News Archive News Archive: Building a Blue Belt Initiative roadmap for Africa
Building a Blue Belt Initiative roadmap for Africa

UMass Dartmouth Professor Avijit Gangopadhyay invited by King of Morocco to serve as ocean economy and fishing industry panelist at Crans Montana Forum in Dakhla.

Avijit Gangopadhyay
Dr. Avijit Gangopadhyay, Professor of Estuarine and Ocean Sciences at UMass Dartmouth

Climate change affects oceans, ecosystems, rivers, and freshwater bodies in a universal capacity. Humans and other life forms throughout the world face challenges – including food security issues – due to the effects of climate change. And activists around the globe are innovating collaborative measures to promote sustainability and climate resilience.

Professor Avijit Gangopadhyay, who teaches climate science courses at UMass Dartmouth’s School for Marine Science & Technology, was recently invited to Morocco by King Mohammed VI to serve as a panelist for the Crans Montana Forum’s Blue Belt Initiative in Dakhla, a sub-Saharan region of Morocco. Gangopadhyay was accompanied by his colleagues Dr. Najih from the University of Rhode Island, Dr. Hassan from FAO/Rome, and Dr. Faraz, the Head of the Institut National de Recherche Halieutique (INRH) in Casablanca, Morocco.

More than 2,400 individuals from regional and international organizations as well as participants from small islands of developing states (SIDS) convened for the Initiative aimed at developing solutions for adaptation of the fisheries and aquaculture sector to climate change.

Avijit Gangopadhyay and King Mohammed VI
Gangopadhyay and Dr. Mwende, Secretary General of the PACJA (Pan-African Climate Justice Alliance), Nairobi, Kenya.

Addressing the effects of climate change

As a presenter on the Ocean Economy and Fishing Industry panel, Gangopadhyay co-led a discussion on ocean observation with Dr. Karim Hilmi of INRH, where he recommended a list of variables that can be monitored (including sea-level rise, ocean acidification, and standard cyclic observations). “The purpose was to determine how to combat taking on resources from the ocean and figure out the best strategies for managing all the resources we utilize over a longer time period,” said Gangopadhyay.

A major goal of the forum involved assisting African nations in developing a roadmap that addresses food security issues and supports a sustainable future with climate change. “Each country in Africa has its own challenges and different fish species,” said Gangopadhyay. The goal is for countries to eliminate food insecurity using an integrated method that involves sharing fishery resources.

“For instance, one region of the ocean may have plenty of fish in one country’s coast during a particular year, and there may be a shortage of fish in another country during the same year. So when there are shortages, the idea is for countries to exchange their supply. This approach would work because fish spawn and migrate based on the temperature, food, upwelling, and currents – factors which are impacted by changes and variabilities in the climate system. And if we know how to track and monitor fish and their habitat conditions, this will result in a system of sustainability of resources.”

Avijit Gangopadhyay in Morocco
Panelist at the Crans Montana Forum’s Blue Belt Initiative in Morocco.

Raising global awareness 

“Another major goal of the Crans Montana Forum involves creating global awareness about the impact of climate change on SIDS such as Palau,” said Gangopadhyay. There are 38 SIDS countries in the world, many in the Pacific, Atlantic, and Indian Oceans. Palau is located in the Pacific region and its economy consists of fishing, tourism, and subsistence agriculture. The country, comprised of eight large islands and more than 250 islets, with its 20,000 inhabitants, is currently threatened due to rising sea levels in the region.

“The more we put carbon-dioxide and other greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, the warmer the planet gets causing glacier melting and warming of oceans. These result in sea level rise,” he explained. “To help address these issues, residents of New Zealand and Australia are helping individuals from affected countries by inviting them to live in their countries.” There is also the Palau Pledge, initiated by the children of Palau. Those who visit Palau must take the Palau Pledge to help protect the country. “I met the First Lady of Palau during the meeting, and I took the pledge.” 

Avijit Gangopadhyay and the First Lady of Palua
Gangopadhyay, who signed the Palau Pledge, poses with the First Lady of Palau.

More information about Professor Gangopadhyay