Indian Ocean

The Indian Ocean – third ocean in the world by its size (75 million km²) – is is quite unique . Indeed, it stretches mainly in the tropical world. Bordering more than thirty countries, it is the natural connection between Africa, the Middle-East, Asia and Oceania.

Explored by sailors since Antiquity, the Indian Ocean is a vast maritime zone, historically globalized. Sailors from South East Asia made the most of monsoon winds, and soon sailed towards Arabia and Eastern coasts of Africa, of which Madagascar. The same applies to Arab sailors who settled along East African coastline. Then came the Europeans on the route to India. Much farther from the continental coast, islands until then uninhabited, opened up to the world : Réunion, Mauritius, Rodrigues, Seychelles were discovered.

Southwest Indian Ocean islands form a singular region, geographically, historically and culturally. They constitute a coherent ensemble, with a common traits thanks to geography, peopling history and languages. Also, they share a common destiny. This is why these islands have been given a common name : Indianoceania.

Biodiversity is very rich there. Indeed, Southwest Indian Ocean islands display high rates of plant and animal endemic wildlife. Coral reefs of the region are the second largest in the world, and are home to marine ecosystems as beautiful as they are fragile. Coastal zones are overflowing with natural treasures that must be preserved because of increasing pressures on nature. Sustainable management of the ecosystems is all the more necessary that reefs and mangroves -with a economic value estimated at 5.3 billion € and 7 billion respectively- mitigate the effects of natural disasters. Indianoceania is one of the 34 hot spots of world biodiversity, with more than 1500 endemic plant species but which lost at least 70% of the species in their initial condition.

The Indian ocean is also an international strategic area at a global level. Crossed by some of the largest mercantile maritime routes, accounting for 30% of merchant shipping and more than 60% of hydrocarbon trade. It is an ocean of rivalries, where international and even emerging powers meet: United States, India, China, Europe, Australia…

Indian Ocean issues, at least of the states in the area, are nowadays those of maritime security in a context marked by the rise of crimes and threats at sea, political stability with regard to latent centres of tension that exist in the perimeter, and also preservation and management of marine and coastal biodiversity, given the the extraordinary natural richness and the extreme vulnerability of the islands and coastlines, and, of course, natural disaster risks because of climate change effects which particularly noticable in many areas of the Indian Ocean.




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