Case Study: Seychelles – Using Marine Spatial Planning to Meet the 30 Per Cent Marine Protected Areas Target

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“With over 1.35 million km2 of ocean, the people of Seychelles have a direct dependence on our ocean resources for food security and livelihoods. Developing a Marine Spatial Plan is a way of tackling the sustainable development of the ocean for today and future generations.”

Former President Danny Faure¹

 

Source: https://seymsp.
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Summary

Seychelles has long been a leader in biodiversity conservation and, in 2012, when less than 1 per cent of its marine waters were managed in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), the president made an ambitious commitment to protect over 30 per cent by 2020. At the same time, the economic situation meant that there were strong incentives to develop the country’s Blue Economy. Lastly, concerns about the impacts of climate change on this small island developing state were growing because of sea level rise and increasing sea surface temperatures. Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) was therefore adopted as the tool to ensure that, in protecting new areas of ocean, biodiversity goals would be balanced with the requirement for a sustainable national economy. New MPAs, formally announced in March 2020, are a key part of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) that will be completed in 2021. The SMSP will also address sustainable use of marine resources in the remaining 70 per cent of ocean and climate change adaptation, and will coordinate appropriate regulatory compliance and unified government oversight of all activities. This case study looks at how MSP has been used to develop the recommendations to expand marine biodiversity protection in Seychelles.

The Issue

In 2012, at the Rio +20 Conference, the Government of Seychelles (GOS) committed to protecting 30 per cent of its 1.35 million km2 marine waters in Marine Protected Areas (MPAs),² as a pledge conditional to raising US$2.5 million/year for a conservation and adaptation fund. At that time, although over 47 per cent of the land was protected, only 0.04 per cent of marine waters were in MPAs. Environmental concerns are firmly entrenched in the Constitution of Seychelles, and the country has multiple policies and strategies to promote, coordinate and integrate sustainable development and to expand biodiversity protection. With such a large ocean area and with over two-thirds of Seychelles’ economy reliant on the ocean, there was a need to develop a marine plan for the country’s ocean space.

The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) Initiative³ was developed as an integrated, multi-sector approach to address the need to support the Blue Economy (i.e. businesses that rely on ocean resources, marine-based food security and marine livelihoods) with climate change adaptation and biodiversity protection. The SMSP provides information to government and stakeholders about what is allowed and where and identifies the new MPAs.

The response

Marine spatial planning (MSP) is an iterative process that takes place over a number of years, using spatial data and stakeholder participation to create an evidencebased plan. Plans are living documents and, after implementation, are monitored, adapted and revised as new information and data become available, new objectives or values emerge that are important to marine users, and ocean uses and activities change. The SMSP process was designed using United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization guidance⁴ as well as other publications and reports, combined with information from discussions with colleagues and experts. This ensured the use of best practices and lessons learnt from other geographies such as Australia,⁵ Canada⁶ and the Eastern Caribbean⁷ to adapt the process to the local context.

Article 38 of the Seychelles Constitution,⁸ along with the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy,⁹ requires the implementation of “an integrated marine plan to optimise the sustainable use and effective management of the Seychelles marine environment while ensuring and improving the social, cultural and economic wellbeing of its people” and this provides the background for the marine plan. The SMSP Initiative was launched with three objectives: to expand protection of marine waters to 30 per cent, to address climate change adaptation and to support the Blue Economy.¹⁰

A key part of meeting the objectives for the 30 per cent protection goal and supporting the Blue Economy was designing a zoning framework for the full 1.35 million km2. Development of this was informed by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) ecological and socio-economic criteria for MPA networks,¹¹ the IUCN guidelines for MPAs on protected area categories,¹² lessons learnt from other countries, tools for biodiversity prioritisation (e.g. Marxan) and consultations with experts. The zoning process was defined in two phases with three Milestones, the first two of which were focused primarily on proposals for deep water and the third on deep and shallow water. This was because most marine activities other than industrial tuna fishing occur in waters less than 200 m deep and it took longer to gather the necessary data and develop those proposals.

Scientific data, local expert knowledge and stakeholder input for maps showing habitats, species and marine uses and activities began in Milestone 1. Information was also obtained from international research expeditions such as National Geographic Pristine Seas in 2015 and the Nekton Expedition in 2019. Two Marxan analyses were undertaken: the first was a project led by GOS United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)Global Environment Facility (GEF) (Klaus, 2015¹³) and led to an initial analysis; and the second was a rapid “Marxan with Zones” project using three scenarios (biodiversity bias, Blue Economy bias, economic bias), which led to suggestions for establishing three different zones across the marine waters: High Protection, Medium Protection and Multiple Use. Customised decision-support tools were developed to check representation goals against 30 per cent area targets.

