Halong Bay, Vietnam. Unesco World Heritage Site. Most popular place in Vietnam. Image courtesy of Shutterstock

Researchers and local representatives from across the world will gather virtually this week to discuss some of the major challenges facing coastal communities.

The third GCRF Blue Communities Annual Meeting had been due to take place in Hoi An, Vietnam, but had to be cancelled as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Instead, partners in the UK and Southeast Asia will be meeting online to discuss the various aspects of policy, planning and management required to support sustainable marine ecosystems.

The annual meeting – with an adapted agenda of talks, workshops and debates – will take place from July 15–22 and is being hosted by the University of Plymouth, from which Professor Mel Austen of the School of Biological and Marine Sciences leads the Blue Communities programme.

It will be attended by up to 100 people and include presentations by academics at the University and the nine project partners, including Plymouth Marine Laboratory.

This will also be the first annual meeting to feature stakeholders in Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, where the programme’s research projects are taking place, and the schedule has been adapted accordingly to take account of time differences with Southeast Asia.

Professor Austen said:

“The COVID-19 pandemic is posing many global challenges. The coastal communities of Southeast Asia, which are the focus of this project, face many challenges already and these have only been heightened by the pandemic, so our research is more relevant now than ever. Convening virtually gives us the opportunity to discuss the progress we have already made and the work that still needs to be done. It also enables us to reach out to people living in remote villages or fishing communities and representatives from local agencies and authorities, who may not have been able to attend the original event in person.”

Professor Mel Austen

Blue Communities is a four-year programme launched in 2017 with £6.7 million of funding from UK Research and Innovation’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF).

It seeks to create new ways of helping coastal communities in Southeast Asia to maintain and enhance their marine-based ecosystems, with an emphasis on improving health, wellbeing, and economic and food sustainability.

Twelve underpinning and interrelated research projects are underway and, in conjunction with coastal community stakeholders, are helping to provide an understanding of the impacts and opportunities of overfishing/sustainable fishing, rising tourism, renewable energy, climate change, coastal area management, rising populations, economic improvement and transport.

A key emphasis of the programme is to build research capability that will support and underpin stakeholders and their decisions on marine spatial planning for the sustainable management of marine ecosystems.

All projects across the region will share data and findings, and it is hoped they will also be able to roll out the projects to other communities that suffer from similar challenges.

Fisherman casting his net

Blue Communities

Building capacity for sustainable interactions with marine ecosystems for the benefit of coastal communities in Southeast Asia.

The GCRF Blue Communities programme will support initiatives that promote the sustainable use of marine resources.

Marine Institute

Representing 3000 staff, researchers and students, the University of Plymouth's Marine Institute is the first and largest such institute in the UK. 

We provide the external portal to our extensive pool of world-leading experts and state-of-the-art facilities, enabling us to understand the relationship between the way we live, the seas that surround us and the development of sustainable policy solutions.

Discover more about the Marine Institute

Marine Institute

The activity highlighted here is funded by the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC)

NERC is the UK's main agency for funding and managing research, training and knowledge exchange in the environmental sciences. Our work covers the full range of atmospheric, Earth, biological, terrestrial and aquatic science, from the deep oceans to the upper atmosphere and from the poles to the equator. We coordinate some of the world's most exciting research projects, tackling major environmental issues such as climate change, environmental influences on human health, the genetic make-up of life on Earth, and much more.

NERC is part of UK Research & Innovation, a non-departmental public body funded by a grant-in-aid from the UK government. www.ukri.org