Seychelles Moving towards a Bluer Economy

Posted By Stop Illegal Fishing:10th Apr, 2019: Blue Economy

The Republic of the Seychelles is moving forward with its plans to develop a blue economy, based on the sustainable use of its ocean resources. With an exclusive economic zone (EEZ) of 1.4 million square kilometres of ocean, it is well placed to do that. Since 2017, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) has annually dispensed a Blue Grants Fund, with money from the fund being granted to projects that are consistent with its five main strategic objectives. SeyCCAT has been pleased with the implementation of those projects and, in 2018, supported seven main projects. The Blue Bond is another blue economy initiative being undertaken by the Seychelles Government, which is also being supported by the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility, to aid the transition to sustainable fisheries and the protection of ocean space.

The World Bank defines the blue economy as ‘a sustainable use of ocean resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods and jobs, and ocean ecosystem health’. The Seychellois initiatives are designed to achieve a developed, sustainable, ocean-based economy. Of the seven main projects that have been undertaken, one was the Aldabra Clean-Up Project. Aldabra is a small, outer atoll of the archipelago and a World UNESCO Heritage site. Through March 2019, 12 volunteers from the Seychelles Islands Foundation, in association with the University of Oxford, completed a five-week expedition to the uninhabited atoll to remove the accumulated rubbish that had been washed up on it. At the same time, forty volunteers participated in a clean-up of eight other outer islands and, after four days, had already collected more than two tonnes of marine debris. While that is an impressive amount, it sadly speaks volumes about the magnitude of the problem.

In late 2018, the Seychelles launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond. The bond was developed to support sustainable marine and fisheries projects. During the launch, Vice-President Vincent Meriton stated that the bond will ‘assist Seychelles in achieving a transition to sustainable fisheries… while we sustainably develop our blue economy’. The bond is valued at US$15 million ($22.6 million) over ten years and has international support, with guarantees from both the World Bank and the Global Environment Facility. Proceeds from the bond will be used to support the expansion of marine protected areas, improve the management of the country’s fisheries and further develop the blue economy.

While the initiatives are overwhelmingly positive, not everyone is happy with them. Local fishermen have responded negatively to certain restrictions that are being put in place. They are worried that the new initiatives could destroy the traditional industry that still employs 17 per cent of the population. In February 2018, the country designated one-third of its waters as protected areas, to try to ensure the longevity of its unique biodiversity. The government also signed into law a Bill that designated another 210,000 km2 of ocean as a protected area in which fishing is prohibited.

Keith Andre, Chair of the Fishermen and Boat Owner’s Association, which represents those involved in the fishing industry, is concerned that local fishing crews will lose their livelihoods by being forced to make way for fish farmers, fish ponds and aquaculture. While the new initiatives do seem to be well-supported, it is important that those who are currently working in the fishing industry are compensated and retrained if they are to lose their profession. It is a balancing act that will be important for the Seychellois Government to get right. Marine resources are critical to the growth of the economy and need to be protected and preserved. On the other hand, fisheries make up the second-largest sector of the economy, behind tourism.

In early 2018, the government approved the Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap. If the initiatives discussed above are successful, the hope is that the framework will ultimately deliver:

  • more effective protection of Seychellois ocean space
  • increased investment in the diversification of ocean-based economic sectors
  • new oceanic research and innovation
  • the identification of feasible new and emerging maritime economic sectors

While those outcomes sound positive, it is worth exploring any possible detrimental effects that the initiatives may cause, because it can be argued that these blue practices may have serious socio-ecological impacts. Some of the new, so-called “renewable” energy sources in the blue economy rely on raw materials, some of which, unfortunately, are mined from the seabed. Also, with the growth of larger-scale aquaculture comes the elimination of small-scale fish farms. The resultant rapid growth is already squeezing small-scale producers out of the market.  It is also possible to argue that, instead of challenging what is driving the destruction of marine environments (which can include oceanic industries), the process, in some instances, may be more about turning conservation into a profitable venture for private investors.

The Seychelles is at the forefront of sustainable blue practices and should continue to push for both the health of oceanic ecosystems and economic growth. Alongside that, however, is the need to help workers secure sustainable livelihoods as they adapt to the changes.

Source: Future Directions

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