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Successful meeting of Large Ocean Nations’ Forum on Blue Growth in Malta

A Blue Growth fashion show spotlighting ocean-sourced fashion accompanied the Forum.
The event was attended by 50 participants from island nations around the world, including three Ministers and four Parliamentarians.
Dr Arjoon Suddhoo, Executive Director, Mauritius Research Council presented to the Forum his country’s experience with creating seaweed farming industries in Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands.
A woman in Tanzania works at a seaweed cultivation site.
Ólavur Gregersen (far right), Managing Director of the Faroe Islands’ Ocean Rainforest: The North Atlantic has the potential to produce in the range of 250-1,000 million tonnes of seaweed in its offshore wind farms.

In the three days before the Our Ocean Conference in Malta, the Faroe Islands and the Nordic Council of Ministers hosted an interesting three-day event discussing the challenges and opportunities for Large Ocean Nations around the globe. The event was organized in close cooperation with FAO and the Commonwealth.

We’ve already written posts about innovative ideas in these nations and the first day of the Malta event. In this blog post, we would like to provide a wrap-up of the event and highlight some of the key points and ways forward identified by attendees during their three days of dialogue on this Mediterranean island nation.

The event was attended by 50 participants from the Faroe Islands,  (including four parliamentarians), Iceland, Greenland, Norway, Seychelles, Mauritius, Papua New Guinea, Cabo Verde, Sao Tome e Principe, Vanuatu and Grenada.  In addition three ministers and a high-level representative from DG Mare, EU took part in the Round Table discussions at the end of the Forum.

Participants spent the three days presenting case studies of Blue Growth activities on their island nations, identifying areas for closer collaboration, raising shared issues of concern, and devising ways to move forward in implementing Blue Growth activities on their island nations – activities that harness the potential of the vast tracts of sea surrounding their nations, emphasize the need for job creation and livelihoods support, and simultaneously seek to safeguard fragile marine resources.

Feeding a growing planet: How about seaweed?

Case studies were paired up into “North-South” presentations on various topics. One interesting example raised during the sessions was the example of seaweed farming.

Seaweed enjoys up to ten times the growth-rate of other, land-based crops. It requires no fertilizer. It doesn’t compete with land-based crops or human-destined food sources, and it cleans water sources and mitigates the effects of climate change.

From a nutritional standpoint, the high nutritional value of seaweeds is well documented. Seaweed is rich in minerals, especially iodine and calcium, as well as in vitamins and omega-3 fatty acids.

It is also a good source of soluble fibre. Although much seaweed is destined for animal feed or food additives to boost flavour, seaweed is already consumed by many coastal populations, and nutrition experts believe there is much more potential for wider acceptance of seaweed in our diets. “Seaweed could have a huge potential for human consumption as a provider of many nutrients, particularly minerals,” according to fish and nutrition expert, FAO Fisheries Officer Jogeir Topper. “It has been claimed that seaweed has about ten times the amount of minerals compared to land based plants.”

This is certainly a development to watch, since it combines impressive nutritional benefits, with the added benefit of growing in a manner that is gentle to our planet and its natural resources, while simultaneously absorbing carbon and regulating our oceans.

Dr Arjoon Suddhoo, Executive Director, Mauritius Research Council presented to the Forum on his country’s experience with creating seaweed farming industries in Mauritius and Rodrigues Islands. Efforts began with a “Seaweed Taskforce”, which adopted a multistakeholder and multidisciplinary approach to developing the island nation’s seaweed industry. This was carried out by building upon the local knowledge of fishermen and other stakeholders in the seaweed producing lagoons.

In Mauritius, there are 435 different species of seaweed and algae, 45 of which enjoy commercial significance. As part of the task force, a team took part in capacity development training in Tanzania and also learned about value addition through the creation and marketing of seaweed jams, soaps and beauty products, biofertilizer and animal feed for pig farming. According to Mauritius’ experiences, lessons learned include that seaweed farming requires substantial input of updated science and technology. It is labour-intensive and requires constant maintenance.

Ólavur Gregersen, Managing Director of the Faroe Islands’ Ocean Rainforest noted that his company is the leading supplier of sustainable macro algae. Macro algae cultivation rigs can withstand severe weather conditions commonly found in the North Atlantic, and through selective breeding, yields can increase by up to 50%. The North Atlantic has the potential to produce in the range of 250-1,000 million tonnes of seaweed in its offshore wind farms. One of the disadvantages of seaweed production in the region is the high cost of labour.

Discussions following the presentation addressed the issue that there are many different types of seaweed, so northern and southern islands are not direct competitors. Both Mauritius and Faroe Island operators cited challenges with upscaling research and development, innovating new products and markets, and gaining greater acceptability for seaweed. As agreed during this event, there is scope for northern and southern islands to work more closely on these issues, particularly on issues related to research and development and marketing. An agreement for closer collaboration appears to be a concrete, positive outcome of this dialogue.