Over 100 stakeholders are participating and engaged from more than 11 marine sectors, including commercial fishing, tourism and marine charters, biodiversity conservation, renewable energy, port authority, maritime safety and non-renewable resources. To date there have been 210 committee meetings, workshops and public information sessions, an additional 52 workshops for the Outer Islands (GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project) and bilateral consultations with marine sectors, local experts and agencies. The results of these activities were used to develop the zoning framework and new MPAs, and further discussions are being held in order to prepare a table of Allowable Activities for the different zone, and to develop other management considerations.

Partnerships and support

The SMSP initiative is a government-led process, and started in 2014. The Nature Conservancy (TNC) leads the process design on behalf of the government, provides all technical and scientific support and undertakes planning, facilitation and project management with support from the GOS-UNDP GEF Programme Coordinating Unit.

The SMSP is a necessary output from the Seychelles debt conversion, which created the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), an independent public-private trust operationalised in 2016. The Trust is responsible for managing debt conversion proceeds including disbursing blue grants and investment assets funded by the debt conversion deal.¹⁴ Under this deal, private philanthropic funding and loan capital were raised, and SeyCCAT then extended loans to GOS to enable the purchase of US$21.6 million of sovereign debt at a discount. GOS now repays SeyCCAT on more favourable terms, allowing SeyCCAT to direct a portion of the repayments for financing of marine conservation and climate change adaptation projects and, in the long term, implementation of the SMSP. Additional funding is being provided through grants to GOS, an Oceans 5 grant awarded to TNC, and some private funders. Approximately US$250,000 is spent on the SMSP per year.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

As per the debt conversion commitment, Milestone 1 (2014-2018) resulted in protection of 15 per cent of the marine waters through gazette of the new Zone 1 and 2 areas in February 2018. Milestone 2 (2018-2019) refined the zoning design and expanded Zones 1 and 2 to include a further 11 per cent of marine waters, which were gazetted in April 2019, bringing the total area protected to 26 per cent. This Milestone included an economic analysis undertaken with a fisheries expert and an economist to evaluate the potential impact of the zones on industrial tuna fishing. Milestone 3 (20192020) involved an estimate by an economist of the costs required to implement the new MPAS, and final gazettements during this Milestone achieved the 30 per cent protection goal in March 2020. The total area protected includes MPAs that were designated before the SMSP process was initiated, such as Aldabra Marine Reserve. The MPAs are thus as follows:

High Biodiversity Protection Areas:

Known collectively as Zone 1 and covering 203,071 km2 (15 per cent of Seychelles waters), these five areas (Aldabra Group, Bird Island (Île aux Vaches), D’Arros Atoll, D’Arros to Poivre Atolls, Amirantes South) are designated as MPAs under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act (NPNCA) and are designed to conserve and protect the top priority areas for marine and coastal biodiversity, including those of international significance. MPAs contain habitats and species that may be rare, endangered, unique or with narrow distribution ranges, as well as breeding or spawning areas, key foraging habitat, fragile or sensitive species and habitats. Each site is large enough to ensure ecological resilience and to provide climate change adaptation. In the draft Allowable Activities table, extractive activities and those that alter the seabed are not allowable.

• Medium Biodiversity Protection and Sustainable Use Areas:

Known collectively as Zone 2 and covering 238,442 km2, these eight areas (Amirantes to Fortune Bank, Denis Island, Desroches Atoll, Poivre Atoll, Alphonse Group, Farquhar Atoll, Farquhar Archipelago, Cosmoledo and Astove Archipelago) are designed with the objective of biodiversity protection and sustainable use and are designated as Areas of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) under the NPNCA. They include habitats and species that have some tolerance to disturbance and human use and include regionally and nationally significant areas; the draft Allowable Activities include sustainable fishing, tourism and renewable energy. Zone 2 is considered suitable for some level of extraction and sea-bed alteration depending on the specific location, provided there is appropriate consultation and management to achieve the objective of the area.

Zone 3 is Multiple Use and covers the remaining 70 per cent of Seychelles waters. It will be finalised in 2020-2021 at which point the SMSP will be implemented through a phased approach, which is still being developed.

The new MPAs will be implemented through existing or new legislation; regulations will be passed for uses and activities, management plans will be developed and IUCN protected area management categories will be assigned as appropriate. The SMSP website¹⁵ provides information on all the outputs of the initiative including a spatial data catalogue, an Atlas, the MSP Policy, economic assessments and the legal gazettes for the new MPAs.


