knowledge fields are recognised as holding expertise on the oceans.

Yet another session asked the question "Whose Knowledge, Whose Ocean? Decolonizing and Coproducing Ocean Science". It was chaired by Dr. Annet Pauwelussen and Prof. Esther Turnhout of Wageningen University & Research and Dr. Harriet Harden-Davies of University of Wollongong.

More resources

Storytelling as a political act: towards a politics of complexity and counter-hegemonic narratives

Multiactor Dialogues

Empowering women in small-scale fisheries for sustainable food systems

Listening in and participating probably in more sessions than would have been possible during an on-site meeting was a very enriching part of this conference in virtual space. We still hope for easier direct interaction with researchers and practitioners in the next edition again in Amsterdam.