The path to ecosystem based science in support of sustaining the Guinea Current LME and beyond

The path to ecosystem based science in support of sustaining the Guinea Current LME and beyond

Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx Contents lists available at ScienceDirect Environmental Development journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/loca...

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Environmental Development xxx (xxxx) xxx

Contents lists available at ScienceDirect

Environmental Development journal homepage: www.elsevier.com/locate/envdev

The path to ecosystem based science in support of sustaining the Guinea Current LME and beyond A. Ibe Chidi a, E. Brown Bradford b, * a

National Universities Commission (NUC) Distinguished Scholar in Diaspora, c/o Emerald Energy Institute, University of Port Harcourt, PMB 5323, Choba, Rivers State, Nigeria Southeast Fisheries Science Center, Miami, FL (ret.), 11266 SW 166 Ter, Miami, FL, 33157, USA

b

A R T I C L E I N F O

A B S T R A C T

Keywords East coast fisheries science centers African scientists Modular approach Gulf of Guinea GCLME Interim commission Scientific and political support

African scientists were introduced to the ecosystem-based approach through professional inter­ action with scientists from NOAA’s East Coast Fisheries Science Centers. In the mid-1990s, sci­ entists from six African countries successfully implemented an ecosystem-based assessment and management project in the Gulf of Guinea that was expanded into a full scale 16 country ecosystem-based project encompassing the entire spatial domain of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem (GCLME) from Guinea-Bissau in the northwest to Angola in the southwest. Through the efforts of the project manager, the countries developed an excellent working rela­ tionship in operationalizing a five-module LME project for sustainably developing the goods and services of the Guinea Current LME. Over the five years of project implementation, a large cadre of African scientists was trained in ecosystem-based assessment and management methods based on the five-module LME approach. Both natural science and social science metrics were applied to assess changing conditions of GCLME: (i) productivity (gCm2yˉ1), (ii) fish and fisheries, (iii) pollution and ecosystem health, (iv) socioeconomics, and (v) governance in support of the sus­ tainable development of GCLME goods and services. Through the association with senior min­ isterial representatives the scientists forged an interim Guinea Current Commission to oversee the sustainable development underway to mitigate effects of human and environmental stressors on the ecosystem.

1. Introduction The genesis of the Large Marine Ecosystem approach to the assessment and management of coastal ocean resources occurred during the 1960s and 70s at the Woods Hole Laboratory of the US Bureau of Commercial Fisheries (BCF), later to become the Northeast Fisheries Science Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). In the early 1960s, fisheries research in Woods Hole, as in most fisheries laboratories elsewhere, was organized around separate fisheries involving few species generally operating out of specific coastal ports. However, events were overtaking that approach. Large distant water fleets appeared off the coast of the northeastern USA. These vessels fished all except the very nearshore areas of what is now known as the Northeast US Shelf Large Marine Ecosystem (NESLME). With very large high opening nets they harvested virtually every species of any size. Although the path was not smooth, the response under the leadership of NEFSC Director Dr. Robert Edwards and including Drs. Kenneth Sherman

* Corresponding author. E-mail address: [email protected] (E. Brown Bradford). https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2020.100591 Received 11 June 2020; Received in revised form 30 October 2020; Accepted 3 November 2020 Available online 13 November 2020 2211-4645/© 2020 Elsevier B.V. All rights reserved.

Please cite this article as: A. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.envdev.2020.100591

Ibe

Chidi,

E.

