By Munene Mukaraku.

The International Indian Ocean Expedition-2 has designated KMFRI as the lead node for information and data management. The expedition lifespan is 2015 to 2020 with expected outcomes meant to answer diverse issues highlighted in National Plans of the different countries.

This was disclosed by Mr. Mika Odido, the IOC-Africa coordinator during a meeting held at KMFRI on 24th Nov. 2016 between the institute and the Department of Environmental Sciences of South Africa. In attendance was the vice chairman of IOC group V covering Africa and Middle East, Dr. Ashley Johnson.

Dr Renison Ruwa, extreme left with specs addresses KMFRI, IOC and South African members during consultations at KMFRI Hqs' last week. Photo : Milton Adera

The South African and KMFRI teams under the guidance of Dr. Renison Ruwa explored the opportunities for bilateral co-operation between the two institutions in furtherance of the regional objectives as envisioned in the IIOE-2.

KMFRI was identified as key Information and Data management credentials while the Department of Environmental Sciences had an upper hand in capacity and infrastructure. The two institutions therefore agreed to build on the synergy and utilize these strengths to support other less endowed countries in the region.

In respect to IIOE-2,the Kenyan plan is anchored on the Western Indian Ocean Upwelling Research Initiative ( WIOURI ) whose focus is trans-boundary current dynamics, upwelling variability and ecosystem impacts.

At the national level, the expedition is expected to contribute to National Economic and Development Blueprint (Vision 2030), operationalization of Fisheries Development and Management Act 2016 and the Marine Fisheries Blue Economy and implementation of KMFRIs' Strategic Plan 2015-2020.

Kenya is classified as a maritime state based on the fact that the total ocean area is 245,000 km2 comprising 42% of national land area. The future focus therefore is to identify, document and support in promoting sustainable exploitation of these enormous resources. The government has been instrumental in providing resources and infrastructure.  The RV Mtafiti research vessel and the Offshore Patrol Vessel (OPV) to be delivered early next year are key platforms towards this endeavor. The latter will be key in curtailing the illegal foreign fishing fleets within our territorial and EEZ area.

The IIOE-2 expedition therefore is critical undertaking which will complement the on-going initiatives being undertaken by the government through KMFRI. The success of these initiatives however will depend on multi-sectoral approach where other agencies mandated to promote other parameters like energy, bio-discovery, sea transport, oil and gas prospecting, bio-banking among others should work together.

The onus therefore is adopt a paradigm shift and establish a multi-agency co-ordination  mechanism . The preliminary observations point to multi-billion worth of unexploited potential.

For the country to maximize on the marine Blue Economy will require the dedication of all actors and above all looking for partners globally to help us bridge the capacity and infrastructure gaps.

Posterity will determine which player did not meet his bargain when the ball was in his court.