Address by President James A Michel for the launch of his book ‘Rethinking The Oceans – Towards The Blue Economy’, 8 June 2016, State House
Wed, 08 June 2016
Men, women and children of the oceans,
Ladies and gentlemen,
Thank you Sir James, Dr Anderson and Minister Adam for your kind remarks about my book.
Today we celebrate World Oceans Day. A day when countries across the world can reflect on the importance of the oceans around us. Oceans which, in different ways, sustain life on this planet. Large countries and small, landlocked as well as islands – all are dependent on the fortunes of the sea.
For Seychelles – an island nation, where the presence of the sea is always with us – the message of this day is especially poignant. This is why I have chosen World Oceans Day to launch my book on this very subject.
In Rethinking the Oceans I have endeavoured to urge us all to think afresh about what lies beyond our shores. And the sub-title, Towards the Blue Economy, shows ways in which this can be done.
In just a few years, the idea of the Blue Economy has captured a prominent place on the world agenda. At first, people would ask what it meant. Some did not take me seriously and even ridiculed me for using the term. Whilst the term was, in fact, coined by an academic consultant to describe environmental innovation in the world of business, I think it also has a wider meaning, to describe the sustainable use of the sea. This is how I have used it in my own efforts to spread the message, and the question is no longer ‘what does it mean?’ but rather ‘how can we make it work?’
Seychelles must, with pride, take ownership of that concept. We championed it and we gave it new meaning. and we brought the potential of the oceans to the attention of the world. Seychelles had to take ownership of the cause of the Blue Economy as a small island nation, dependent on the ocean. Today we have managed to internationalise it and put it on the agenda of many international organisations. We have achieved something powerful in just a few years.
Under the proud flag of Seychelles, I have taken every opportunity to turn the world’s attention to this new frontier. I have addressed world leaders on every continent and many international organisations on this subject, calling for a new partnership with the oceans instead of depleting their resources.
The Blue Economy represents a new frontier. A new frontier in mankind’s endeavours not to ignore the land but to take a fresh look at the sea. And not to exploit its immense reserves as if there were no tomorrow, but to manage them sustainably. We have over a longer period become familiar with the idea of the Green Economy; now it is the turn of the Blue Economy as well.
In Seychelles, we have made considerable progress in that regard.
As of February 2015, a new department dedicated to the Blue Economy was created under the newly established Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy. The main role of the Department is to provide a high level focal point that will ensure a more effective co-ordination of oceans and marine related initiatives. It will help Seychelles in promoting the sustainable use and conservation of its vast ocean territory (of 1.37 million square km), through complementing and better coordinating the work being done by other departments and agencies.
The Blue Economy Department is already undertaking a number of projects and programmes, as has been explained by Minister Adam, many of them linked to the development of a strategy for mainstreaming the Blue Economy into existing and future planning and development frameworks. With the assistance of the Commonwealth Secretariat’s Oceans and Natural Resources Advisory Division the Department is working on a Roadmap for the Blue Economy (2016-2030).
Furthermore, as part of the process of ascertaining the resources of the oceans and ensuring their protection, a full marine spatial plan of Seychelles’ exclusive economic zone (EEZ) is nearing completion. Such an exercise will provide innovative ways to help the country better manage its oceanic and coastal assets. It is also linked to the financial mechanism known as the ‘debt-for-adaptation swap’ where a commitment to protect substantial areas of the EEZ will enable the Government to buy back $22 million of the national debt with the Paris Club of creditors. Should we be successful in raising funds through this mechanism to manage the protected area network and our marine resources, Seychelles will fulfill its obligation announced in 2012 to place 30% of our Exclusive Economic Zone as Marine Protected Areas (MPA) with 15% as ‘no-take’ zones.
In order for Seychelles to unlock its Blue Economy potential, we must also be innovative to develop appropriate financing. Seychelles is in advanced discussions with the World Bank, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the African Development Bank for the development of a Blue Bond to better mobilise financing for its blue economy strategy and specific sector components such as the Mahé Plateau Sustainable Fisheries Plan. Under this management plan, we are aiming to use sustainable practices and branding to add value to our fish products caught by local fisheries entrepreneurs. Through a blue bond, we hope to leverage a guarantee from our partner institutions to make the cost of financing the initiative, more long term and sustainable. Furthermore, we believe that this initiative provides a means by which we can tap into additional market-based finance to contribute towards the SDG’s, and in particular, Goal 14, which aims to support the sustainable development of oceans.
Ladies and gentlemen,
My book tells the story of the Blue Economy to date: how the concept has come onto the world stage, the many aspects it embraces, and what it can offer for all of our futures. And running through this is the theme of sustainability. We must learn from the errors we have made in the past; we must ensure that the beauty and the riches of the oceans are there for the benefit of future generations. It is no coincidence that I have dedicated the book to all of our children, to those who will inherit the oceans. For they are the sentinels of nature and the guardians of our oceans.
In telling this story, I have been inspired by fellow Seychellois. Fishermen who daily sail beyond the horizon, away from the safety of the shore. Conservationists who devote themselves to protecting the marine environment, for us all to enjoy. Our brave sailors who, alone, faced the menace of piracy before international help arrived.
I have discussed with many other people and I have learnt a lot from their own experiences. I have learnt a lot listening to people from other small island states, from scientists, business leaders …
No doubt, we can look to the inventiveness of scientists and entrepreneurs across the world, who are responding with determination to this new challenge – finding ways to harness the energy of the waves, refining the methods of aquaculture, demonstrating the potential of marine reserves.
I have met many fine people along the way and I am indebted to them all. I am especially indebted to those who have collaborated with me on this project. I am deeply grateful to them all. Perhaps I can add a special word for Dr José Graziano da Silva, the Director General of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), for having kindly accepted to endorse this book with his foreword. I am equally grateful to President James Mancham for his endorsement of my book. It would be remiss of me not to mention Dr Gordon Anderson, our publisher, founder and President of Paragon House, for skilfully producing the resultant book in time for this day of celebration. To them all, to you all, my fellow Seychellois, my friends, I owe a debt of gratitude.
The story of the Blue Economy unfolds by the day and this account can be no more than work in progress. There will be more developments to come, and more books to be written. Towards the Blue Economy is, indeed, about the very future of humanity. It is a story in which we can all play a part. It is one in which I will personally continue to be actively involved. Let us together pass on to the future generations the true legacy of the oceans.