Brown

Bradford,

Environmental

Development,

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and Bradford Brown as part of the leadership team, was to address the entire NESLME as a whole and to develop a monitoring and assessment system that included productivity (primary and secondary) and fisheries resources as whole units to be monitored and assessed so that the effects of the foreign fishing fleets, adjusted for natural changes, could be evaluated. Dr. Sherman assumed re­ sponsibility for the productivity research and Dr. Brown the fisheries resources. An additional division focused on ecosystem health (pollution). This implementation was significantly enabled by the formation of a fisheries headquarters-level task force, headed by Dr. Edwards just prior to his becoming Director in the Northeast, which developed plans for a nationwide ocean monitoring program named Marine Monitoring, Assessment and Prediction program (MARMAP). Dr. Sherman was a member of that team responsible for developing the ichthyoplankton monitoring component. After the extension of jurisdiction and the shifting of management from in­ ternational to national governance, socioeconomic studies were initiated. In the early 1980s, Dr. Sherman and Dr. Lewis Alexander of the University of Rhode Island conceived of and developed the concept of a Large Marine Ecosystem (LME) as the primary unit upon which to assess, monitor, and manage the sustainability of the oceans. The boundaries of these units were based on scientific criteria rather than political. They also realized that these LMEs were logical units not only to address fisheries but the assessment and management of all coastal ocean resources. The two scientists first introduced this concept to the broader scientific community in 1984 at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science (AAAS). That initial symposium (Sherman and Alexander, 1986) was followed by addi­ tional symposia at the 1987, 1988 and 1999 annual meetings of the AAAS which became published volumes. Some papers delineated spatial dimensions of LMEs while others addressed ecological process. By 2016, over 450 natural and social scientists had published over 6000 pages of LME studies in 18 vol published by AAAS (4 vol), Westview Press (1 vol), Blackwell Science (4 vol), Elsevier Science (5 vol), IUCN (2 vol), UNDP-GEF (2 vol), and over 390 journal articles. An annotated bibliography of LME studies has been published by NOAA (Kelley, 2016) and can be downloaded from https://spo.nmfs.noaa.gov/sites/default/files/TM167.pdf. Ibe, 1990, an international symposium was held in Monaco (Sherman and Laughlin, 1992) where papers and workshops were presented and later published (Sherman et al., 1993). Senior African marine scientists participated from Senegal, Nigeria and Kenya, including Professor Chidi Ibe, co-author of this commentary. After the meeting, they approached Dr. Sherman expressing a desire for establishing LME projects in their areas. They suggested that Dr. Sherman present the LME concept at meetings of African scientists, which he did. Events fell in place for a pilot project in the Gulf of Guinea. The United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) adapted a pollution-oriented project they were planning in the Gulf of Guinea into an LME Pilot Project. NOAA assigned Dr. Ned Cyr to work with the countries to prepare a proposal for a pilot program to be funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). African scientists, following on from their approach at Monaco, assisted in paving the way for that effort to succeed. The GEF agreed to support the project and NOAA signed on to assist with scientific and