“The different maritime zones which come under the jurisdiction of Mauritius are about 1000 times bigger than our land mass and like all small island states, there are constraints to expansion of the economy because of the size of our territory and also the size of our population,” Milan Meetarbhan, Ambassador and Permanent Representative of the Republic of Mauritius to the United Nations, told CNBC Africa.
“What small island states can do is to look at the ocean for expansion of their economies. There are resources there, there are possibilities for leisure, transport, there are minerals and what we require as small island states is a shift in the mindset so that we don’t consider ourselves as being only small states but as being potentially large ocean states.”
According to the United Nations, the island can also utilise its ocean economy for water and wind energy production.
Mauritius has the right to nearly two million square kilometres of its ocean, among the biggest in the world. Onshore related activities are also included as part of the ocean economy.
“We’ve also been used to thinking of ourselves as small islands without natural resources but we need to think of the resources that we do have in the oceans. To enable us to take advantage of that, what we are proposing is that there is an integrated approach to all ocean-related economic activities,” Meetarbhan explained.
Ocean exploration for oil and gas has been crucial for a number of economies, but Mauritius is yet to explore its maritime zones as it still needs to implement regulatory and legal frameworks prior to exploration.
A number of oil majors have also expressed interest in exploring Mauritius’s ocean economy but in the absence of a proper framework to grant exploration authorisation to companies is still non-existent.
“Under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, as a costal state, we have sovereign rights over fishing and other natural resources in our exclusive economic zone. So the general rule is that there is a licensing regime for fishing vessels from other countries,” said Meetarbhan.
Mauritius’s government is expected to publish a roadmap in October this year which will consist of an action plan and an implementation plan on the ocean policy. The roadmap will also provide legislative requirements, a fiscal regime for industries and services operating as part of the ocean economy.