(Seychelles News Agency) – The new president of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA), Marie-May Jeremie from Seychelles, has pledged to raise the profile of the organisation in her country and ensure that the islanders are aware of its potential benefits.
Top on her agenda is to push for small island developing states (SIDS) to build their own scientific and research capabilities.
The scientist – with over 15 years of experience in biodiversity conservation – assumed her position at WIOMSA in February this year.
Jeremie is the second Seychellois and the first woman from the island nation to be elected as head of WIOMSA. Her election took place at the WIOMSA 8th board of trustees at the association’s 44th board meeting in Kenya.
SNA caught up with Jeremie, who currently also heads the Seychelles Climate Change Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), to find out more about her role, priorities, as well as her agenda in ensuring that Seychelles – 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean – benefits to the maximum from the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association.
SNA: Prior to heading WIOMSA and SeyCATT, what was your journey in the environmental and conservation field?
MMJ: Over the past 12 years, I have been active in conservation works both at governmental and non-governmental organisation platforms.
I am a seasoned negotiator on multilateral environmental agreements including but not limited to the Convention on Biological Diversity, Nairobi Convention, CITES and Biodiversity beyond National Jurisdiction (BBNJ). Over the years I served on many boards in the environment, conservation and resource management sectors.
Before joining SeyCCAT, I was the director general for Biodiversity Conservation and Management Division in the Ministry of Environment and Agriculture where I focused on the establishment and implementation of all biodiversity related policies and legislation. I was policy lead for ocean governance including the work on the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan.
SNA: What does WIOMSA do?
MMJ: The Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) was established as a regional non-profit membership organisation in 1993, and registered in Zanzibar, Tanzania in 1994 and in South Africa in 2014 as a non-governmental organisation. WIOMSA has mandates for scientific research, capacity building and professional development, information dissemination, and linking science to governance processes.
The association is governed by a board of trustees that has representation by small islands developing states, mainland Africa, and associate members.
SNA: How were you involved with WIOMSA before being elected?
MMJ: Working with the Ministry of Environment, I first got involved with WIOMSA through my engagements with the Nairobi Convention. Then I personally developed interest in the research ongoing work and joined as an individual member of the association.
WIOMSA is also a partner and has supported the work of SeyCCAT as well. I was recommended to stand as a board member early in 2022 and I decided to go for it.
|Jeremie (2nd left) was among Seychelles’ delegation at the United Nations high seas agreement negotiations. (IISDENB Mike Muzurakis Team) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
SNA: What are your responsibilities now as president?
MMJ: As board president, I will be the new spokesperson of the association and will be responsible for the oversight of the overall conduct of the organisation’s business. I will preside over the AGM and all the members of the association, lead board meetings and where necessary represent the association in different fora. Also, I will provide oversight on the work of the executive secretary and the work of the secretariat of WIOMSA.
SNA: What are your priorities?
MMJ: I aspire to bring an interdisciplinary approach to WIOMSA, one that will be focused on bridging the science-to-policy interface in ensuring that countries in the western Indian Ocean region, particularly the small island states, build their own scientific and research capabilities to steer ocean governance.
Seychelles and the other island states in the western Indian Ocean have traditionally not benefited as much through the WIOMSA platforms. It will, therefore, be my aim to help identify talents, and bring opportunities to build capacity for meaningful research in the region.
SNA: How will Seychelles benefit from WIOMSA?
MMJ: Seychelles has a few institutions and individuals that are already members of WIOMSA, however this is minimal. The intent is to raise the profile of WIOMSA in Seychelles and make Seychelles aware of the potential benefit and collaboration pathways that exist.
Early career scientists can also stand to benefit more directly under funding and capacity building support from the Association.
SNA: How do you describe Seychelles compared to other countries where marine conservation is concerned?
MMJ: Seychelles is a leader in ocean conservation within the western Indian Ocean region, even at the global level, and it is for this very reason that Seychelles is very well respected for its efforts in particular for its Marine Spatial Plan, the designation of over 30% of its Exclusive Economic Zone as its Marine Protected Areas, and more recently, for intentionally developing research programs to support ocean governance.
SNA: How do you plan to use this new opportunity to advance the Blue Economy agenda of the Seychelles?
MMJ: The Blue Economy is also a regional priority and as such is of the priority areas for research and development for WIOMSA. Efforts will be at the regional level, research and capacity development is the main space where WIOMSA can help contribute.