technical support which became the responsibility of one of the co-authors of this paper, Dr. Brown. There were challenges to overcome including a paper presented in Monaco by Prescott, that painted a very bleak picture for the likelihood of success for a Guinea Current LME Project because of “national political factors” (Prescott, 1993). Professor Chidi Ibe of Nigeria, a Senior Assistant Executive Secretary in the Secretariat of the Intergovernmental Oceanographic Commission (IOC) at UNESCO, Paris, was selected to lead the Gulf of Guinea (GOG) Pilot Project that was later to be transformed into the Guinea Current LME Project with the financial support of the GEF. This project led to the establishment of a Guinea Current Commission to oversee the sustainable development of the Guinea Current LME (GCLME). 2. The first steps The GOG pilot project and the GCLME full scale LME project introduced the LME approach to Africa. Selection of Professor Ibe to head the project provided scientific and diplomatic leadership to interact with ministers from the diverse backgrounds of the 16 ˆte d’Ivoire, participating West African nations including, Angola, Benin, Cameroon, Congo, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Co ˜o Tom´ Gabon, Ghana, Equatorial Guinea, Guinea, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia, Nigeria, Sa e and Principe, Sierra Leone, and Togo. These skills were successfully applied and effectively overcame the difficulties expressed in the Prescott publication (1993). The pilot project allowed for the establishment of an active Steering Committee that was carried into the full GCLME project and was responsible for planning and implementing the fusion of the five module – (i) productivity, (ii) fish and fisheries, (iii) pollution and ecosystem health, (iv) socioeconomics, and (v) governance – ecosystem-based approach to sustainable development of the GCLME. The first Steering Committee was held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire in 1995. Prior to the Steering Committee meeting, there was a technical meeting. Scientists came from all the countries both from government and academia. Several scientists from the USA participated for whom this was their first entrance into the world of “aid” projects, although they had participated in numerous in­ ternational working groups. In order to have travel paid for by UNIDO, they were signed on as international experts. This struck them as pretentious and it was established from the start that they were participating as colleagues and the persons in Africa were the experts in their knowledge of the area and its conditions and it was they who had to take charge; their effort was to be a collegial one. Including African Americans in the USA delegation also helped to enhance affinity. The collegial atmosphere allowed for a bottom-up planning and implementation approach during the entire GCLME project. During the course of the project, opportunities were provided for knowledge sharing and training to both scientists and students assigned to the project from both government and academic institutions. This opportunity led to the granting of a significant number of professional degrees in marine science and marine management at the bachelors, masters, and PhD levels. The GEF policy for projects was to develop a Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) which is a scientific document describing the critical transboundary issues in the LME followed by a policy document, and a Strategic Action Program (SAP) where countries present their proposed action items to address the most critical issues. The TDA/SAP process was in its infancy during the pilot project 2