COVID-19: The greatest current challenge in most countries is recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

All countries and MPAs around the world have seen a massive negative impact. With the cessation of tourism, many sources of income have dried up. MPA managers have had to focus on ensuring the safety and security of their staff. Reduced visitor numbers and disrupted supply chains for fishery products have significantly impacted the livelihoods of local communities, which may both depend on and help manage MPAs. MPA management is focusing down on core operations to maintain basic functioning. However, there is consensus that effectively managed MPAs will be more resilient and that a sustainable managed ocean, encompassing MPA networks of adequate size, will be an essential component of economic recovery.


Challenges

Developing a comprehensive marine spatial plan needs patience and persistence, and can take up to 10 years. It takes time to gather information and to discuss with all involved any implications that MSP may have on livelihoods. Once the plan is agreed, further time is needed to finalise the details and obtain government approval and for implementation. For the SMSP, the Milestones created steps along the way to the 30 per cent goal and allowed time for development of the supporting spatial database and science, documents for discussions with stakeholders and the independent assessments and analyses that informed the iterative process with stakeholders and civil society.

It is also a challenge to ensure that all sectors participate fully and that equity issues in relation to engagement and contribution are appropriately addressed. The fact that the SMSP stakeholder engagement process and governance framework were designed from the start to ensure participation from all sectors was helpful. It is important to have a government champion for an MSP and consistency in the core team to build trust with stakeholder groups.

The future may hold greater challenges, in terms of implementing the SMSP, integrating and coordinating regulatory authorities for many different uses and activities in the zones, and encouraging stakeholders to comply with the new legislation once enacted. Given the immense size of the area covered by the new MPAs, this will require additional resources. Several options are being considered, including an independent authority; discussions are on-going and will be finalised in 20202021. For monitoring and surveillance, a combination of approaches will likely be adopted, involving existing authorities (e.g. Coast Guard) and making use of the rapidly evolving global monitoring and surveillance technology to strengthen the existing system.

Key lessons learnt

• Political support and commitment to the process from the beginning, with leaders, including the president, understanding the purpose and objectives of the initiative, represented a major factor in success. Project staff reported back regularly to Cabinet and sought feedback from decision-makers, developing the political will that was needed to follow the six-year process.

• Establishment of the right partnership at the beginning was essential: as a small island developing state, Seychelles lacked prior MSP experience, technical capacity and knowledge for the MSP process. TNC provided MSP expertise, a process and science lead and a project manager. The project manager is based in Seychelles and able to talk regularly to the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change.

• Trust-building was critical. Given the lead role of the Ministry, there were concerns among some stakeholders that biodiversity protection would dominate discussions. It was continually emphasised that the SMSP was multi-objective, and that it was a government priority to ensure both biodiversity conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

• Spatial data are vital for an MSP. To ensure that sectors were equally well informed and proposals were evidence-based, relevant scientific data and local knowledge were made available from the start. Each sector provided spatial information indicating its priority areas, and also reviewed data from consultations to ground truth them for accuracy. The GIS (geographic information system) methodology must also be able to receive confidential or proprietary data and use it to develop proposals without revealing specific locations.

• Given that sectors often differ in their level of understanding of the issues and have different capacities for participation, project staff made sure that committee meetings and reporting arrangements suited all involved. Technical Working Groups were established for specific sectors and topics (e.g. fisheries, tourism, finance, climate change) allowing space for technical discussions and developing draft products.

• Time is needed for stakeholders to gather the information to present their arguments, and for discussions with them of proposals as these arise. It was accepted that the process would slow down if lack of agreement or misunderstandings arose, and facilitation focused on gathering information to help resolve issues and obtain a high level of support.

• A consistent effort was made to ensure key stakeholders were present during relevant discussions so that many views could be presented and decisions were transparent. Meeting materials were distributed and comments received to ensure all views were incorporated. Public information sessions were held on all the main islands to also reach civil society and stakeholders. Finalised meeting minutes and other documents were made available through the website.

• The issues of new protected areas and future exclusion of industrial tuna fishing, oil and gas exploration, and marine charters for sport fishing were difficult, and impartial facilitation (independent from the Ministry) ensured that all sectors were able to discuss the proposed locations and potential impacts. An economic assessment for industrial tuna fishing was very useful and, during the zoning process, all sectors agreed to forego some areas that they had mapped as “high value”; ultimately, a compromise was reached between economic development and protection of key areas for biodiversity and ecosystem function.

