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From ocean-sourced fashion to luxury seafood: Large Ocean Nations’ Forum on Blue Growth opens in Malta

The mermaids would be envious. Sustainable, ocean-sourced fashions that are as beautiful as they are gentle on our planet.

The premise of the upcoming Large Ocean Nations Forum on Blue Growth is intriguing: island nations – whether developed or developing, north or south, western or eastern hemisphere  – share many of the same challenges and can learn from one another’s experiences when implementing Blue Growth.

Hosted 2-4 October in Malta, just prior to the Our Ocean Conference, the event is part of a three-year project headed by the Faroe Islands’ Ministry of Fisheries.

Attending the three-day event are delegations from the Faroe Islands, Iceland, Greenland, Norway, the Seychelles, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Cabo Verde, Sao Tome and Principe, Vanuatu and Grenada. Participants from FAO and the EU will also attend this interesting dialogue.

The objective of the Forum is to promote greater collaboration and increased dialogue on successful practices that have spurred development on these island nations, and to look to the development of innovative industries and markets where island nations may have a competitive advantage.

Fish leather fabric made from salmon skin in a range of vibrant colours.
FAO Blue Growth activities in Cabo Verde are helping to strengthen women’s fisheries cooperatives, with stronger marketing strategies for local hotels and restaurants.
The fishermen head out early each morning on the African island of Sao Tome and Principe.
The African island nation of Seychelles developed innovative financing – in the form of Blue Bonds – to support its ocean economy activities.

One interesting and creative example is one many of us may not have considered: utilizing wasted fish skin to create elegant fashion designs.

While recent weeks have seen designers and models on the catwalks of the world’s fashion capitals: New York, London, Milan and Paris, it is Malta that earns points for originality and environmental sustainability, boasting its very own Blue Fashion for Blue Growth event at the Large Ocean Nations Forum next week.

On the runways, models will showcase sustainable fashion creations by talented designers that combine innovative design and sustainable (marine) materials that are harvested in abundance in island nations.

Høgni Karsten Hoydal, Ministry of Fisheries and Deputy Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands explains, “The traditional fisheries and fish farming sectors generate enormous amounts of fish skin, too often perceived as a waste product. Seaweed cultivation is also on the rise across the North Atlantic. Simultaneously, the fashion industry struggles with sustainability in its water-demanding cotton production and with synthetic fabrics releasing micro plastics into the ocean. Consequently, increased use of marine resources in the fashion industry can increase the sustainability of both the fashion industry and the marine industries. An increased use of marine resources in the fashion industry can increase the sustainability of both the fashion industry and the marine industries.”

Innovative, stunning fashion designs that are also gentle on the planet?

Judging from the photos accompanying this story, the Blue Fashion for Blue Growth audience will have an impressive preview of sustainable fashions created with seaweed, fish skins, and crafted salmon leather – all sourced and designed in creative ‘Large Ocean Nations’.

Otherwise on the agenda, the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) of Cabo Verde, Sao Tome and Principe and Grenada will share their experiences of implementing Blue Growth on their island nations, and highlighting how the policies they have developed are tailored to their individual developmental priorities and objectives. You can watch the brief Blue Growth Charter in Cabo Verde film here.

Other sessions will explore the development ocean products for health and industrial applications, with case studies presented by Papua New Guinea and Iceland. Another will present marketing exclusive seafood products to foreign markets, with case studies by Vanautu and northern Europe’s Norway.

According to Jacqueline Alder, FAO FishCode Manager, who is also responsible for FAO’s work in Blue Growth, “These types of exchanges are exciting for us. In the four years FAO has been working with the Blue Growth Initiative, we have increasingly been viewing Blue Growth as the engine to promote innovation in coastal communities and island nations around the world.”

“The title of this Forum is also appropriate. While many of these island nations have small populations and limited land masses, they are surrounded by enormous ocean territories. Blue Growth is about harnessing that potential from the sea to create jobs, provide livelihoods and nutrition to island dwellers, and to innovate products and technologies, all while sustainably managing their marine resources for future generations. From the use of cod skins used to heal severe burn victims or amputees to seaweed packaging and ocean-sourced fashions, fisheries management plans that bring together all stakeholders, the development of ecosystem tourism that is respectful of natural environments, and to innovative financing that supports all these activities – these are the exciting developments emerging from our Blue Growth work with island nations.”

A high-level roundtable at the event will bring together Fisheries Ministers from the Faroe Islands, Iceland, and Seychelles, Senior Ministry officials from Sao Tome and Principe and Mauritius, Ambassadors from Cabo Verde and Grenada, DG MARE’s Director for International Ocean governance and Sustainable Fisheries and FAO Fisheries’ own Assistant Director-General, Árni M. Mathiesen.

This session will bring together ideas and developmental challenges discussed throughout the Forum, and will propose ways forward to strengthen this crucial island cooperation aimed at improving the employment and livelihoods of island populations, while simultaneously managing fisheries resources and safeguarding their often fragile environments.

Wishing great success to this exciting and innovative forum spotlighting the achievements of these ‘Large Ocean Nations’ and encouraging their collaboration in sharing experiences and ideas. If you are not with us in Malta, you can follow the event on our Blue Growth blog, through the @FAOfish Twitter account and at the hashtag #OurOcean.

Venus emerging from the (northern) sea in her seaweed gown.
Island nations like Sao Tome and Principe live surrounded by the sea, and its citizens derive their employment, livelihoods, nutrition security – and often their identities – from the vast sea surrounding them.
Fish leather smock and bag.
Sustainable fish skin fabrics
Ocean-sourced fashion will be on the runway in Malta in the lead-up to the Our Ocean Conference
Blue Growth strategies should support employment and livelihoods opportunities for island dwellers. Sharing experiences and lessons learned between island nations – north and south, developed and developing – is an important first step in promoting innovation and developing strong ocean economies.

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