The vision of the Ocean Decade’s ECOP Programme is to elevate and strengthen the diverse perspectives of new generations of ocean professionals to ensure that knowledge is transferred between experienced and early career ocean professionals (ECOPs). Inès Boujmil, a Fisheries and Environmental Engineer at the National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies of Tunisia, shares her experience and aspirations as an ECOP involved in the Ocean Decade.
- Why did you choose to become a Fisheries & Environmental Engineer at INSTM?
My connection to the Sea is not only related to my studies and professional career. Since my childhood, I have been fascinated by the Sea because it is so reflective of life, which offers me a meditative state of calm focus and gentle awareness. These are the main reasons why I chose to work at the National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies (INSTM) to combine research, engineering, and science diplomacy at once while drawing attention to conservation priorities.
2. What motivated you to join the BlueMed Initiative?
When I first heard about BlueMed as an intergovernmental initiative, addressing research and innovation through a multidisciplinary approach, I just knew right away that I would be following this blue momentum, which was an opportunity to have my voice and proposals heard and welcomed at the EU level. In doing so, this opportunity was communicated by the BlueMed GSO in Tunisia, Prof. Cherif Sammari, who is my direct supervisor at INSTM and who supported my application to become the BlueMed Young Communication Ambassador in Tunisia!
3. What is the project/initiative/action that you take the most pride in?
As an engaged Fisheries & Environmental Engineer working on SeaDataNet & CLAIM projects at INSTM to tackle marine litter, we are proud that the Tunisian FerryBox team at INSTM has created a management process through the conception of a web application for the dynamic exploitation of the FerryBox Big Data. Moreover, two innovative technologies have been added to the Ferrybox: an auto-sampler and a filtration system for microplastics.
As a BlueMed ambassador in Tunisia, I was pleased to produce a short outreach documentary, “The story behind the “ghost” plastic traps” in Kerkennah islands, which is a small-scale fishing area affected by plastic pollution. This action was realized to raise fishermen’s awareness, tackle plastic pollution, and substitute plastic with other ecological materials in fishing techniques.
The elaboration of a start-up “Cyber Litter” in the frame of the Pilot Action on marine litter was also a great success. A BlueMed Hackathon team challenge was launched to develop ideas and solutions for a Healthy Plastic Free Mediterranean Sea (pitch), and our Cyber Litter was the winning project, tackling marine litter by gamification.
Following the support of IOC UNESCO and as part of the official UN Ocean Decade Activities, I also had the honor to organize and moderate the V.ECOP DAY in timeslot 6, a 24 hours LIVE from around the world, to catalyze ocean science solutions discussions and implementations for sustainable development (V.ECOP highlights).
- What is the biggest challenge for you as an ECOP (early career ocean professional)?
As the capacity to industrialize the ocean grows, marine ecosystems face cumulative pressures from human activities and climate change. “Blue Economy”, combining economic growth with sustainable use, is increasingly finding its way into national and international strategies: as an ECOP, the biggest challenge for me is to understand and enhance the relationship between science, policy, and practice to achieve ecosystem sustainability, human well-being, and economic growth.
- If you were a youth representative at the 2022 UN Ocean Conference, what would you propose in order to achieve the ocean we want by 2030?
To achieve the ocean we want by 2030, we need to consider safeguarding ocean sustainability in times of rapid change, which will require transdisciplinary efforts to guide the activities and incentives of governments, corporations, and civil societies toward ocean stewardship. Governance mechanisms should succeed in connecting the momentum and aspirations of the blue economy to norms of equity, conservation, and sustainable use. It is also important to consider developing capacities for regional and local ECOP groups in order to foster more responsible citizenry, sound corporate practices, and local conservation initiatives specific to their area/concerns and to promote a sustainable ocean on a daily basis.
- What are some opportunities for ECOPs in your country that you would like to share (interesting initiatives, websites, links, etc.)?
The greatest opportunity for ECOPs in my country that I would like to share is to follow the Early Career Ocean Professionals programme on Twitter and join the Ocean Decade momentum.
The Ocean Decade ECOP Programme will provide capacity development trainings that address ocean science, ocean governance, and ocean sustainability directly relevant to the Ocean Decade vision, mission, and challenges, or overarching topics.
Follow the BlueMed initiative on Twitter and website, which is an amazing platform communicating opportunities for ECOPs around the Mediterranean Sea. I also recommend visiting the National Institute of Marine Sciences and Technologies (INSTM) in Tunisia!
Last but not least, join the UN Ocean Decade related events and initiatives, including:
– The Seven Ocean Decade Laboratories in 2021-22
– The 4th ICES/PICES Early Career Scientist Conference in May 2022
– The 5th International Marine Protected Areas Conference in June 2022
7. What do you want to say to other ECOPs (advice, inspiration, encouragement)?
The rise of social media has provided new opportunities for ECOPs to establish their profile and build networks. Having an active presence on Twitter and other social media platforms facilitates new relationships and networks with other scientists and more diverse audiences.
Here I draw on my personal experiences working at the interface of science and policy and highlight soft skills that are required but not often discussed or taught in academic training:
Honesty: Arguably, one of the most important attributes of individuals who successfully influence science, policy, and practice.
Openness: It is also critical to be ‘open’: open to learning, open to new ways of doing things, and open to feedback and criticism.
There is also a need to be resilient: the key is to remind yourself of why you are motivated to make an impact in the first place. I encourage you to stay focused on your goals, what drives you as an individual, and what you want to achieve. Please make time to celebrate the small wins, no matter how small they are. Look after your mental health and take breaks from your impact work when needed. Surround yourself with good people – people who share your values and goals, people who encourage, inspire, and support you!
8. As Christmas/end of the year is approaching, what would you ask from Santa/wish for the next year?
As Christmas is approaching, I wish every human on Earth will make peace with nature and join the “massive commitment to our Blue Planet.” I also wish that the conflicting pressures on the environment will be reduced and that the younger and elder generations will join efforts to achieve a clean, healthy and resilient ONE OCEAN 🙂