• It is essential to understand that the adage “one size fits all” does not apply to MSP. Nevertheless, in the same way that lessons learnt about MSP from other geographies were used to develop the Seychelles process, lessons from the Seychelles MSP will apply elsewhere.

Project contacts

Those involved in the SMSP would be pleased to share the Seychelles experience and lessons learnt.

Joanna Smith, Seychelles MSP Process and Science Lead: [email protected];
Helena Sims, Project Manager, SMSP Initiative: [email protected]
Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary, Seychelles Environment Department: [email protected]

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Endnotes

1. Laurence, D. (2020) “Seychelles Protects 30 Percent of Territorial Waters, Meeting Target 10 Years Ahead of Schedule”. Seychelles News Agency, 26 March.
2. https://oceanconference.un.org/commitments/?id=19023
3. https://seymsp.com/the-initiative/
4. http://msp.ioc-unesco.org/msp-guides/msp-step-by-stepapproach/
5. http://www.gbrmpa.gov.au
6. http://mappocean.org
7. http://msp.ioc-unesco.org/world-applications/americas/stkitts-nevis/
8. “The State recognises the right of every person to live in and enjoy a clean, healthy and ecologically balanced environment and with a view to ensuring the effective realisation of this right the State undertakes to ensure a sustainable socioeconomic development of Seychelles by a judicious use and management of the resources of Seychelles.”
9. http://www.egov.sc/edoc/pubs/frmpubdetail.aspx?pubId=26
10. https://seychellesresearchjournal.com/archives/archive-1-2/
11. IUCN/WCPA (2008) Establishing Marine Protected Area Networks-Making It Happen. Washington, DC: IUCN WCPA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and The Nature Conservancy.
12. Day, J., Dudley, N., Hockings, M., Holmes, G. et al. (2012) Guidelines for Applying the IUCN Protected Area Management Categories to Marine Protected Areas. Gland: IUCN.
13. Klaus, R. (2015), Strengthening Seychelles’ protected area system through NGO management modalities, GOS-UNDPGEF project, Final report.
14. See separate case study prepared for the Commonwealth Blue Charter Blue Economy AG.
15. https://seymsp.com/outputs/

Innovative Financing – Debt for Conservation Swap, Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust and the Blue Bonds Plan, Seychelles (on-going)

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“Seychelles’ Blue Economy experiences and successes to date have shown how crucial partnerships can be, especially raising innovative finance and investment. The world’s first Debt Swap for Ocean Conservation and Climate Adaptation and first sovereign Blue Bonds attest this.” Seychelles President Danny Faure, November 2018

Summary

Seychelles’ current and future prosperity is intrinsically linked to its marine and coastal assets. However, the 2008 financial crisis left the country with substantial debts and made it difficult to invest in the Blue Economy. An innovative approach to financing was required to gain the most value from Seychelles’ marine and coastal assets as part of a sustainable Blue Economy.

Seychelles pursued an ambitious plan to finance sustainable development of the Blue Economy, through converting US$21.6 million of national debt via the world’s first Blue Economy debt for nature swap, and through launching the world’s first sovereign blue bond. Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) was established to competitively distribute funds from these initiatives to support the management and expansion of the Seychelles Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.

These ongoing initiatives have been very successful. With the support of The Nature Conservancy, the debt conversion enabled the Government of Seychelles to make a policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone through MPAs. The Blue Bond raised US$15 million from international investors, demonstrating the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the sustainable use of marine resources. The Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap was key to the success of the Blue Bonds Plan, providing a clear plan on how the funds would be invested prior to the bonds being issued. Three rounds of the SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund have already occurred, with the fourth due to open on 6 July 2020. Five SeyCCAT projects have been completed successfully and there are more than 20 on-going SeyCCAT partnerships and projects.

The issue

  • Seychelles has an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.37 million km2 (compared with a land area of just 455 km2 ). As a result, Seychelles’ current and future prosperity is intrinsically linked to its marine and coastal assets.
  • The effect of the 2008 global financial crisis was hard felt in Seychelles, with the government facing repayment challenges with total public debt reaching more than 150 per cent of gross domestic product. This debt was restructured under the Paris Club and Seychelles initiated a five-year economic reform programme.
  • The Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap: Charting the Future (2018–2030) was developed to guide development of the Seychelles Blue Economy and was approved in January 2018. The Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap provides an integrated approach to ocean-based sustainable development bringing together economy, environment and society.
  • One of the four pillars of the Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap is “Economic diversification and resilience”, which links to one of the sought-after outcomes: increased investment in diversification of existing ocean-based economic sectors to realise greater value and efficiency.
  • The need for greater investment in the Seychelles Blue Economy to achieve the goals and desired outcomes of the Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap required an innovative approach to Blue Economy financing.

