Scientific community calls for marine conservation measures to be part of the blue economy

The Conference on Marine Biodiversity, Blue Growth and Innovation in Gran Canaria, which was held today within the framework of the Gran Canaria Forum on Blue Economy, organised by the Cabildo de Gran Canaria in collaboration with the University Institute ECOAQUA of the ULPGC, brought together several researchers and spokespeople from different lines of activity related to the sea who warned that ecosystem resources are being drastically depleted, the basis of numerous economic sectors, and that work must be done on their conservation.

Blue growth leads to the development of numerous technologies associated with the sea and the development of economic activities that are forcibly deteriorating the ecosystem resources of marine and coastal space. That is why the scientific community demanded today, during the celebration of the Conferences on Marine Biodiversity, Blue Growth and Innovation, organized by the University Institute of Aquaculture and Sustainable Marine Ecosystems (ECOAQUA) in collaboration with the Island Council, and which were held within the framework of the Gran Canaria Forum of Blue Economy, to work at the same pace in the sustainability and restoration of marine space and the conservation of flora and fauna that is developed in this area.

"Ecosystem resources are the engine of the blue economy and there is a danger of depleting them," explained Francois Simard, spokesman for the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN), during his speech. Among these resources, he explained, are fish, mollusks, crustaceans and algae that are captured for human consumption through fishing or aquaculture, the provision of nutrients and minerals obtained from water, the source of renewable energy, biotechnology, and the coasts and beaches that generate tourism, among others.

The objective, Simard explained, "would be to protect at least 10% of inland waters and marine areas by 2020, all endangered flora and fauna species and those that generate tourist activity around them, such as cetaceans. He also highlighted that special care must be taken of the seabed. "The coral reefs and algae of the oceans already exceed the mass of forests on Earth", so they are the main sink of carbon dioxide of the earth to fight climate change, something that in the Canary Islands is of special importance for its special orography.

He also advocated the promotion of new technologies and ideas associated with the development of the blue economy, such as ecological anchors, artificial reefs or the raising of private funds for nature conservation, and for the development of native species in aquaculture, such as the corvina in the Canary Islands, the bocinegro, the theft, the horse mackerel, the sargo, the medregal and the cultivation of macro and microalgae, haliotis, old bait and aquariophilia species, etc., with the aim of alleviating the damage caused when some foreign species escape and mix with the native species of the islands.

Joint work and citizen awareness

Marc Fernández, dean of the University of the Azores, explained the success of the MONICET project in this archipelago of the Macaronesia, an example of how different actors can collaborate in the preservation of the environment and marine species, while the economy grows.

MONICET is a platform that brings together the observations made by whale-watching companies during their daily routes. Guides and skypers record the observed species, count the animals and record their position, while providing an enjoyable experience for their clients. They also take photographs of particular characteristics of the animals, and once on land, upload the information onto an online database.

The MONICET platform converts the raw data provided by committed participating companies into valuable information for tourists, for the companies themselves and for scientists. You can see the distribution patterns of species, see how their numbers change over time, and investigate the movements of individual animals through photo-identification.

Marc Fernandez suggested that the Canary Islands could replicate this experience that has been positive in the Azores, as the sustainability of cetacean watching on the islands is being questioned, and the awareness of citizens and tourism companies working in this sector will help the sustainability of the system.

The Conference on Marine Biodiversity, Blue Growth and Innovation ended with a debate moderated by Ricardo Haroun, Deputy Director of IU-ECOAQUA at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC), in which the following two participants took part: Mr. Ricardo Haroun, Deputy Director of IU-ECOAQUA at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC) and Mr. Ricardo Haroun, Deputy Director of IU-ECOAQUA at the University of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria (ULPGC).