The first Biodiversity Stakeholder Session of the Blue Planet Fund (BPF) and the Ocean Countries Partnership Program (OCPP) was held recently at the Ministry of Environment.
The £500 million Blue Planet Fund, funded from the UK’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) budget, helps developing countries protect the marine environment and reduce poverty and has been developed by the UK government to protect the ocean from plastic pollution, warming sea temperatures and overfishing. This includes the UK’s call to protect at least 30% of the global ocean by 2030 and the UK’s existing commitments to prevent plastic pollution from entering the ocean through the Commonwealth Clean Ocean Alliance, jointly led by the UK and Vanuatu.
One of the Fund’s programs is the new bilateral technical assistance program which is based on scoping and needs assessments, ocean partnerships and emergency responses to marine pollution. OCPP aims to provide technical assistance in marine science and the three main themes of marine pollution, biodiversity loss and support for sustainable seafood and helps countries build expertise in marine science, developing science-based policies and management tools and educating coastal communities.
OCPP’s ultimate goal is to have tangible and positive impacts on the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on healthy marine ecosystems. OCPP’s current partners are Belize, Bangladesh, India, the Maldives and the Pacific.
In this regard, the close and active collaboration between the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the British High Commission in Colombo on several other climate and environment related initiatives has enabled Sri Lanka to receive support under the BPF- OCPP. As part of OCPP’s collaboration with Sri Lanka, a delegation comprising officials from the UK Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra), the Center for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science ( Cefas), Joint Nation Conservation Committee (JNC) and Marine Management Organization (MMO) visited Sri Lanka from March 14-18 and held several meetings, field visits and discussions with local stakeholders. This visit was preceded by a technical visit by Cefas from February 28 to March 11.
The Deputy High Commissioner of the British High Commission, Lisa Whanstall, commended the government of Sri Lanka for its wide-ranging cooperation and commitments during UNFCCC COP-26. The UK government has spent nearly £1million through the Commonwealth Litter Program (CLiP) to provide marine pollution relief aid in 2021.
Assistance through CLiP provided laboratory facilities to analyze microplastics at MEPA, NARA, ITI and CEA, development of educational kits for primary and secondary schools, and development of multimedia packs for the media mainstream and social, all in local languages, research collaboration, ghost fishing assessment. gear and waste accumulated in ports, provision of garbage trap nets for rivers, etc. The UK delegation expressed their willingness to continue supporting Sri Lanka to help drive transformative action and change the relationship between people, science and the planet.
The Environment Secretary, Dr Anil Jasinghe, in his presentation on the OCPP grant and priorities in the area of marine biodiversity and marine protected areas, highlighted key management issues such as lack of a holistic plan for marine spatial planning, identification and designation of the EEZ; the absence of a clear pathway for 30×30 and commitments related to the marine sector in the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan (NBSAP)/draft National Environment Action Plan (NEAP); offshore land use planning which is still very rudimentary; multi-use – Multi-stakeholder nature within existing MPAs and lack of SEAs for coastal resource use.
The Blue Planet Fund will aim to provide support that would ensure that seafood in Sri Lanka is produced and distributed in ways that support healthy ecosystems, do not overexploit marine stocks, provide sustainable, inclusive and equity and build resilience to climate and socio-economic shocks. OCPP programs will also integrate cross-cutting themes such as gender and vulnerable groups, climate change, economic shocks, etc.