The response

Blue Bonds Plan

  • In 2018, Seychelles launched the world’s first sovereign blue bond, designed to support sustainable marine fisheries and fisheries projects.
  • Proceeds from the bond will support the expansion of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), improved governance of priority fisheries and development of the Seychelles Blue Economy.
  • Grants and loans will be provided through the Blue Grants Fund and the Blue Investment Fund, managed respectively by Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and the Development Bank of Seychelles (DBS).

Debt for nature swap

  • The Government of Seychelles sought to undertake the world’s first Blue Economy debt for nature swap, with the aim of converting US$21.6 million of national debt
  • Multiple benefits from the debt for nature swap were envisaged, including: Financing for adaptation to climate change through management of coasts, coral reefs and mangroves; Promoting implementation of a Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) for the entire Seychelles EEZ; Approximately 400,000 km2 managed for conservation as MPAs within five years; Implementing the MSP, setting ground rules for what is permitted and where within Seychelles;
  • The project structure included four major milestones; financial negotiations with creditors; national stakeholder consolations; creation of an MSP; and executing the Conservation Actions.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust:

  • SeyCCAT was established in November 2015 to achieve conservation through innovative finance and creative collaborations.
  • SeyCCAT provides sustainable funds to support the management and expansion of the Seychelles MPAs, sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.
  • Proceeds from the Seychelles Blue Bond further capitalise the SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund to support sustainable-use MPAs and improved governance of priority fisheries.
  • SeyCCAT’s assets are projected to enable the competitive distribution of US$700,000 per year, and the Trust is investigating the feasibility of a Blue Challenge Fund and a Blue Equity Fund.
  • SeyCCAT is committed to developing strong and lasting creative collaborations to advance its mission and to enable the delivery of five objectives to: Support new and existing MPAs and sustainable use zones; Empower fisheries with robust science to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options; Promote the rehabilitation of habitats and ecosystems that have been degraded by human impacts; Develop and implement risk reduction and social resilience plans to support climate change adaptation; Develop business models to secure the sustainable development of Seychelles’ Blue Economy.

For more information about SeyCCAT, see https:// seyccat.org/

Partnerships and support

Blue Bonds Plan

  • The Seychelles Blue Bond was announced in 2018.
  • The business case for a sovereign blue bond was identified through support from the Prince of Wales’ Charities International Sustainability Unit.
  • Standard Chartered acted as placement agent for the bond and Latham & Watkins LLP advised the World Bank as external counsel. Clifford Chance LLP acted as transaction counsel.
  • A World Bank team comprising experts from its Treasury, Legal, Environmental and Finance groups worked with investors, structured the blue bond and assisted the government in setting up a platform for channelling its proceeds.
  • The Bond is partially guaranteed by a US$5 million guarantee from the World Bank (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) and further supported by a US$5 million concessional loan from the Global Environment Facility (GEF), which will partially cover interest payments for the bond.
  • The three international investors in the bond were Calvert Impact Capital, Nuveen and U.S. Headquartered Prudential Financial Inc.
  • SeyCCAT is tasked with managing US$3 million of the US$15 million of the blue bond proceeds. DBS is managing US$12 million

Debt for nature swap

  • The debt for nature swap was made possible by private funders, including the China Global Conservation Fund of The Nature Conservancy, the Jeremy and Hannelore Grantham Environmental Trust, the Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, the Lyda Hill Foundation, the Oak Foundation, Oceans 5, the Turnbull Burnstein Family Charitable Fund and the Waitt Foundation. • Collaborators on the initiative include the governments of Belgium, France, Italy, South Africa and the UK, the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), GEF and the Global Island Partnership. • The policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of the Seychelles EEZ through MPAs was financed partially through debt conversion with the support of The Nature Conservancy.
  • The debt for nature swap project was a multi-step process, starting with policy commitments in 2012 and ending with SeyCCAT investing in local projects to enhance Blue Economy development in 2017.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust

  • SeyCCAT was established through the Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust of Seychelles Act, 2015. SeyCCAT is a long-term, on-going initiative.
  • SeyCCAT was initially capitalised with proceeds from the Government of Seychelles’ US$21.6 million debt conversion that was completed in 2015.
  • SeyCCAT also attracts capital from philanthropic organisations and continues to seek other innovative mechanisms to boost its assets.
  • Current partners with SeyCCAT include Pew Charitable Trusts, The Nature Conservancy, the World Bank, UNDP, the Government of Seychelles, the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association and local partners.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Blue Bonds Plan

