The Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands within a rich tropical marine ecosystem in the Western Indian Ocean. The Seychelles’ Exclusive Economic Zone and Territorial Sea are 1.37 million km2, with a land area of only 455 km2. The island ecosystems have high rates of species endemism and their global importance for marine biodiversity is highlighted by UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Aldabra Atoll UNESCO World Heritage Site. The marine waters support thousands of species of fish as well as regionally significant populations of seabirds and marine mammals. The cold water water upwelling to the Mahe Plateau supports a rich ecosystem of sharks, pelagic fish, cetaceans and invertebrates.
Tourism and tuna fisheries are both vitally important to the economy, and Seychelles is a valuable partner in regional and global trade through shipping and international port facilities in Victoria on Mahe Island. The dropoff habitats leading from the Mahe Plateau are excellent for the local sport fishing and marine charter operators, and are also important for the semi-industrial longline and artisanal fisheries. Seychelles and foreign owned tuna fishing vessels harvest four species of tuna in Seychelles’ waters using purse seine and longline vessels. The unique geology of Seychelles is of interest to the petroleum sector, and seismic surveys have been undertaken to explore oil & gas potential.
Like other small island developing states (SIDS), Seychelles is concerned about the effects that increased storm frequency and rising sea levels may have on coastal areas. In addition, coral bleaching from warm ocean temperatures dating back to the late 1980s threatens the beautiful coral reefs that provide valuable ecosystem services for people and their livelihoods, including artisanal fisheries and tourism. The Blue Economy is an important roadmap for Seychelles to support its sustainable development goals and address climate change adaptation and ocean management.
Seychelles has committed to up to 30% marine protection of its waters and to develop a comprehensive marine spatial plan to ensure representative species and habitats have long-term protection, to improve resiliency of coastal ecosystems with a changing climate, and ensure economic opportunities for fisheries, tourism and other uses.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) Initiative is a process focused on planning for and management of the sustainable and long-term use and health of the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Territorial Sea. The MSP Initiative is a Government-led process, with planning and facilitation managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and TNC Canada in partnership with Government of Seychelles – UNDP GEF Programme Coordinating Unit (PCU). Funding for the MSP is being provided to Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy through a number of private grants.
What is marine spatial planning, or MSP? According to the IOC-UNESCO, “marine spatial planning is a public process of analyzing and allocating the spatial and temporal distribution of human activities in marine areas to achieve ecological, economic, and social objectives that usually have been specified through a political process.” A marine plan is meant to be a living document, reviewed and revised over time. The purpose is to deliver ecological, economic and social outcomes in a open and transparent way.
The Seychelles MSP began in 2014 and will be completed in 2020. It is using an integrated, multi-sector process that is using an ecosystem-based framework to improve ocean management in Seychelles and address three main objectives: expand marine protected areas from 0.04 percent to 30 percent of the EEZ and Territorial Sea, to develop the Blue Economy, and to address climate change adaptation. The process includes input from all major sectors including commercial fishing, aquaculture, tourism and marine charters, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy, port authority, maritime safety, and non-renewable resources in order to develop a comprehensive marine plan and zoning design for existing and future uses of the ocean in Seychelles.
The marine spatial plan aims to improve vital parts of life in the Seychelles—care of marine resources for conservation and sustainable uses; integrated decision-making for development and permitting; security for local livelihoods; and planning for future generations.
Since 2014, the MSP Initiative has been working with more than 100 stakeholders in different committees and working groups and the government of Seychelles to develop a zoning design and identify new marine protected areas for marine biodiversity and for improved sustainable uses. Click here for a list for Stakeholder Groups.
The Phase 1 proposal for new marine protected areas (a “nomination package”) was open for public consultation in Seychelles from 8 Nov 2017 to 17 Jan 2018, as per the National Park and Nature Conservancy Act (NPNCA) gazetting process. The gazetting process for these new proposed areas is expected to be completed by late Feb 2018. Please click here for more information about the nomination file and to read the package that was submitted to Ministry Environment, Energy and Climate Change.