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but became a driving force in the GCLME. In the GCLME project, regional scientists not only submitted data but wrote the TDA and developed ownership of the document that paved the way for support for the SAP and the desire for a Commission to implement it. 3. Implementation The project benefitted from external scientific and technical support. NOAA sent experienced scientists to workshops as colleagues. Outside expertise was not limited to NOAA; for example the Plymouth Marine Laboratory of the United Kingdom participated in operationalizing the primary productivity module and the University of Warwick participated in the operationalizing of the fisheries module. From the start, the working groups focused on standardization of methodologies and design of monitoring schemes for the modules (Ibe, 1998; Ibe and Csizer, 1998; Ibe et al., 2001; Ibe and Sherman, 2002). The example of the fisheries module follows as it describes the development of the support for the LME approach and the building of the scientific basis for its implementation. At the first working group meeting of the fisheries module, the need for an area wide bottom trawl survey was accepted by all. The experience of the Ghana trawl monitoring survey clearly demonstrated the region’s capability of carrying out such work. However, the Ghanaian vessel had reached a condition where it was no longer capable of continuing the local work. The project, without the technical guidance of the region’s scientists or even a Project Coordinator in place, had invested a large amount of funds in trying to bring the Ghana research vessel up to working research vessel standards. The group toured the vessel and concluded that the approach of trying to repair it would be unlikely to be successful and alternative solutions should be sought. This is exactly what happened and the wisdom of involving the region’s scientists in having input in providing guidance before spending additional money and time became quite clear. The lack of availability to scientists in the region of the data from the original 1963 Guinean trawl survey (Williams, 1968) was identified as an important gap that needed to be filled. This was accomplished thanks to the efforts of Dr. Daniel Pauly of the University of British Columbia, Canada. The meeting worked on the design of area trawl surveys and set the stage for future work. They addressed the question of design of a data base and considered both the Norwegian Nansen data base system and that used by US NOAA. Following that meeting, three of the participating scientists traveled to the US to spend time with one of the NOAA trawl survey units. The unit people were skeptical when asked to host them as previous visits from persons involved with aid projects lacked required rigor and had been deemed a waste of time. However, after a couple of days of this new undertaking, the NOAA staff’s response was “these men are serious, we have to run to keep up with them.” The Gulf of Guinea LME team felt that the time spent was very worthwhile, but their recommendation was to use the Nansen data management system. The fact that NOAA had not mandated its system established that they were colleagues. In retrospect, their decision was undoubtedly the best one for the region, although it was not as obvious at the time. 4. Strategy Often projects are very top down. While support at the top is critical for a project to succeed, all too often the persons in those positions such as ministers and their deputies move on to other jobs and after a project ends and the persons at the top change, the project’s long term impact is limited, grass roots efforts are often taken into consideration and they are essential for on the ground operations and management to succeed. However, grass roots efforts should be long term and need support to be able to continue. In the coastal area, it is usually the scientific personnel who interact over the long term with the community people because their input is essential to carrying out scientific work. Abe et al. (2016) describe the GOG/GCLME approach as “middle out.” The middle, in this case, is the scientific community located in government, academia, NGOs and the private sector. This community connects across national boundaries easily because of the commonality of science. In the GCLME region many scientists are either French or English speaking and often have a good appreciation of both languages at least at a reading level because of the need to follow the scientific literature as well as to be able to interact at various regional fora. The working groups and training sessions built those connections. Assistance was given to strengthen the internet connectivity as well. From this group come the advisors to ministers and they provide the continuity when ministers change. Even when advisors change they are often connected, so information is passed along, unlike what can happen at the ministerial level. Through the length of the GOG/GCLME efforts, persons from this scientific community have risen to Director level, Deputy Minister level, and senior advisory positions to ministers. In the case of Nigeria for example, the Head of the Regional Activity Center for Information Management was appointed the Surveyor General for Nigeria. This network of about 300 persons saw itself as a consortium of LME practitioners. Academic institutions also saw themselves as part of the LME effort. The University of Ghana at Legon, the University of Abidjan, Cocody, Cote d’Ivoire and the University of Lagos were especially involved; the LME project linked in a productive way with several other academic institutions in the region as well as outside the region. UNIDO made a major effort to direct its contracts to regional scientists. This not only created support for the LME concept but also increased the scientific competency in the region. The effort of support for PhD students worked, so not only were several students helped in one or more ways in obtaining their degree, but they were also becoming strong LME concept advocates and occupying significant positions of influence in their respective countries. One of the flagship activities that helped build the scientific support for the LME approach to management in the region was the holding of a scientific meeting that resulted in the publication entitled “Integrated Environmental and Living Marine Resources of the Gulf of Guinea: The Large Marine Ecosystem Approach.” This First Regional Symposium brought together about 125 persons of whom only a handful were from outside the region. This symposium provided an outlet for scientists to present papers and have them published at a regional level, an opportunity which was not as available to them as it would be if they were scientists in the US or Europe (Ibe et al., 1998). This meeting not only gathered in one place significant scientific data and information needed for supporting LME management, but it also held working groups on relevant GOG LME topics. This gave even more opportunity for regional 3

