What is the ocean in distress telling us? How can we study its many facets to understand better its role in the global climate system, its ecosystems and the people drawing food, air to breath, recreation, jobs and more from it? The University Belgrano and Mundus maris joined forces for a day-long webinar on 6 November to explore at least some of these facets. It was orchestrated by Dr. Marcelo L. Morales Yokobori, researcher in ecology, conservation and marine resources.

The webinar was both a preparation for World Fisheries Day, 21 November, and a catch up on missed on-site activities for World Ocean Day, 8 June. 

The programme was as diverse as the speakers from three continents. Participants were primarily students from Central and South American countries, who had registered from this free event. The morning session was mostly conducted in English, the afternoon session was mostly in Spanish, certainly easier for the majority of the audience.

It was a first for both the University Belgrano and Mundus maris to test how online teaching could complement more traditional face-to-face lecturing while still offering opportunities for interaction through Q&A sessions at the end of each lecture. That worked rather well, nicely moderated by Marcelo and his team in Buenos Aires.

Welcome words were pronounced by Alberto Guerci, Dean of the Faculty of Exact and Natural Sciences, Marcelo Morales and Lilian Elizabeth Ferré, Director of Degree Studies in Biological Sciences.

Cornelia E Nauen of Mundus maris gave the first talk of the day on "IUU fishing in a global market of fishery products". She highlighted how Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated fishing had been long underestimated as a minor breach of administrative rules, while it had become indeed a very serious criminal offence, often associated with large-scale corruption, forced labour and other human rights abuses, drug and arms running. Globally between 8 and 14 mio t of unreported catches are potentially traded illegally. That's a gross revenue for fraudsters of USD 9 to 17 billion, losses to legitimate economic actors and USD 2 to 4 billion in lost tax revenue (1).

IUU fishing is driven by global overcapacity of industrial fleets, harmful fisheries subsidies, weak governance and lax enforcement of rules.The slides are accessible here.

Argentina and Chile are seriously affected by IUU fishing by ships flying flags of convenience and not respecting the management measures adopted by the Commission for the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources (CCAMLR).

Mecki Kronen of GIZ and also of Mundus maris talked about blue carbon. It denotes the carbon stored, sequestered and released from coastal ecosystems, including mangroves (27%), sea grasses (63%), and salt marshes (10%).

Mangroves store an average of 858 t of carbon per hectare and year, 80% in the upper one meter of soil. When shrimp farms are developed in mangrove areas one kg of shrimp produced releases 437 kg of carbon and stores on 11% of the carbon of an intact mangrove - under the most ideal conditions only. Work is ongoing to rehabilitate degraded mangroves and find a better compromise between short-term financial results of shrimp ponds and longer-term climate functions of mangroves. The Blue Carbon Initiative involving IOC-UNESCO, Conservation International, IUCN and others is labouring the issues since 2009 and has generated a lot of useful insights which could help better management.

Stella Williams of Mundus maris in Nigeria spoke to the challenges of women in fisheries still often not being recognised for the work they do along value chains. This is only slowly changing since gender equity and equality became Sustainable Development Goal #5. Advances are most pronounced where organisations have and apply gender sensitive policies and become equal opportunity employers. The slides are available here.

Aliou Sall of Mundus maris in Senegal spoke about the importance of the socio-anthropological dimension of research programmes and public fisheries policies. When social and cultural aspects get neglected in favour of seemingly more modern and technocratic perspectives of the fisheries sector, that may have negative effects on the outcome, especially when the largely informal artisanal segment of the fisheries is large and important as is the case in the country.

Gabriel Blanco of the National Institute for Fisheries Research and Development (INIDEP) and former chief of the Onboard Observers Programme talked passionately about the ecosystem approach to fisheries, which demands not only to replace single stock management by multi-species approaches, but also consider social, economic and ecological dimensions of the fisheries.

Patricia Morales of the Catholic University of Leuven in Belgium was the last speaker in the morning session. She addressed the 2030 Sustainability Agenda post-pandemic broadening the perspectives further. The rich programme continued with another five full talks ranging from biodiversity and fisheries in the coral triangle in the Indo-Pacific by Simona Boschetti of Mundus maris, fascinating detective work with fish otholits by Alejandra Volpedo, Director of the Animal Production Research Institute of CONICET in Argentina to three talks on different worrisome aspects of water contamination and pollution, including on mercury and microplastics. The complete recording is available here.

(1) Sumaila, U.R., Zeller, D., Hood, L., Palomares, M.L.D., Li, Y. and Pauly, D. (2020). Illicit trade in marine fish
catch and its effects on ecosystems and people worldwide. Sci. Advances, 6, eaaz3801