Vassen Kauppaymuthoo: "Learning the Lessons of Dodo and Ebony"

10 years, 3 months ago - June 08, 2012
The oceanographer and environmental engineer answered questions from Ludovic Agathe as part of World Oceans Day, celebrated today.

The theme of World Oceans Day this year is "Youth: the next wave of change". In practice, we prepare young people to measure the value of the oceans?

Clearly not. We saw in the keynote address, speaking guidance to sea. But overall, the sea is as synonymous with the beach or picnic. Moreover, many people have never learned to swim.Therefore, they do not have access to this environment. Just look at the curriculum. We put much emphasis on sugar cane, on the interior of the island. But, over oceans, we're late and we must overcome this lack of knowledge. To fit the theme of the day, youth is the new wave of change requires the focus, so that it includes the ocean that surrounds us is essential. 

Are there activities for awareness of the key role of the ocean? 

We are one of top 20 countries in terms of area, with our ocean territory. We are clearly a state-ocean. Unfortunately, this is not reflected at the activity level. We do have competent authorities (Mauritius Oceanography Institute, the Ministry of Fisheries, or Albion Fisheries Research Centre). But it is not advertising or activities, especially for children. 

What could be done? 

In the short to medium term is to get people to go to the beach, to enter the water, to a mask. It is promoting swimming lessons in schools.In short, get people to go against their fear of water. I especially believe that youth have a role to play in educating adults, through an exchange "bottom to top." It is worrying to see the attitude of the authorities, officials as politicians. It fills the sea, we create artificial beaches, corals are crushed to allow tourists to go water skiing or it blocks access to public beaches. Beaches are déproclamées, while it is a hobby for free, that the sea is part of the common area, like the air we breathe. Besides it is a meeting place and sharing.

The oceans have a fundamental role in the survival of marine species, but also land. Apart from being the primary source of oxygen in the world, what are the virtues of our seas as we tend to ignore?

We forget that the composition of blood plasma of man resembles that of sea water . We have a clear link with the sea Moreover, we have a unique biodiversity. Just as on earth we had the dodo, we also have unique species in water. Besides the fundamental role of oceans in regulating climate, they are an important food source and they have great potential for pharmacological or energy. The sea is also the first well of CO2 on the planet, storing the "Blue Carbon", fixing and making organic matter.

Demographic forecasts speak of a world population of 10 billion people by 2050. Given the weight we put on our oceans today, how our lifestyles can harm them and what would happen if we do not change our habits?

We must find food and space for this population. The sea is our only hope, hope that can be used well or badly. We must not repeat the same mistake as we did on earth, namely, destroying 98% of our forests. Our lagoons are in danger. Wastewater projects for destruction on the coast ... We did a lot of statements of intent regarding the protection, but nothing concrete has been done yet. If we use the oceans as we do on land, we run to the annihilation of the planet. 

In Mauritius, we realize now that a "Blue Economy" can also relate. Do you think this concept is well understood by the authorities?

Before you get carried away, we need to know in what we are getting. Currently, our marine resources are literally plundered by foreign powers. We should remember the lesson of the dodo and ebony. The focus in this blue economy, is to ensure the protection of our marine heritage. According to studies, one third of the fish stock, worldwide, has disappeared and another third would suffer the same fate in four or five years. So that by 2050 there will be more fish in the wild. It would be ironic to have to raise this wealth that we already had in its natural state. The idea is to move towards responsible management of our ocean resources, to see something other than dollars or rupees. This is where young people have a role to play. 

Text by Ile Maurice tourisme

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