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Following dreams

Moroccan graduate student mastering ocean management and marine conservation

Part of a special feature celebrating the success of Memorial's graduates. This feature coincides with spring 2019 convocation ceremonies.

By Moira Baird

Spending more than a year on a Moroccan fishing vessel in the Mediterranean Sea and Atlantic Ocean inspired Mostafa El Halimi to further his education and learn more about managing the world’s ocean resources.

Originally from Tangier, Morocco, he completed Memorial’s English as a second language program in 2017 before starting a master’s in marine studies (marine spatial planning and management) at the Marine Institute (MI).

“I want to work in ocean management and marine conservation – that’s my dream.”


Mr. El Halimi graduates his program this spring and is already planning to return to Memorial. This time, he’ll pursue a master’s in environmental science with the Faculty of Science.

“I feel like I should learn more about the oceans,” he said.

Someday, he hopes to put his education and experiences to work at home in Morocco.

Spring graduate Mostafa El Halimi has earned a master’s in marine studies (marine spatial planning and management) at the Marine Institute.
Photo: Submitted

Eye-opening experience

Three years ago, Mr. El Halimi completed a bachelor of maritime studies in fisheries at L’Institut Supérieur des Pêches Maritimes located in the coastal town of Agadir.

“Navigation, marine safety and fishing techniques were the main components of my degree,” he said. “I sailed both as part of the navy and a civilian fishing vessel.”

He spent more than a year at sea as a bridge officer on a fishing vessel and later as a fisheries supervisor, monitoring fishing activity in the Mediterranean and Atlantic. He says it was an “eye-opening” experience about the status of the ocean and how 21st-century technology is being used to locate and catch fish.

“I’d never written an essay in English, so I worked really hard.” — Mostafa El Hamini

That led him to marine spatial planning, which brings together ocean users – fisheries, shipping, energy sector, conservation organizations, tourism operators, recreational groups and governments – to protect the marine environment and sustainably share marine resources and space by avoiding user conflicts.

Although fluent in Arabic and French, his biggest challenge in the master’s program was graduate-level writing in English.

“I’d never written an essay in English, so I worked really hard. My supervisor Geoff Coughlan at MI, my classmates and the Writing Centre at Memorial were very supportive and helpful.”

Haida Gwaii internship

He recently completed his marine planning internship with the Council of the Haida Nation in British Columbia and spent four months in the archipelago of Haida Gwaii, where he assisted in the organization of Gaaysiigang Sding/Sdang: An Ocean Forum for Haida Gwaii.

Mostafa El Halimi and Dr. Anatoly Gusev in the waters near Haida Gwaii, B.C.
Photo: Contributed

“In Haida Gwaii, everybody is a stakeholder, so you need to engage everybody. This forum will help plan the next 10 years of Haida Gwaii marine management.”

The Haida Gwaii marine plan is part of a larger, complex plan involving the B.C. government and other First Nation governments. He attended some stakeholder engagement meetings where representatives from different organizations, governments and the Council of the Haida Nation attended to plan new marine protected areas and new shipping routes.

“What was fascinating to me, at age 23, was to be working with a team of planners from all these governments. It was a very good experience – I was very lucky to have that internship.”

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