NAIROBI – “We are in this together,” said Kenyan Foreign Affairs Minister Monica Juma on the final day of the Sustainable Blue Economy Conference in Nairobi, Kenya.

Juma appeared on a panel alongside Jonathan Wilkinson, Canada’s Minister of Fisheries and Peter Thomson, United Nations Special Envoy for the Oceans.

“I think this conference has meant a number of things, the most significant one is that we are in this together. That the scale of threat of risks is upon us. We have a huge range of opportunities that all of us can harness.”

Wilkinson agreed, adding that three significant issues came out of the conference. 

“The first is the blue economy framework that has been talked about here allows us to integrate conversations that have been happening almost in silos. So issues around sustainable fisheries management, issues around illegal and unregulated fishing. Issues around plastics pollutions in the oceans, issues around climate change, and issues around economic opportunities and prosperity.” He said that often these issues are considered in isolation, but at the conference, conversations have looked at how to approach these holistically.

He said the second significant outcome had been broadening the conversation on the blue economy. 

“Canada was fortunate to be the president of the G7 this year and we talked a lot about some of these issues within the G7. But the G7 is clearly not a sufficient body to have this conversation in and it needs to be catalysed outside. It needs to be a global conversation and through the work that Kenya has done here in this conference, we have most of the nations in Africa, we have many of the Small Island Developing States, we have many of the Caribbean nations, we have a whole range of folks who need to be part of the conservation, as well as civil society organisations. So I think broadening the conversation is also really important,” he said.

Thirdly, he said, the conference was not merely about talking. “The focus has been very much on how do we move to action. These issues that we are confronting are critical. They are important, they need near-term action.”

He said that in conversations with the President of Kenya, Uhuru Kenyatta, the question was “How do we move to action?”

In his closing address, Kenyatta said the conference was a unique opportunity to not only discuss issues related to Kenya’s Blue Economy “but the future of our shared planet.”

“I believe history will remember this as the conference that generated the momentum to harness the enormous economic potential of our blue economy and at the same time sound the alarm bells of its unsustainable exploitation,” Kenyatta said.

Some of the commitments made during the conference include a pledge from Canada to implement a 1.5 billion dollar ocean protection plan, enhancing maritime safety and addressing protection of marine biodiversity. Canada also committed to protecting 10 percent of marine and coastal areas by 2020.

For its part, Kenya committed to establish a Blue Economy Bank to support the growth and development of the blue economy sector and setting up an African Blue Economy innovation and research centre.

The African Union pledged technical assistance to help African countries in capacity building in exploitation of deep seas exploitation. Mozambique pledged to restore mangrove forest to 5000 hectares by 2023.