26 March 2020 | Environment.
Minister of Environment, Energy and Climate Change,
Ladies and Gentlemen,
Today we are gathered here to announce to our people and to the world, the achievement of a great milestone: the legal designation of one third of our ocean territory as a Marine Protected Area.
Following 6 years of hard work, planning, and over 200 consultation meetings, we mark the third and final milestone in developing a Marine Spatial Plan for the whole Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles.
This is the first comprehensive, large-scale Marine Spatial Plan in the Western Indian Ocean, one of the first for a Small Island Developing State, and the largest Marine Spatial Plan in the world, after Norway. For those who have been part of the process from the beginning, today is a very special day.
Seychelles’ marine ecosystem is the foundation that the economy is built upon, with fisheries and tourism being the primary pillars of our economy. With over 1.35 million square kilometres of ocean, the people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods. Developing a Marine Spatial Plan is a way of tackling the sustainable development of the ocean for today and future generations.
Realising the importance of the ocean to the people of our nation, at the Rio 20 United Nations Conference on Sustainable Development in 2012, otherwise known as RIO 20, I had the opportunity on behalf of the country to announce a bold decision to increase marine protection from 0.04 to 30% of our EEZ by 2020. This was long before today’s global target of 30% ocean protection by 2030. Our achievement today is 10 years ahead of international targets. Seychelles is 10 years ahead.
From this commitment emerged the vision of our Blue Economy – a shared opportunity and responsibility to use ocean space for conservation, adaptation, innovation, and sustainable development.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan is a government-led initiative to achieve this vision. It is an output of the award-winning debt-for-nature swap, which was formalised through the creation of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust in 2016.
To get here today, the initiative has relied on extensive consultations with all the major sectors using or valuing the ocean in Seychelles, including fisheries, tourism, biodiversity conservation, energy, ports authority, maritime safety, recreation and finance.
Over the last 6 years, there were over 200 meetings and gatherings for input on the location and design of these new marine protected areas. The identification of these areas has been one of the most intense consultative and participatory processes in our history. It has taken a lot of effort and commitment from all partners to get this far.
It is a great honour and privilege for me today to announce the designation for the new marine protected areas into law. With the signature and gazetting of the legal instruments, 13 new areas will be declared as protected under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, totaling an area of 410,000 square kilometres.
These new Marine Protected Areas cover more than 30% of our waters. Half of these areas are of high biodiversity and gazetted as Marine National Parks where almost no human activity other than sustainable tourism will be permitted. These areas include the waters surrounding the Aldabra group, marine areas in the Amirantes including D’Arros to Poivre, and the South of Amirantes and Bird Island, one of the only 2 sand cays in the inner island group.
The rest are of medium biodiversity and designated for sustainable use where activities vital to Seychelles’ economy will continue to operate but will be managed under new sustainability regulations. These areas fall within the Amirantes to Fortune Bank. Seychelles is demonstrating the importance of integrating marine protections and sustainable uses and using a public, transparent and participatory process for new designations.
This achievement also supports the Government’s commitment to the Blue Economy Agenda, in addition to the UN Convention on Biological Diversity and the UN Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 14 on Life under Water.
Seychelles was the first country to designate a marine protected area in the Western Indian Ocean with the gazetting of the Ste Anne Marine National Park in 1973.
Considering the scale of the climate change risks and other challenges the ocean faces, the world is now calling for greater protection of the world’s oceans. As a thought leader in environmental conservation, Seychelles remains active in such calls. We were one of the first countries to join the Global Ocean Alliance led by the United Kingdom calling for 30% of the world’s oceans to be protected by 2030. Seychelles is also leading the Action Group on Marine Protected Areas under the Commonwealth’s Blue Charter.
We will soon transition to implementation. The enormity and complexity of the tasks ahead require the support of existing and new partners who are bold and ambitious enough to accompany Seychelles on this next phase.
As we pave the way to pilot the management, surveillance, and enforcement of what we have protected so far, I would like to turn to our principal champions of everything to do with our natural environment including the vast ocean wealth that surrounds us – our Seychellois youth, our young eco-warriors and those active in environmental NGOs.
They have set an example to the country and the world with their bold action, particularly regarding marine pollution. Today I call on all young Seychellois to take the lead as we embark on the next phase of our exciting journey toward a prosperous blue economy.
I wish to thank GLISPA, the Global Island Partnership which Seychelles co-chairs where this all began with the idea of a debt swap for the ocean, and our GLISPA partner, The Nature Conservancy, who has been firmly faithful to the cause.
Following in his footsteps, I salute the efforts of former President James Michel who took bold action for conservation, pioneering innovative means of marine protection.
I also wish to thank all stakeholders who, despite any doubts at the beginning, engaged fully with the process.
Finally, I wish to express my gratitude to the dedicated staff across Government for their hard work and devotion to lead this history-making initiative.