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SLOW LIFE Symposium 2014 delegates commit to immediate actions to secure the future of sustainable fishing in the Maldives

Delegates at the fifth SLOW LIFE Symposium, hosted at Soneva Fushi pledged their immediate and continued support to secure the future of sustainable fishing in the Maldives. Responding to a direct request from the Maldivian Minister for Fisheries, Mohamed Shainee, to make the country’s existing sustainable fishing practices viable long-term, delegates have agreed to ongoing actions to realise this vision.

Strategies outlined for development include a unique programme to explore the finance required to support the future conservation of the waters of Baa Atoll, which is the only UNESCO World Biosphere reserve in the Maldives and home to some of the world’s richest coral reefs and marine ecosystems. They also included exploratory discussions around the viability of 'debt for nature swaps' in the Maldives. The actions come as pressure grows on the Maldives to continue supporting their net-free and shark-free fishing practices, in light of competition from unsustainable fisheries, who can operate more cheaply.   

Speaking at the conference, Chairman and CEO, Soneva Group and Founder of the SLOW LIFE Symposium Sonu Shivdasani also announced the creation of a $100,000 investment fund to ensure that early stage initiatives can be given the finance required to succeed. He said: “At every SLOW LIFE Symposium we have made a commitment to deliver results based actions, but now we are going one step further, by providing financial impetus for launch and potentially longer-term support for the initiatives and social enterprises that result from this unique event.”  

The commitments to support sustainable fisheries in the Maldives come on the last day of the three-day annual event, which is the world’s only bare-foot symposium. This year’s gathering, chaired by Jonathon Porritt, Founder Director of Forum for the Future, has focused on the theme of ‘capitalism within planetary boundaries’ looking at new models of finance that can help to secure a sustainable world. Eminent speakers at this year’s event have included Pavan Sukhdev, Gist Advisory, Jamie Arbib, Tellus Mater, Chris West, Shell Foundation, Jean Oelwang, CEO Virgin Unite and Peter Wheeler, The Nature Conservancy.   

In addition to the commitments around fisheries, delegates also committed to developing eight other post Symposium actions, including building a sustainable Maldives fish brand, developing an 'Oceans Lab' to foster cross organisation collaboration on the future of the oceans and scaling existing sustainable rice production practices that reduce waste.   

Speaking at the event, Jamie Arbib, Venture Investor and Founder of Tellus Mater said: "The role of philanthropy is to break down silos. Too often we focus on one issue but we must start to bear the bigger picture in mind." He was supported by Jean Oelwang who spoke plainly about the need to stop duplication in philanthropy, due to activity happening in isolation, and her efforts to "convene cross sector partnerships that focus on the root causes of issues and turn them into solutions".  

The Symposium was sponsored by the Soneva Group, a world-leading sustainability resort group. Other topics explored this year include food, farming and sustainable land use, the future of the oceans and the future of philanthropy. 

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