  • The bond raised US$15 million from international investors, demonstrating the potential for countries to harness capital markets for financing the sustainable use of marine resources.
  • US$3 million of the proceeds from the bond are managed through SeyCCAT to support the management and expansion of Seychelles MPAs, sustainable fisheries and other activities that contribute to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity and adaptation to climate change.
  • Proceeds from the bond contribute to the World Bank’s South West Indian Ocean Fisheries Governance and Shared Growth Program, supporting countries in the region to sustainably manage their fisheries and increase economic benefits from fisheries.
  • The Blue Bond proceeds are issued to SeyCCAT through six tranches of US$500,000 from 2018 to 2023.

Debt for nature swap

  • The journey towards the successful debt for nature swap started in 2012, when Seychelles committed to 30 per cent marine protection at Rio+20; 2013: the proposed debt restructure was discussed between the Seychelles President and the Prince of Wales; 2014: the delegation for Seychelles met main bank bilateral creditors and discussed plans to swap a portion of its external debt for funding for coastal/marine conservation projects; 2105: the Seychelles Government held discussions with key local stakeholders about MSP, and with Paris club creditors, announced the closing of the first-ever debt restricting for climate adaptation; 2016: the Government of Seychelles paid creditors to buy back their debt via a loan from SeyCCAT, funded by grants and a loan from The Nature Conservancy; 2018: SeyCCAT invested in local schemes to protect the offshore environment around the Seychelles archipelago.
  • With support from The Nature Conservancy, the debt conversion enabled the Government of Seychelles to make a policy commitment to safeguard 30 per cent of its EEZ through MPAs.
  • The debt service payments from the debt for nature swap fund three distinct cash flows: Repayment of the impact investor NatureVest; The SeyCCAT Blue Grants Fund, which amounts to an annually distributed US$200,000; Capitalising the SeyCCAT endowment fund with US$151,000 per year, with an expected matured value of US$6.7 million. In total, from the proceeds of the debt swap and the blue bond, SeyCCAT can annually distribute US$700,000.

The Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust

  • Three rounds of the Blue Grants Fund have already occurred, with the fourth opened on 6 July 2020.
  • Five SeyCCAT projects have already been successfully completed, on topics such as knowledge and impacts of artisanal fisheries, a fish identification initiative, restoration of commercially important lobster habitat and developing Blue Economy entrepreneurs.
  • There are more than 20 on-going SeyCCAT partnerships and projects. These span a diverse array of topics, including science and management in fisheries, blue carbon, business development, scholarship and internships, science to support coral conservation, mangrove mapping and monitoring, climate change social adaptation, MPA development, plastic pollution and seabird and shark conservation. See https://seyccat.org/projects/
  • Whilst SeyCCAT exists to develop the Seychelles Blue Economy, the Trust is also committed to sharing learning experiences with other island and coastal states across the Western Indian Ocean.

Challenges

Accessibility and inclusivity: Making funds available does not guarantee that people or organisations have the capacity to apply for those funds. The Blue Grants Fund is supported by international donors and organisations, who may not always appreciate the local challenges in applying for those funds. For example, the application form was based on a standard EU format that experienced non-governmental organisations may be able to use but local Seychelles stakeholders may not. Steps taken by SeyCCAT to make the application process more accessible and inclusive include:

  • Removing language barriers: In 2019, SeyCCAT translated the application form into Creole (the local language) enabling people to apply in their native language.
  • Reaching out proactively: As well as the threeislands public meeting to attract potential applicants, SeyCCAT also conducted one-to-one meetings and in-person visits with fishing communities, students, young female entrepreneurs, public sector representatives and other groups.
  • Building capacity during the application stages: SeyCCAT and its partners have provided capacitybuilding sessions for the first application stage covering project and budget writing skills, project management, and monitoring and evaluation. The Project Preparation Grant also provides support at the second stage of application, and dedicated facilitators are available to support applicants through mentoring and training. For more information on fostering inclusion and accessibility, see https://seyccat.org/making-inclusionand-accessibility-a-reality/

Administrative concerns: Administering the Blue Grants Fund requires the dedication and enthusiasm of a fulltime team, with appropriate experience and training. The administration team also requires sustainable, long-term funding support. Monitoring and evaluation: To ensure the funds are as effective as envisaged, all Blue Grants Fund projects need to be monitored and evaluated, which requires a considerable amount of time and resources.

