The President of the Republic of Seychelles, Danny Faure, announced the achievement of a milestone for Seychelles: the legal designation of one third of Seychelles’ ocean territory as a Marine Protected Area. The announcement was made during a small ceremony at State House this morning.
Approximately a third of Seychelles’ ocean territory, an area larger than Germany, will now be declared as protected under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, totalling an area of 410,000 square kilometres. This is a result of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan, an output of the award-winning debt-for-nature swap co-designed by the Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.
During his address at the ceremony this morning, President Faure said: “Following 6 years of hard work, planning, and over 200 consultation meetings, today we mark the third and final milestone in developing a Marine Spatial Plan for the whole Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles.
“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.
“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. Seychelles is demonstrating the importance of integrating marine protections and sustainable uses and using a public, transparent and participatory process for new designations. It is a great honour and privilege for me today to announce the designation for the new marine protected areas into law.”
The new Marine Protected Areas cover more than 30% of Seychelles’ 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 ‘medium biodiversity and sustainable use’ zones where enterprises vital to Seychelles’ economy will continue to operate, managed under new sustainability regulations.
The Marine Protection Areas form part of a whole-ocean Marine Spatial Plan that will cover the whole Exclusive Economic Zone of Seychelles, addressing increased management of all marine resources, regulatory attention, and unified government coordination to support the country’s Blue Economy. Seychelles embarked on this journey in 2014. This achievement delivers on the world’s first debt refinancing for ocean conservation.
Designating 30% of its marine area as protected means Seychelles has already tripled the UN Convention of Biological Diversity Target 11 for 10% marine protection by 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG-14 for 10% coastal and marine protection.
The Government of Seychelles led the Marine Spatial Planning Initiative with planning, science, and facilitation provided by The Nature Conservancy, with the GOS-UNDP-GEF Program Coordinating Unit.
During the ceremony, the Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Mr Wallace Cosgrow signed the Orders that will designate 30% of Seychelles’ Exclusive Economic Zone as Marine Protection Areas. Also present at State House to witness the signing was the Secretary State of Cabinet Affairs, Mr Mohammed Afif, the Principal Secretary for Environment, Mr Alain Decommarmond and the Nature Conservancy Africa, MSP Project Manager for Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan Initiative, Ms Helena Sims.