TBTI Director gives a keynote at the IMBeR West Pacific Symposium

The IMBeR West Pacific Symposium, with the theme “Changing West Pacific Ocean: Science and Sustainability” held its virtual kick-off event on November 22-25, 2021. The symposium, endorsed by the United Nations Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development, welcomed more than 600 participants from the IMBeR Regional Programmes, working groups, and other supported projects to discuss progress, issues, and challenges in the West Pacific Ocean. The social dimensions of the marine biosphere were one of key themes, which included a session organized by the Dried Fish Matters Project on ecology, value chains, and nutrition of small fish, and a session on ecosystem-social interactions in the coastal sea. Ratana Chuenpagdee, TBTI Director, was the keynote speaker of the latter session, which was co-organized by TBTI member, Suvaluck Satumanatpan, Mahidol University, Thailand, together with Sue Mei Liu, Ocean University of China. Her talk focused on coastal governance, highlighted the importance, issues, and challenges in governing coastal seas.

Keynote presentation by Ratana Chuenpagdee

At the start of the presentation, Ratana posed an important question: “Why do we have to look at coastal seas?” She argued that we do not have full knowledge about the complexity and dynamics of the coastal systems, and thus we focus our governance effort on what is known. However, while some aspects of coastal seas are unknown or unknowable, and may seem ungovernable, transdisciplinary research can be employed to help integrate a wide range of social and natural scientific and non-scientific knowledge in the governance of coastal seas.

Ratana pointed out the importance of expanding from the Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) towards Interactive Coastal Governance (ICG), to focus on the different types of interactions in the social-ecological coastal systems, as well as in the governing system. Considering the complexity of governing the coastal seas and fisheries, interactive governance allows us to see the opportunities by looking at the meta-, first-, and second-orders of governance. Using examples such as Marine Spatial Planning (MSP), and Blue Economy and Blue Growth initiatives, Ratana highlighted concerns about how small-scale fisheries are being excluded or disadvantaged in the decision-making process. This is why TBTI brings forth Blue Justice for Small-Scale Fisheries as a key thrust for sustainable ocean development. This, she argued, would require a good ‘Step Zero’, with small-scale fishers, coastal communities, and other marginalized groups participate in the co-identification of the problems and co-designing of solutions, keeping principles like social justice and equity at the core. She concluded by saying that collaboration among different stakeholders, researchers, and governments is necessary to address challenges in governance and promote sustainable coastal seas, and invited everyone to the 4th World Small-Scale Fisheries Congress, which will be held in Japan in May 2022, to continue with the discussion and to help ‘Building Forward Better’.

Written by:

Nova Almine, Master’s student in Department of Geography, Memorial University, Canada, Dried Fish Matters Project