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scientists to have input into the planning and operations of the project’s work. Scientists became more knowledgeable about the region and the comprehensiveness of the LME approach. It was held in Abidjan, Cote D’Ivoire and this allowed an opportunity to have the appropriate minister from the country give the opening address and thus bring him on board the LME team. It also allowed the participation of the African Development Bank (AfDB) which was represented by its Deputy President, with an accoutrement of sci­ entists and economists from appropriate divisions of this continent-wide bank. Subsequently, the AfDB remained active in the activities of the project. A second achievement was linking with other projects in the Gulf of Guinea in a joint effort leading to a published book on the Gulf of Guinea Large Marine Ecosystem (McGlade et al., 2002). This brought together major researchers from outside the region who had been working with some regional scientists and brought them all under the LME umbrella with additional scientists involved with the LME Project also participating. Although this was a joint effort, it was the LME Project that made it happen and it was a major step in ensuring that the scientific base for the LME approach was expanded and implemented in a coordinated way. A key component of the building of the LME science capabilities was the approach to contracts as mentioned earlier. This not only built capacity and support for the LME approach but enabled scientists to stay in the region while supporting their families and actually doing the research that they were educated to do. When the GOG project started, almost all of the contracts were going to outside scientists but by the project’s end this was reversed with almost all going to scientists in the region. Workshops were important, both for their substance but also for bringing people together and building cohesion around the LME approach. The budget was stretched to maximize opportunities for attendance and the spirit of involvement was such that scientists would even take long bus rides within the region to attend events. The efforts with the scientists in the region did not mean that the efforts at the ministerial level and even above were neglected. However, the presence of scientists supporting the effort on their staffs or as consultants reinforced those efforts. In addition, the ministers and directors took seriously their responsibility to steer the project and the project responded. Shoreline erosion is a critical issue in all of West Africa (Ibe, 1989, 1990; Ibe and Quellennec, 1989; Ibe and Ojo, 1994), but it was not in the original project plan. The ministerial leaders asked for help from the project and it responded. Contact was arranged with the Commander of the US Army Corp of Engineers which has major efforts in this area in the US and helped lead to their involvement in West Africa. In addition, the project also arranged for south-south interchanges of low cost-low tech responses to address coastal erosion. 5. Conclusion of the GOG pilot and expanded steps The final meeting of the GOG had a ministerial component, and the Vice President of Ghana (later to become President), His Excellency, Professor John Atta Mills spoke to the group of his strong support of the LME effort. The Ministers issued the Accra Declaration supporting the LME principles, and committed to support it with their ministries and requested the project be extended to the entire spatial extent of the Guinea Current LME. They designated the Ghanaian Minister of Environment to go to New York (which he did) and meet with the Administrator of the UNDP and state their support for continuing LME efforts. Unfortunately, there was a considerable hiatus between the end of the GOG Pilot Project and the launching of the GCLME Project. A major step in getting the new project started was to get the country signatures on a request to the GEF for a planning grant. Dr. Jacques Abe from Cote d’Ivoire, a senior member of the Regional Coordination Unit, was sent to the countries to obtain signatures. Thanks to the support from the countries’ scientists and resource managers, appointments were obtained in rapid fashion and all signatures were gathered, even from countries in conflict situations. Finally, the grant for planning was awarded. Meanwhile the reviews of the Pilot GOG Project came in, all stressing the strong regional support for the project. Development of the Project Document, like all other activities in the project, was looked at from the standpoint of developing and empowering the capacity in the region. It would have been easy to request that country scientists submit information on the status of their area and to identify critical problems and to turn this information to an experienced consultant who had easy access to literature to write the document. The GCLME took a different path. A large number of regional scientists with a very small number of outsiders came together to shape the broad outlines of the document. Smaller groups met to focus on specific ob­ jectives. Lead writers from the region developed drafts which were then reviewed by the different groups and finally put together in a Project Document. This allowed the regional persons to hone their skills and to have ownership of the document and be better prepared to present it to their political leadership and to carry it out. The addition of the ten countries that had not participated in the GOG pilot created challenges to get them up to the level of LME support of the original six countries. One effort designed to counter this was the formation of Activity Centers that would decentralize some of the efforts of the Regional Coordination Unit (RCU). Some utilized the expertise built in the pilot projects such as the Pro­ ductivity Center in Ghana, which functioned smoothly and helped broaden the capabilities in the region. Others, when the project was halted for administrative issues, needed more attention to be successful. An example of one that was doing outstandingly up until the halt, was the Fisheries Activity Center in Angola. Unlike most of the countries in the GCLME, Angola had not worked with other countries in the GCLME. It was however familiar with the LME approach from participating in the Benguela Current LME Project. However, most of Angola’s coastal waters were in the GCLME and it was a significant fishing nation as well as having major offshore petroleum production. The Activity Center received some supplies and equipment from the Project. And they took the work on enthusiastically. It became involved with stomach analysis to support predator-prey and trophic transfer analyses with other countries’ scientists coming to Angola to jointly analyze stomachs of fish taken on research cruises. They invested in facilities to support activities of the Center. Building on an earlier FAO workshop on the southern sardinella fishery, two workshops were held to develop a management plan for the area. Angola assigned additional staff to assist neighboring countries of the Democratic Republic of Congo and the Republic of 4