  • External support for impact monitoring: The World Bank is looking to help SeyCCAT establish a framework to measure how Blue Grants Fund projects aid progress towards the Seychelles Blue Economy Strategic Policy Framework and Roadmap objectives and the Sustainable Development Goals.
  • Capacity-building for impact monitoring: SeyCCAT is providing Blue Grant Funds projects with the capacity to conduct their own monitoring and evaluation on the success of their projects, through accessible spreadsheets.

Key lessons learnt

Simultaneously invest in capacity. The Blue Bonds have only a six-year disbursement period, and preparing the population so they are able to apply for funding and engage with other initiatives takes time. To make the best of the limited time the finances are available for, future initiatives could look to engage in capacity-building with the population as the deal is being established, so that, when the funds are available, the local capacity is already in place and the population is ready.

Seek sound and worthwhile investments. Finance initiatives need to be large enough to be worthwhile, but not so large as to be too great a risk. Small economies, such as Seychelles and many other island nations, can only absorb small risk. Larger investments mean there is more to lose. There needs to be a robust risk assessment prior to establishing finance initiatives.

Invest in a robust administrator. Sustainable long-term funding to support a good administrator is essential for the initiative to remain innovative and the funds to reach the target audience. Procurement monitoring is essential to ensure projects funds are being spent effectively and responsibly.

Implement environmental and social safeguards. Funding support from the World Bank and partners means that certain standards must be met. Serious consideration needs to be given to the way in which funds are applied, so that there are not any unintended consequences. Supporting new businesses is an important role of the Blue Grants Fund; however, in some cases this may have the potential to increase environmental pressure, which runs counter to the concept of a sustainable Blue Economy, so caution and oversight must be exercised.

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Development of an Aquaculture Industry in Seychelles (on-going)

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Summary

Fishing plays an important role in the Seychelles economy, with a fishing industry worth around US$400 million and per capita fish consumption levels more than twice the global average. Despite this, aquaculture has been slow to develop. However, there is a renewed focus on building a sustainable mariculture sector through the Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap, launched in 2018.

The Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) is coordinating efforts to develop marine finfish and marine invertebrate farms in line with the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture. Background work has been ongoing for the past 10 years, including the publication of a Mariculture Master Plan and developing a regulatory framework, zoning and feasibility studies followed by an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) in 2016.

The implementation plan focuses on production of high-value finfish and invertebrates including snappers, groupers, sea urchins and sea cucumbers. Zoning has identified areas suitable for aquaculture production including artisanal systems, commercial systems (covered by the ESIA) and commercial zones requiring separate impact assessments. A legal framework has been established and mandatory aquaculture standards developed while market research has been carried out.

Key infrastructure has been developed, including a broodstock acclimation and quarantine facility in Providence, Mahe. This is important as Seychelles will focus on indigenous species to reduce the risk of disease transfers and escapes of exotic species. A sea urchin research facility has also been established in Providence, and a pilot-scale cage aquaculture site. A research and development centre is planned for La Digue Island and an integrated aquaculture hub at Grand Anse, Mahe.

Aquaculture regulations are currently being drafted into legal texts for gazetting, which will allow the official launch of the sector later in 2020. SFA has been involved in a public education and awareness campaign, and local and international investors have shown an interest.

The Blue Economy initiative has provided an opportunity to prioritise sustainable aquaculture as a means to diversify ocean-based activities. In the future, aquaculture has the potential to become a new pillar of the economy.

The issue

Fish and fish-related activities play an important role in the economy of Seychelles, making up 7.6 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, worth US$400 million and employing around 5,000 people. Per capita consumption of fish is the highest in Africa at 57.4 kg/ person/year (FAO, 2014). In order to focus on sustainable investment in an ocean-based economy, Seychelles launched a Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap after approval by the Government on 31 January 2018. A Blue Economy Department has been established within the portfolio of the Office of the Vice President to oversee implementation of the Framework and Roadmap.

The goals in developing the national Blue Economy Roadmap include economic diversification and resilience to reduce economic vulnerability and reliance on a small number of sectors and to increase the share of GDP derived from marine sectors; shared prosperity through creation of high-value jobs and local investment opportunities; improved food security and well-being; increased integrity of habitats and ecosystem services; sustainable use; and climate resilience.

The two main pillars of the economy are tourism and the capture fisheries industry. Tourism is volatile and largely dependent on the global economy whereas capture fisheries are overexploited and some species are declining. The 2008 global economic crisis hit Seychelles hard economically, and the aftermath led the Government to decide that the country needed to diversify its economy.

