A graduate of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy has been awarded a prestigious Fulbright grant to research and develop a marine economic model in Mauritius that will help the country better manage its coastal and ocean resources, most specially the island’s dwindling fishing industry.
Jessica Lukasik, who graduated from the academy in New London, Connecticut on May 21, will enroll as a master’s degree student at the University of Mauritius, in the Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities by Research program.
The goal of her project is to develop a “sustainable marine economic development model” that will help the fishing industry continue to exist in the face of increasing competition for coastal resources from foreign fishing fleets, local tourism, shipping and aquaculture.
Her project will pay special attention to how the coastal and marine areas of Mauritius are being managed, with an eye toward creating a balanced policy in which the different and often competing marine interests can exist together, while also promoting the island’s economic development.  Her research will be supervised by Dr. R. Bhagooli, Faculty of Science, and Dr. S. Sobhee, Faculty of Social Studies and Humanities, at the UoM.
“Because of its location and the dependence of its primary industries on marine space and resources, Mauritius is strongly affected by political and environmental issues such as climate change, conflicts over fishing rights and economic globalization,” she wrote in her Fulbright proposal. “These issues, and the shift of political attention eastwards, make sustainable marine economic development in Mauritius timely and necessary.”
She wrote that economic expansion of maritime-related industries on the island and the limited availability of resources have strained the businesses that depend on the coast and the ocean. The impact is most severe on local fishermen.
“While growth in the tourist industry currently provides the greatest contribution to national GDP, indigenous fishery catches provide a quarter of the protein consumed by the island, “ she said. “In Mauritius, a marine resource governance model is needed that will establish  the efficient use of marine space and resources by Mauritian businesses.”
Her project will involve reviewing maritime laws and regulations, identifying user groups, analyzing data and interviewing government officials, businesses, fisherman, the Mauritian Coast Guard. and other marine experts on the island. As part of her course work at UoM, she will seek to collaborate with the Albion Fisheries Research Centre and the Mauritius Institute for Oceanography.  She also hopes to spend time with fishermen in their villages.
Jessica said that developing a marine governance program in Mauritius would have implications for other countries in the East Africa region. New strategies developed in Mauritius would be useful to other island nations, and would also be useful to the U.S. Coast Guard, in which she is serving as as ensign.
“Mauritius, as one of the most developed countries in Africa, can take a leading role in innovative maritime policies and enact sustainable goals that may later be used in other African countries,” she said.
In an interview from the Coast Guard Academy, Jessica said the selection of Mauritius for her project was a bit random. She was committed to work in the Africa region, and considered other sub-Saharan African countries, including Ghana, but she saw more potential in Mauritius to complete her graduate studies and to formulate a development model that might actually be implemented.
The selection of fisheries as the focus of her research not only fit in well with Mauritius, but also has a direct link to the work of the U.S. Coast Guard, which has a major role in enforcing fisheries laws off the U.S. coasts. “I hope this experience will make me a better Coast Guard officer,” she said.
During her time in Mauritius, she will work as an intern at the Maurice Ile Durable Commission, and she plans to learn Creole. Her academics and research will likely keep her in Mauritius for up to two years.
Outside of her studies at the University, she’d like to start a triathlon team that would compete across three sports in succession – swimming, cycling and running. She competed on the Coast Guard Academy team as a cadet.
Her final project, with its recommendations and conclusions, will be shared with the Mauritian community, including the  local press, the university, the government, fishermen and any other interested maritime groups. When she returns to the US, she will present her findings at the Coast Guard Academy.
Jessica is among the top graduates in this year’s class at the academy, and her professors say she will be an excellent student at the University of Mauritius.
 “She and the people of Mauritius will do much good working together,” said Christopher LaMonica, associate professor of government, who worked closely with Jessica on developing her Mauritius project.
Mauritius Ambassador to Washington to retire
The Honorable Somduth Soborun, the Mauritius ambassador to the United States and Canada, will be leaving the post he has held since 2011 and retiring as a diplomat after 26 years in the foreign service.
Soborun, a native of Triolet, said in a brief interview that he was honored to serve Mauritius in various diplomatic postings, from Washington to Cairo to Pakistan. Prior to his appointment in Washington, he was the Mauritius representative to the United Nations in New York.
The ambassador said that in retirement he hopes to continue to bring attention to the needs of small island nations, possibly by creating a National Democratic Institute –  “think tank” policy organization that would a hub for dialogue about Mauritius politics and national and international policies. Working in the private sector is also an option.
“I think I have a lot to offer,” he said, given the knowledge he has gained after decades of diplomacy and after working closely to promote the economies of Mauritius and sub-Saharan Africa.
Soborun cited as a highlight of his career in Washington his efforts to renew the African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA) and more specifically several provisions that are important to the Mauritius textile industry.
He worked closely with congressmen, senators and the African diplomatic corps to win congressional passage of a three-year extension in 2012 of AGOA’s “third country fabric rule.” This provisions allows manufacturers in Mauritius and in sub-Saharan Africa that use fabric and yarn from other countries to qualify for preferential trade status. He was given a congressional award that year for his advocacy of AGOA.
 Soborun is married to Omila Devi Soborun, who until recently worked at the United Nations, and they have two children, Yashvir, a candidate for law school, and Keshini, an undergraduate student at American University, Washington, D.C.
There is no word yet on appointment of a new ambassador to Washington.
Revisting Mauritius from A to Z
Jean-Jacques Dupont de R. de St. Antoine set many new goals for himself when he retired from the World Bank more than a year ago, but the most important was to realize the dream of writing a book about Mauritius.
It would be part history, part geography, part memoir, and  a bit social anthropology, all guided by his love for Mauritius, his pride in its development and his fascination with the island’s rich history. More than a year in the making, including numerous revisions, editing and deletions, the part-time resident of Tamarin is ready to launch his book. In July, he will return to Mauritius to seek a publisher.
Written in French and entitled “Sous le Soleil de la Mer des Indes – Dictionnaire Passionné de l’Ile Maurice”, it was inspired by a successful formula used in a series of books published in France. Using a dictionary format, it is written in short alphabetical chapters on subjects, people, historic events and personal reflections that fascinate this first time author and former World Bank executive.
For example, the letter A includes Archards, the letter P discusses the beauty of the Paille-en-queue and the importance of Paul et Virginie to French literature and Mauritian history, and under the letter Q, the author discusses his childhood in Quatre Bornes. The book runs some 300 pages and includes deep research and poignant prose, laced with doses of personal stories and observations that many in Mauritius will find familiar, while other readers will make new discoveries about the island.
“I wrote this book for my wife and children so that they better know the island where I was born and spent my first 29 years,” said the author, whose wife, Pamela, is Weekend’s correspondent in Washington. “I also wrote this book for my expatriate friends, for all those who have heard about Mauritius and dream to go there, and finally for those who already know this enchanted place and love it as much as I do.”
The author can be contacted at jdestantoine@gmail.com