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Congo develop compatible data bases. The Regional Activity Center linked these three countries to the LME more efficiently than centralizing everything in the Regional Coordinating Unit in Accra. Unfortunately, the project halted for administrative reasons and the effort was not yet at the stage to be on its own and when the project restarted, funds were limited and time short to complete the project. It was not feasible to continue the effort to develop and implement a southern Sardinella management plan. Nevertheless, the philosophy of increasing and empowering capacity did continue. The fisheries management plan component was reduced to a workshop on how to develop a plan. The workshop was structured around sub-groups developing a hypothetical plan relevant to their areas. The comments of one of the participants was revealing, stating, “we knew we should be doing fishery management plans but thought it would require expensive consultants which we had limited resources to afford, but now we know we can do it ourselves.” The effort to build the scientific capability and political support was appreciated throughout the region by those with high level management responsibilities as evident in 2002 when the Africa Super Preparatory for the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) met in Nigeria and adopted the LME approach as a priority to carry forward to the WSSD (Ibe et al., 2002; Ibe and Sherman, 2002; Ibe and Abe, 2003; Sherman et al., 2005). Compelling evidence of the success in developing political support occurred at the first ministerial meeting of the GCLME in 2006. Nigerian President Obasanjo was scheduled to address the meeting. There was a plane crash which resulted in the deaths of several members of the Nigerian military high command. The President cancelled all previous engagements. However, the President’s office summoned the ministers to the President’s conference room where they were addressed by President Obasanjo who indicated his full support for the effort underway to establish a GCLME Commission to oversee sustainable development of the GCLME goods and services. Having passed the Abuja Ministerial Resolution calling for a GCLME Commission the Ministers turned to the Regional Coordination Unit of the GCLME to serve the Interim Commission objectives to arrange for an expert from a project country (the Democratic Re­ public of Congo) to go to Cote d’Ivoire to assist in an environmental disaster. The ministers also agreed to assist Cote d’Ivoire in legal action against those responsible. They also tasked the RCU to be the regional hub for implementation of international global programs, for example International efforts led by UNEP, FAO, UINDO, IOC-UNESCO, IMO (Ibe, 2006; Abe et al., 2016.) There were several years during which little work was done on the project proposal, but money was being spent on salaries as the staff assisted UNEP in regional environmental planning efforts. When the project restarted, UNIDO, the implementing agency, pushed to be able to complete the items in the Project Document as soon as possible but with reduced funds and limited time. However, the commitment to having a Commission remained and the strengthening of the capacity of the region to support it continued. The countries expressed their support in their Osu Declaration (Honey and Elvin, 2013) (Osu is a section of Accra where the meeting was held and is the original fishing community that existed prior to the arrival of Europeans). A major accomplishment of the Interim Commission during this period was the establishment of Memoranda of Understanding with the three Fisheries Commissions in the GCLME for providing a Fisheries Platform for coordination on fisheries issues, establishing their belief in the scientific competency of the region’s LME scientists (personal communication Dr. Stephen Donkor). The project ended with the Abidjan Declaration for a Commission using the protocols of the Abidjan Convention. The achievement of the region in building scientific capabilities for LME assessment and management and the political support for the establishment of the GCLME Commission illustrated the commitment of the participating countries for working together towards achieving sustainable development of GCLME goods and services. 5.1. Lessons learned - Take away principles There are two ways to look at project management, one is the engineering approach where one looks at the specific tasks and tries to accomplish them ahead of time and under budget. The second is a science approach which looks at an ultimate goal beyond the specific project document and tries to conduct the project so that the available resources reach towards the ultimate goal to the greatest extent possible. With the LME concept, the goal is to use the projects to achieve an ongoing LME effort that will continue beyond the project period for sustainable development of the ecosystem goods and services. Thus, the most appropriate approach is the science one. This approach requires that the leader not only has the technical skills to carry out the project and the scientific achievements that are respected in the region but also has strong leadership capabilities. Furthermore, in a region such as the GCLME, the leader must be multi-culturally competent. This is much more than just being bi- or multilingual. The position also requires the ability to build a strong staff who also as a group have strength in these qualities. An example of the recognition of Professor Ibe’s standing in the region was the offer of a diplomatic passport from the host of the RCU, Ghana (although he is from Nigeria) to use in his role as Executive Secretary of the Interim GCLME Commission. A quick reference to the Benguela Current LME project is instructive. It has only three bordering and participating countries – Angola, Namibia and South Africa – but they had specific historical issues that were successfully overcome by their commitments in supporting a science based approach to sustainable development of the shared resources of the Benguela Current LME (Ahanhanzo, 1995; Brown, 1995, Hamukuaya et al., 2016; De Barros Neto et al., 2016; O’Toole, 1995)The Project succeeded in establishing a Commission to carry on the LME work beyond the initial project a for sustainable development of the ecosystem goods and services. The Coordinator was a scientist from Ireland with experience in South Africa and Namibia, Dr. Michael O’Toole, who has stated that essential to his success was that he had the Minister from Namibia as a champion for the process (personal communication). The Project also provided the experience for Dr. Hashali Hamukuaya from Namibia (including his being a project director) to enable him to be selected as Executive Secretary of the Benguela Current Commission. In a situation such as faced the Gulf of Guinea Project in 1995, there was not just the interest on the part of African scientists to introduce the LME concept, but also to expand the capacity already existing in the region to be more effective, as well as increase the 5

