2023 Blue Economy Summit
Speakers & Panelists

Register below to attend BES 2023!

Keynote Speakers

Asia Williams
Blue Economy Manager
for the Waitt Institute

Asia Williams works with the Waitt Institute as their Blue Economy Manager; looking at how to help nations sustainably develop and diversify their economies, whilst also establishing Marine Protection. Prior to this, Asia was the Blue Economy Consultant at the Branson Centre of Entrepreneurship, Caribbean, supporting regional BE entrepreneurs scale their business and access finance. Asia has also worked on partnership projects with IDB looking at tourism resilience, UN-Habitat on waste management and flood risk, Arcadis Natural and Built Asset Consultancy and the Commonwealth Climate Change Network.

Mathilda D’silva
CEO and Founder of 
the Ocean Purpose Project

Mathilda D’silva is a Blue Economy advocate and specialist from Singapore who began her journey as an ex-Singapore Idol Finalist and dragonboater who fell sick due to exposure to polluted waters. Since 2015, her life’s journey is to combine her skills as an award winning TV producer and radio presenter, Community Management and Agile Scrum Coach and trainer to drive innovative projects in plastic to hydrogen, seaweed and mussel bioremediation and creating viral sustainability campaigns focused on successful stakeholder engagement and partnerships. Mathilda was a speaker at COP27- Singapore Pavillion, G20 Indonesia & UN Ocean Conference. You can find her at Singapore’s first eco beach office in Pasir Ris Beach on the northern coast of Singapore developing, testing key carbon capture and methane reduction conservation strategies, creating ocean safe biopolymers & turning ocean plastic into hydrogen and carbon nanotubes. She’s also paddling to traditional and indigenous farmers to evangelise seaweed as a way for poor coastal communities to break the pollution and poverty cycle. 

Reece Pacheco
Partner at
Propeller VC

Reece is a Partner at Propeller where he focuses on investing in and supporting ocean entrepreneurs at the earliest stages of their ventures.
Reece has also been an active angel investor at the ocean-climate nexus, where he leverages his professional experience as a startup veteran and ocean conservation leader. Previously he held a dual role as SVP Ocean Responsibility at the World Surf League and Executive Director of WSL PURE (the WSL’s 501(c)(3)). In these roles Reece, reduced the WSL’s emissions by 25% from baseline and offset the remainder (Scope 1-3) with a verified portfolio of 100% nature-based solutions. Reece also led global conservation campaigns in partnership with premier NGOs and global brands activating millions of fans around the world in ocean conservation.
Prior to the WSL, Reece spent a year abroad researching and volunteering in conservation efforts around marine plastic pollution, coastal conservation, and re-wilding efforts. He’s a 2x cofounder/CEO of two video startups (B2B SaaS and consumer facing), wherein he led his teams on vision, strategy, fundraising and product. Reece has extensive ocean conservation experience and knowledge from the field to the board room. He was born and raised on Cape Cod and is an active waterman.

TIDE Talks

Technology, Innovation, Development, Equity
Enjoy bite-sized presentations from leading experts on a variety of oceanic themes.

TIDE talks will touch on subjects including blue justice, equity concerns, priorities for the Global South and small island developing states, and nature-based solutions for coastal resilience.

Angelique Pouponneau
PhD candidate at the University of Malta &
Advisor to the Alliance of Small Island States (AOSIS)

Angelique is a lawyer and she holds an LLM in Environmental law specializing in the law of the sea and natural resources law. Angelique serves as advisor to the Chair of the Alliance of Small Island States on ocean and climate matters. She previously she served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust. She is currently also, pursuing a PhD in regulatory reforms to advance the blue economy. The New African Magazine recognized her as one of the 100 most influential Africans in 2021.

Josheena Naggea
Hoffmann Postdoctoral Fellow, Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions and World Economic Forum

Josheena is an interdisciplinary researcher and Postdoctoral Fellow at the Stanford Center for Ocean Solutions, and the World Economic Forum. She holds a Ph.D in Environment and Resources from Stanford University. Her current research focuses on centering equity for ocean innovations in small-scale fisheries and aquaculture. Born and raised in Mauritius, Josheena spent the early parts of her career conducting community-engaged research focused on climate change adaptation, disaster impacts and recovery, marine protected area management, and the inclusion of natural and cultural heritage in marine governance. Having recently worked on assessing the compounding social impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic and the Wakashio oil spill disaster on coastal communities in her home country, Josheena plans to continue applied research and contribute to the science-policy-business nexus.

Phanor H Montoya Maya
Restoration Program Manager at Coral Restoration Foundation/ Former Executive Director at Corales de Paz

Phanor is a Marine Biologist (PhD) with over 20 years’ experience working on marine tropical and subtropical ecosystems (i.e. seagrass beds, estuaries, and coral reefs). Certified Ecological Restoration Practitioner (CERP) with 8 years’ experience developing and implementing monitoring procedures to assess the effectiveness of coral reef restoration actions. 5 years’ experience establishing, training, and managing multidisciplinary and multicultural teams for coral reef monitoring and restoration.

Panel Discussions

Dive into three immersive conversations on equity in the fisheries sector, coastal resilience, and sustainable tourism.

*Denotes the moderator

Enhancing Equity Across the Fisheries Sector

Rocky Guzman
Deputy Director, Asian Research Institute for
Environmental Law (ARIEL)

Roger Joseph (Rocky) Guzman is the Deputy Director of the Asian Research Institute for Environmental Law. He is an environmental lawyer and policy specialist with extensive background on oceans issues and environmental rights. Rocky has worked on topics from marine conservation and strengthening the rule of environmental law, to fisheries management and plastic pollution. He was previously the policy campaigner of Oceana in the Philippines, and has been involved in different environmental issues with the Asian Development Bank, UN Environment Programme and the Sustainable Ocean Alliance.

Melissa Cronin*
Smith Conservation Research Postdoctoral Fellow
at Duke University

Melissa Cronin is a postdoctoral fellow hosted by the Coasts and Commons Co-Laboratory at Duke University and working in partnership with Global Fishing Watch and Conservation International. She received a Ph.D. in Ecology and Evolutionary Biology from the Conservation Action Lab at UC Santa Cruz. Broadly, her research lies at the intersection of conservation and fisheries science. Past research has focused on conservation and collaborative bycatch mitigation for manta and devil rays in industrial tuna fisheries, but she is currently working on a project to understand the conservation and food security implications of large- and small-scale fisheries interactions. 

Michael Hofmann
Director of Innovation and Finance
at Rare 

 Michael Hofmann is the Director Innovative Finance at Rare. A Business Economist by training, Michael has worked since 2005 at the intersection of finance, development, climate and conservation. His experience covers working across the Global South on almost all SDGs, including for a government entity, nonprofit organizations, for profit companies (co-founder of a startup and intrapreneur at a large cooperative) as well as the Inter-American Development Bank Group. At Rare, Michael works on innovative and sustainable finance bottom up and top-down initiatives to foster the sustainable development of small-scale fishery communities and coastal ecosystems. Michael’s work at Rare spans across Latin America, Africa and Asia and covers a wide range of areas, including financial and market inclusion, outcomes-based financing, and blue carbon.

Paul Adjin-Tettey
Principal Fisheries Research Assistant at the
Fisheries Commission for the Republic of Ghana

Paul is a Principal Fisheries Research Assistant with a hybrid background in Oil and Gas Management and Ocean Governance (Specializing in Marine Fisheries) respectively. He has Thirteen (13) years of experience in the management of marine fisheries resources. He is currently working on a research titled “The Effects of Offshore Oil and Gas Production On Marine Fisheries; Mitigation Measures”

Mar Mancha-Cisneros
Sustainable Seafood Project Manager
Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego

Mar is now the Sustainable Seafood Program Manager at Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California San Diego, where she leads the Sustainable Seafood Initiative and works on developing engagement programs with the seafood purchasing for retail industry, and contributing to the design of corporate policies for procurement of sustainable aquatic food products from capture fisheries and aquaculture. Marine and freshwater biologist by training, she completed her postdoctoral position at Duke University where she worked as Technical Lead for the Illuminating Hidden Harvests study: The Contributions of Small-scale Fisheries to Sustainable Development. She received her Ph.D. in Environmental Life Sciences from Arizona State University focusing on governance of small-scale fisheries, marine protected area conservation planning, and natural resource management, and completed a M.S in Environmental Management and Population Biology in France focusing on freshwater invasive species.

Rethinking Sustainable Tourism

John Francis
Advisor at Lindblad Expeditions 

As Vice President for Research, Conservation, and Exploration at the National Geographic Society, John Francis’ ran the grant programs at National Geographic supporting and promoting explorers worldwide. He oversaw the Society’s Center for Sustainable Destinations and continues his work in sustainable tourism as as a recent board member of Sustainable Tourism International, as a lecturer/host on National Geographic Expeditions, and as an advisor for the Lindblad Expeditions/National Geographic Fund. In the face of worldwide growth in the number of travelers, John promotes examples of how tourism, rightly managed and marketed, can have positive impacts on a global scale.

Wes Espinosa*
Interim Executive Director of
The Center for Responsible Travel 

Wes joined the CREST’s U.S. based team in January 2022 as the Director of Development & Partnerships before taking on the Interim Executive Director Role in October 2022. He is the former Director of CREST’s Torres del Paine Legacy Fund program, an impact tourism initiative that mobilizes local human and financial resources to steward Patagonia’s natural and cultural tourism assets. Following several years as a Tour & Event Director in the U.S and Australia, Wes moved to Quito, Ecuador where he worked as the Latin America Development Lead for Asylum Access, a nonprofit that provides legal services refugees. Here, he honed his skills in nonprofit fundraising, program implementation, and international development that led to his role as the Partnership Development Manager at Sustainable Travel International. In addition to his nonprofit work, he also ran a non-partisan field campaign during the 2020 election cycles to register and turn-out thousands of Georgia voters. Wes is also on the Executive Committee of the Surfrider Foundation’s GA Chapter.

Stacey A. Liburd
Director of Tourism at
the Anguilla Tourist Board 

Stacey Liburd took over the leadership of the Anguilla Tourist Board in January 2021, when she was appointed to the position of Director of Tourism. Her mission was to recapture market share lost during the pandemic; to rebuild and rebrand Anguilla as the most desirable vacation experience in the Caribbean. She came to the position with a wealth of business development, sales and marketing experience in tourism. She has represented a cross section of Anguilla’s most exceptional resort and villa properties and has utilized her skills and expertise to develop comprehensive marketing and sales campaigns, to increase brand awareness as well as drive business to Anguilla. 

Salome Taufa, Ph.D.
Programme Adviser – Economics/Team Leader Fisheries
Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat (PIFS)

Salome hails from the Kingdom of Tonga in the South Pacific. She joined the Pacific Islands Forum Secretariat in 2019 as a Resource Economist and has recently joined the Economic Policy Team at the Secretariat as Programme Adviser – Economics. She takes carriage of the development of the Pacific Roadmap for Economic Development (PRED) to implement the 2050 Strategy for the Blue Pacific Continent, which was endorsed by Forum Leaders last year. One of the key pillars of the PRED is Optimising the Blue Economy Revenue Potential. 

Tarran Edgar Simms
Adjunct Lecturer
University of The Bahamas

Tarran Simms is a sustainable tourism professional dedicated and committed to environmental conservation. Simms earned a Bachelor of Science in Small Island Sustainability with a focus on Eco-tourism and Development (College of The Bahamas), a Master of Science in Tourism Hospitality Management focus on Sustainable Tourism (ESCP Madrid), a Masters of Arts Research on Islands and Small States-focusing his research on the impact of climate change on tourism (University of Malta). Simms’s research focuses on community-based tourism development in developing countries and climate adaptation with small and medium-sized hotels in rural island communities. Tarran worked as a junior consultant with the government of Tarija, Bolivia, to develop a road map for tourism development in the municipal area. Additionally, he worked with stakeholders on the island of Andros to investigate climate change’s perceived risks and develop ambitious mitigation strategies. Currently, he is a Coordinator in The Sustainable Tourism Unit at The Bahamas Ministry of Tourism. Currently, at the Ministry of Tourism, he focuses on community tourism development and matters related to climate change and tourism in The Bahamas. Simms is a former bottom-lining member of YOUNGO, the official youth consistency of the UNFCCC, and a member of the Bahamas Delegation to global climate negotiations. 

Cases of Coastal Resilience and Managed Retreat

Dakota K. Fisher, AICP
Community Planner at
Federal Emergency Management Agency

Dakota Fisher is an urban planner with eight years of experience in the fields of climate change adaptation and resilience planning. Working as a Community Planner for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Dakota works with national and regional partners to develop policies and procedures that guide FEMA’s multi-hazard mitigation planning program. He is also responsible for the administration of an interagency subcommittee with the charge to elevate, coordinate, and accelerate the federal government’s efforts to support jurisdictions with interest in community-driven relocation through a whole-of-government approach. Dakota was a member of the team responsible for obtaining and administering the State of Louisiana’s National Disaster Resilience Competition award that resulted in the projects known as Louisiana Strategic Adaptations for Future Environments (LA SAFE) and the Resettlement of Isle de Jean Charles.

Kristiane Huber
Officer at
The Pew Charitable Trusts

Kristiane Huber provides technical assistance and research to support state resilience policy and planning with Pew’s flood-prepared communities project. In this role, she leads Pew’s State Resilience Planning Group, a forum for collaboration among state officials as they develop and implement flood resilience plans. Her prior experience includes managing the Center for Climate and Energy Solutions’ program on resilience and consulting on flood risk management issues for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Kristiane holds a bachelor’s degree in environmental studies and government from Connecticut College and a master of science from the University of Michigan School of Environment and Sustainability.

Lydia Olander*
Program Director and Adjunct Professor at 
the Nicholas Institute

Lydia Olander is a Program Director at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability at Duke University and is adjunct associate professor at the Nicholas School of the Environment. Her program works on nature-based solutions, natural capital accounting, ecosystem services, environmental markets, and climate resilience. She also leads the National Ecosystem Services Partnership, supporting efforts to integrate ecosystem services into decision making and serves on Duke University’s Climate Action Team. In addition to her academic work, she has worked in the US Congress and White House and has served on an advisory board for the U.S. Army Corps.

Jenny Brennan
Science and Policy Analyst at the 
Southern Environmental Law Center

As an interdisciplinary analyst at SELC, Jenny works to further solutions that help communities and ecosystems prepare for climate change impacts. She drafts and coordinates policy proposals at the local and state level to improve flood-risk transparency, provide more resources to communities dealing with repetitive flooding, and encourage climate-minded planning. Her favorite projects involve working directly with community members to address injustices in decision-making and center community voices in planning. Because many adaptation decisions at the state and local level depend on a foundation of federal rules, Jenny is increasingly working on federal regulatory efforts, with the goal of integrating resilience and climate justice into policies relevant to the climate-readiness of Southeastern communities.

Closing Remarks

John Virdin
Assistant Professor of the Practice, Marine Science and
Conservation Division/Director, Ocean and Coastal Policy Program

John Virdin directs the Oceans and Coastal Policy Program at the Nicholas Institute for Energy, Environment & Sustainability, and teaches at the Nicholas School for the Environment. He has over twenty years’ experience studying and advising government policies to regulate human use of the oceans, particularly marine conservation policies to reduce poverty throughout the tropics. His focus has been largely on managing fisheries for food and livelihoods, expanding to broader ocean-based economic development policies, and more recently reducing ocean plastic pollution.

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