The Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism through the Department of Fisheries recently hosted a symposium titled ‘Sustaining Marine Biodiversity through Blue Economy Symposium 2023’ in conjunction with the Brunei Mid-Year Conference and Exhibition 2023 (MYCE 2023).
Held at the Pro Chancellor Arts Center, Universiti Brunei Darussalam (UBD) from 6 June until 8 June, the symposium is a collaboration with the Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) and the University of Brunei Darussalam and supported by the British High Commission in Brunei Darussalam, the Australian High Commission in Brunei Darussalam, the High Commission.
The theme for this symposium is ‘Blue Economy: Rainforest of the Sea’, as the blue economy has been identified as a key strategy to maintain marine biodiversity.
Additionally, the core value of the blue economy lies in the balance between maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem and ensuring economic benefits can be achieved from coastal and marine resources to achieve inclusive and sustainable economic growth.
With this symposium, it brings together scientists, academics, educators, industry leaders, managers, environmentalists, and other stakeholders to share and exchange knowledge and expertise in the field of marine biology, ecology, management, and marine conservation.
This event also includes diving activities to explore the tropical coral reefs in Brunei’s waters namely Rig Reefs and Pelong Rocks as well as a visit to Bandar Seri Begawan, the capital of Brunei Darussalam.
Moreover, the activities prepared for this symposium were divided into three sessions with the first session being ‘Economy: Balancing Economic Growth with Marine Conservation”, the second session ‘Marine Biodiversity: Importance, Threats and Conservation; and the third session ‘Sustainable Fisheries and Aquaculture: Enhancing Marine Biodiversity and Economic Development’.
Present as the guest of honor of the symposium is the Minister of Primary Resources and Tourism Yang Berhormat Dato Seri Setia Dr. Haji Abdul Manaf Haji Metussin.
In his welcoming speech, Vice-Chancellor of Universiti Brunei Darussalam Dr Hazri Haji Kifle shared that the ASEAN region holds global significance in terms of marine biodiversity, boasting a rich tapestry of diverse marine resources.
“Within ASEAN, we are blessed with 30% of the world’s coral reefs, 35% of mangroves, and 18% of seagrass beds. Brunei Darussalam, in particular, is renowned for its abundance of marine biodiversity, including diverse fish species, corals, molluscs, crustaceans, and echinoderms. Brunei waters are home to iconic species such as green turtles, dugongs, and horseshoe crabs, while our pristine old-growth mangroves stand as a testament to our commitment to environmental preservation,” said the vice-chancellor.
These marine resources play a vital role in the socio-economic well-being, contributing significantly to key industries such as fisheries and tourism.
He added that ecologically, marine ecosystems, including mangroves, act as a natural shield, protecting people against storm surges, strong waves, and coastal erosion, and contribute towards resilience to climate change.
However, despite their critical importance, marine ecosystems face mounting threats from human activities, particularly in coastal areas that are often focal points of human settlements.
Additionally, the loss of marine habitats directly impacts marine species, altering their abundance, diversity, and distribution. This, in turn, can have adverse effects on the economy and livelihoods, as marine species are lost and marine resources are compromised.
“Hence, this symposium serves as a timely platform for discussions centered around sustaining and preserving marine biodiversity through the blue economy approach. By utilising marine resources in a sustainable manner, we can achieve a delicate balance between economic growth and conservation efforts,” he said.
Furthermore, Dr Hazri Haji Kifle shared that the symposium offers a unique opportunity to explore Brunei’s remarkable coral reefs and mangroves, showcasing Brunel’s strong dedication to their sustainable use, conservation, and management.
In her opening remarks, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Primary Resources and Tourism Hajah Tutiaty Haji Abd Wahab shared that over the last decade, global interest in the ocean economy, or ‘blue economy’ has developed a sound paradigm for comprehensive and sustainable management of marine and coastal resources, as the oceans, seas, and coastal areas form an integrated and essential component of the Earth’s ecosystem.
The importance of oceans for sustainable development is widely recognized by the international community as ocean ecosystems form the basis for global economies, local livelihoods, food security, and climate adaptation as emphasized by the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals.
In addition, the core value of the blue economy lies in the balance between maintaining a healthy marine ecosystem and ensuring economic benefits from coastal and marine resources for inclusive growth.
Thus, transformation to an inclusive blue economy needs a common commitment, collaborative effort and integrated approach from the local to the global level.
“I firmly believe that this Marine Biodiversity Through Blue Economy Symposium would be an excellent opportunity to elaborate on a few points such as the current development of Blue Economy, management strategies that had been implemented by our partners and greater cooperation to promote effective programmes for potential future collaborations to preserve our marine natural heritage,” said Hajah Tutiaty.
With that, the event was followed by keynote speeches presented by a foreign panel expert, Secretary-General of Southeast Asian Fisheries Development Center (SEAFDEC) Thailand Malinee Smithrithee, and Senior Lecturer and Head of Postgraduate Studies, Australian National Center for Ocean Resources and Security (ANCORS), University of Wollongong, Australia Dr. Camille Goodman.
Panel experts and participants from within and outside the country including agencies related to marine resources will also accompany the symposium.
For more information on Sustaining Marine Biodiversity Through Blue Economy Symposium 2023, visit the official website of the Department of Fisheries at https://www.fisheries.gov.bn and their social media Instagram @Jabatanperikanan.bn.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN