The Seychelles minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Didier Dogley, has announced that Seychelles is all set to become the first country in the world that has implemented a comprehensive spatial plan for its entire ocean territory.
The Indian Ocean archipelago of 115 islands, scattered through almost 1.4 million square kilometres of resource-rich waters, is in the process of finalising a marine spatial plan that will see the creation of one of the largest marine reserves in the region.
Currently, only around one percent of the Seychelles’ waters are protected as marine national parks, but this
percentage could increase to between 10 and 15 percent, pending the finalisation of the plan. The plan will also protect sustainable artisanal fisheries and create specific zones for exploitative activities, such a commercial tuna fishing and oil exploration and exploitation.
According to Dogley, the only other countries which have developed marine spatial plans are Australia, the United Kingdom and the United States, but these plans only mapped a small portion of those countries’ territorial waters.
Minister Dogley made this announcement on Monday morning while addressing a press conference organised by the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy regarding last week’s debt-for-nature swap agreement signed with the Paris Club group of creditors.
“The marine spatial plan is a plan that decides how we will utilise the spaces of the sea, and that which we call our Exclusive Economic Zone,” said Dogley. “What we have seen in previous years is that we need to come up with a concrete plan on how to utilise these spaces – we already have plans concerning how we will utilise our land, for example by means of our land use plan, but for the sea we have never had one.”
The ministries of environment and finance in Seychelles have already met with all the sectors involved in the use of the sea’s resources, including the tourism, fisheries, transport, environment and oil exploration sectors in the development of the plan.
“We sat everyone down at the table and had a series of discussions over more than a year, where we were seeing exactly how to zone and utilise our marine spaces in a way that is the most effective and in the most organised manner,” said Dogley.
“At the same time, we also discussed potential conflicts that could arise from the utilisation of these spaces, for example, between fishermen and people who are conducting conservation work, and perhaps later when will have petroleum exploitation it could conflict with those who are involved in fishing, so it is very important to go through these processes early on.”
Minister Dogley told the media that negotiations were at an “advanced stage” and that the proposed plan would be presented in its entirety by the end of April for discussion and approval, which he expects to be finalised by June this year (Seychelles News Agency).