Seychelles’ Marine Spatial Plan will be finalised this December, at which point the nation’s waters will be fully safeguarded to encourage sustainable development and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Helena Sims, Project Manager, gave an update on the developments of the plan to all partners concerned at a recent workshop. "We are finalising what the allowable activities will be in the three different zones, and at the same time we are in a phase where we're transitioning into the implementation stage," she said.
In his opening address, the Principal Secretary for Environment, Dennis Matatiken, said that the plan was a product of the Seychelles Debt-for-Climate-Adaptation Swap initiative co-designed by the government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.
Through it, US$4.9m has been secured from The Nature Conservancy, Blue Nature Alliance, Oceans5, the Waitt Institute and the Waitt Foundation to support activities for the transition from zoning to implementation.
The Marine Spatial Plan divides Seychelles' waters into three zones.
Zone 1 is a high biodiversity protection zone as they tend to be habitats for rare or endangered species and according to the plan, these areas are not suitable for extraction or sea bed alteration.
Zone 2 plan covers areas of medium biodiversity protection which allows for sustainable use.
Sims said this zone "includes habitats and species that have some tolerance to disturbance and human activities and the reason why certain activities are allowed there with proper management."
"We have to keep in mind that since Seychelles' economy also depends on the sea, we could not prohibit all activities," explained Sims.
The fisheries sector is the second top contributor to the economy of Seychelles, a group of 115 islands in the western Indian Ocean.
Zone 3 has "high value and high priority areas for the marine sectors that use Seychelles' waters for economic, social and cultural benefits," she said.
The three zones cover 30% or 410,000 square kilometres of the island nation's Exclusive Economic Zone of 1.4m sqkm. These zones will now be fully safeguarded to encourage sustainable development and adapt to the effects of climate change.
Contributing to a global conservation target
Matatiken said that as a small island nation with less than 1% land and 99% ocean, Seychelles' water means everything. “It provides us with food, jobs, and is considered the foundation of our economy and the country's prosperity."
He added that with the designation of 30% of its waters as Marine Protected Areas, Seychelles is one of a few countries that has exceeded the expectations of a global 30 by 30 target for land and sea areas. The 30 by 30 target is an international initiative to protect at least 30% of Earth's land and sea by 2030.