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numbers of highly skilled people and to create a network where people were not as isolated. This required a different approach. The framework of the LME ecosystem-based approach was essential to ensure a balance of capabilities would be addressed. It was this new self-realization that would enable the barriers described by Prescott (1993) to be overcome. The first step was to give capacity empowerment the number one priority and thus at every step in the project the question would be raised as to how this can be done in a way that empowers the regional capacity to provide the scientific support for successful LME management. The second step is in hiring. Individuals hired, in addition to being technically competent, need to be committed to the broader goals of the project. As much as possible, hiring should be from the fund receiving countries. Although the length of the project must be factored in, potential to perform within the project’s time limit should be considered in hiring decisions and not just knowledge to perform immediately. When international aid expenditures are examined, it is common knowledge that most of the money is spent in developed countries. This is understandable. However, wherever possible, monies should be spent in the receiving countries in a way that enhances ca­ pacity. Local expertise must be built and utilized. The development and implementation of the Guinea Current Large Marine Ecosystem Project has demonstrated over its more than two decades period of growth that 16 nations of diverse histories, ethnicities and cultures have successfully introduced an ecosystembased approach to the assessment and management of shared goods and services of the spatial domain of a Large Marine Ecosystem extending from Guinea-Bissau in the north to Angola in the south. The success of the initial phases of the GCLME project can be attributed to the bottom-up approach for coming to consensus on the prioritization of stressors through the Transboundary Diagnostic Analysis (TDA) process and the operationalization of a Strategic Action Program (SAP) to be carried forward under the framework of a Guinea Current Commission. The countries also demonstrated that with strong linkage with political will at the ministerial level of governance, it is possible to bring forward assessments and analyses of LME productivity, fish and fisheries, pollution and ecosystem health, socioeconomics and governance in support of actions leading to sustainable development of the ecosystem. In this regard, the GCLME experience is responsive to efforts for achieving the targets of the United Nations goal for sustainable development of the world’s oceans. Declaration of competing interest The authors declare that they have no known competing financial interests or personal relationships that could have appeared to influence the work reported in this paper. References Abe, J., Brown, B., Ajao, E.A., Donkor, S., 2016. Local to regional polycentric levels of governance of the Guinea current large marine ecosystem. Environmental Development 17, 287–295. Ahanhanzo, J., 1995. Integrated development of modern oceanography and the management of oceanographic resources in the Benguela Current region, pgs. 36-55. In: O’Toole, M. (Ed.), The Benguela Current and Comparable Eastern Boundary Upwelling Ecosystems. Duetsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit, Eschborn, Germany. Brown, B.E., 1995. Large marine ecosystems, pgs. 56-65. In: O’Toole, M. (Ed.), The Benguela Current and Comparable Eastern Boundary Upwelling Ecosystems. Duetsche Gesellschaft fur Technische Zusammenarbeit, Eschborn, Germany. 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