Blue Fashion for Blue Growth

On Tuesday evening, Forum participants attended a fashion show designed to showcase ocean-sourced fabrics. Speaking at the opening of the show, Malta’s Minister for the Environment, Sustainable Development, and Climate Change, José A. Herrera praised the Forum’s initiative in spotlighting sustainable approaches to ocean activities. Morten Stemre of the North Atlantic Cooperation reminded the audience that “The fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, following the petroleum industry.

Morten Stemre of the Nordic Atlantic Cooperation reminded the audience that the fashion industry is the second most polluting industry in the world, following the petroleum industry.
Iceland’s Marianne Mørck speaks about how she began designing clothing and bags with salmon leather, which is a stronger fabric than leather from cow hide.
Jewelry on display from Malta's Sam Selby.

The creation of polyester requires large amounts of petroleum, and this and other synthetic fabrics contribute to microplastic pollution of the oceans.” He noted that items such as salmon skin are often considered a byproduct, meaning it would otherwise be wasted if not used for other purposes, such as being repurposed into fabrics destined for the fashion industry.

Speaking at the event, the designer Marianne Mørck spoke about her experience making textiles and leather for orthopedic purposes. Her company, Mørck, was launched in 2012, with its first collection in 2015. The salmon skins Mørck uses in its products are exported to Iceland for tanning. The tannery in Iceland is fueled by renewable energy - utilizing hot water from geothermal sources. She noted that salmon skin-produced leather creates a stronger fabric than cow leather, but she also added that the cleaning, tanning and transport of the salmon skins is expensive. One solution for reducing costs could be to create a tannery next to aquaculture sites.

Speaking at the event, the designer Marianne Mørck spoke about her experience making textiles and leather for orthopedic purposes. Her company, Mørck, was launched in 2012, with its first collection in 2015. The salmon skins Mørck uses in its products are exported to Iceland for tanning. The tannery in Iceland is fueled by renewable energy - utilizing hot water from geothermal sources. She noted that salmon skin-produced leather creates a stronger fabric than cow leather, but she also added that the cleaning, tanning and transport of the salmon skins is expensive. One solution for reducing costs could be to create a tannery next to aquaculture sites.

At the fashion show, the jewelry of Seychelles’ Kreolor Enterprise were presented. Kreolor began 27 years ago on the Indian Ocean island nation, and now boasts 40 employees and six stores across the Seychelles. Kreolor jewelry is created with items sourced directly from the 1.37 million square kilometers of sea surrounding this island nation. The artisans incorporate indigenous coco de mer shells, palm seeds, oyster shells, pearls and swordfish bills into their creations, which they intertwine with gold to create unique jewelry popular with tourists wishing to return home with a memento from their beach holiday.

The Shisa brand of the Faroese Islands was announced as the winner of the Blue Fashion Challenge. Shisa shared its vision of eschewing the modern trend of “fast fashion” and its tendency to treat clothing as disposable, with an eye to longer-lasting sustainable fabrics sourced from the oceans. Shisa displayed a smock created from 70 salmon skins converted to salmon leather. Seaweed fabric is also incorporated into Shisa designs.

Next steps to achieving Blue Growth in Large Ocean Nations

The three-day event concluded with seven overall recommendations for moving ahead for implementing Blue Growth activities in Large Ocean Nations:

  • Build effective collaboration and partnerships
  • Use digitalization and data for innovation and information sharing
  • Create institutions that nurture Blue Growth
  • Create links between Blue Growth, Agenda 2030 and long-term planning
  • Ensure standards and legal frameworks that support Blue Growth
  • Engage societies and consumers – “Making Blue Growth cool”
  • Support Blue Growth innovators and open markets

 To see more about the Our Ocean Conference, and how heavily small island developing states and their concerns and priorities factored into that event, you can see our blog wrap-ups on Day 1 and Day 2.

The Shisa brand of the Faroe Islands was announced as the winner of the Blue Fashion Challenge. This smock displayed is made from the leather of seventy salmon skins.
Høgni Karsten Hoydal, Ministry of Fisheries and Deputy Prime Minister of the Faroe Islands took part in this three days of dialogue and sharing of experiences.
This interesting event brought together island nations – large and small, north and south – to learn from one another and to share experiences and lessons learned.
The Forum was held in St Julian’s, Malta, just along the Mediterranean Sea.
Iceland’s Fisheries Minister Thorgerdur Katrín Gunnarsdóttir took part in the Large Ocean Nations’ Forum on Blue Growth.
Models display colourful Sam Selby jewelry and ocean-sourced fabrics at the Blue Fashion for Blue Growth evening.
Attractive salmon leather handbags are on display at the Blue Fashion show.
Island participants found many experiences to share and engaged in three days of wide-ranging dialogue focused on solutions for achieving Blue Growth in their island nations.
Blue Fashion models with their sustainable, ocean-sourced clothes and jewelry.
Participants agreed, the Blue Fashion for Blue Growth evening was a highlight of the event.
Colourful Maltese boats dot the harbours of this island nation.

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