Mauritius is a small island in the middle of a big ocean. It’s about time we start thinking (all of us, really hard) about the implications for our future – economic and otherwise.

“Mauritius is an Ocean State”

I like to start my blogs by stating the obvious but this time I am simply quoting the Prime Minister. Open Google Maps. Look up Mauritius. Zoom out. This is us:

mauritius island state

To most of us, “ocean state” harkens to sandy beaches and crystal clear (ahem) waters. Beyond that… We’d heard of reef conservation and pollution before. With the launch of the Ocean Economy concept, we started hearing about drilling for oil. Yet I am not sure any of us have a clear view of what riches lie beneath our seas, what dangers threaten our coasts. As island-dwellers go, we’re not exactly in tune with our marine heritage.

And that’s a problem

On June 5th we’re celebrating World Environment Day. The theme this year, “Raise your Voice, not the sea level”, resonates powerfully with me. As Mauritians, as island-dwellers, we live in one of the countries that are most at risk of the dire consequences of climate change. Small Island Developing States (SIDS). Rising ocean levels, changing tides, dwindling marine resources… all of these changes are affecting our marine ecosystem right now and will put increasing pressure on our economy in coming years.

The ocean could also very well hold the key to renewed economic growth. This Monday, the Marine Zones Act, the piece of law which allows industrial exploitation of our territorial waters, was promulgated. Companies, such as Sotravic, are thinking about ways marine resources can lessen our utility bill, boost our exports and grow our economy – but this is just one aspect. It is essential to get every Mauritian thinking about the ocean, not just from an economics perspective but also from social, cultural and environmental vantage points.

Looking for Sea-tizens

This May, the Port Louis Hub, of which I am a member, and SYAH, a young NGO raising awareness about SIDS issues, launched an initiative to do just that. SEEING BLUE is a competition to get young people aged 13 to 30 years old thinking about ways in which we impact the ocean, and ways in which the oceans impact us. We’ve partnered with the Indian Ocean Commission, Reef Conservation and ENL Foundation to offer the winners an exceptional opportunity to discover our own seas the way few people have: diving.

SEEING BLUE is our attempt at getting our fellow Mauritians thinking about the Ocean, especially the younger generation who will bear the consequences and uncover the opportunities brought by the changes in our marine ecosystem. The competition is open until June 8th when we’ll be celebrating World Ocean Day, so you all have plenty of time left to participate. In the interest of fairness, part I of this Blog is just a call to arms. In part II, I’ll be going over some ideas I have about the future of our relationship with the Ocean.

It’s really very simple: our future lies in the Ocean, therefore Mauritius needs Seatizens.

[Tune in on June 8th for part II of this blog.]