One of the key opportunities was the exploration and feasibility of new and emerging maritime sectors, including marine-based aquaculture. Previously, Seychelles had a commercial prawn farm, which was state-owned, with production peaking at over 1,000 tons in 2003/04. The farm grew black tiger prawns (Penaeus monodon), with the seedlings and broodstock coming from hatcheries in Madagascar and Mozambique. The prawn farm had to shut down in December 2008, for economic and operational reasons. The only remaining aquaculture facility is one on the second largest island of the Seychelles Archipelago: Praslin. The Black Pearl Farm is privately owned and has been in operation since the 1980s, when it started with both black pearl (Pinctada margaritifera) and giant clam (Tridacna maxima) production. Giant clam production had to cease in the early 2000s because of high mortality during transportation to markets in Europe and the USA. Aquaculture in general had not been a significant economic activity in Seychelles at that point, and skills, key infrastructure, institutional and legal frameworks were lacking.

The response

The Seychelles aquaculture sector is being developed according to the United Nations Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO) 2010 Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture – a strategy for the integration of the activity within the wider ecosystem such that it promotes sustainable development, equity and resilience of interlinked social-ecological systems.

The process started with a 2007 Rapid Assessment Study to gauge opinion on whether it was desirable to develop marine aquaculture, followed by a 2009 Comprehensive Scoping Study to assess opportunities and constraints and the publication of a Mariculture Master Plan (MMP) in 2011. Work continued on developing the regulatory framework, the identification of Aquaculture Development Zones (ADZs), feasibility studies and environmental baseline studies over the period until 2016.

In 2016 an independent consultancy firm, Golder International, carried out an Environment and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA). The consultants’ task was to determine the potential positive and negative impacts of the proposed MMP on both the biophysical and socio-cultural environments as a consequence of the creation of such an industry. The ESIA evaluated impacts and recommended mitigation measures to either avoid or reduce negative impacts and enhance positive impacts of the MMP. The conclusion and opinion of the consultants was that:

“Subject to compliance with the recommended mitigation measures, which are detailed in the ESMP [Environmental and Social Management Plan], the proposed new aquaculture sector has significant positive aspects and acceptably low negative biophysical and socio-cultural impacts which can be managed by suitable monitoring and management interventions. It is the opinion of the EAP that it should be approved on the basis that overall the positive impacts outweigh the negative impacts.”

With environmental approval, the Aquaculture Department was ready to transition from a planning phase to an implementation phase.

Seychelles’ emerging aquaculture industry seeks to incorporate a diversity of candidate species and production technologies with the aim of providing a premium-quality basket of seafood products to both local and export markets. There is an opportunity to develop a high-quality mariculture industry based on production of marine finfish and marine invertebrates. Candidate species for production have been identified and research is continuing into diversification of the range of key species.

There is a five-year implementation plan, as follows:

  • Focus on high-value species, e.g. snappers, groupers and other finfish;
  • Total coastal area identified for production: 52 km2 ;
  • Estimated average potential production for 5.2 km2 = up to 50,000 MT (capacity);
  • Job creation = approximately 2,000;
  • New export markets (Japan and Southeast Asia);
  • Potential for investment – fish feed production;
  • Potential for collaboration in e.g. research and development (R&D). Partnerships and support The various partners involved in the development of aquaculture in Seychelles are:
  • The Ministry of Fisheries and Agriculture (MFAg) is the lead ministry in developing aquaculture and provides policy guidelines to this sector through the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA).
  • The Blue Economy Department coordinates development in the Blue Economy sphere and ensures cohesiveness on subjects such as food security and economic development.
  • The Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SEYCCAT) is a local trust fund set up as part of the debt swap agreement for Seychelles, to assist small local entrepreneurs to develop and start activities in the Blue Economy of Seychelles, which includes aquaculture.
  • The Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change (MEECC) assists SFA in assessing and approving aquaculture projects and ensuring adherence to Seychelles’ environmental laws.
  • The Ministry of Finance, Trade and Economic Planning (MFTEP) assists in the national development of aquaculture with a particular focus on finance and trade policies.
  • The National Institution for Science, Technology and Innovation (NISTI) is charged with assisting with any potential innovation coming out of aquaculture development in Seychelles.
  • The Ministry of Employment helps the aquaculture sector develop while keeping in line and up to date with the various employment policies to ensure the socio-economic impact of the sector is kept on a positive side.
  • The Guy Morel Institute (TGMI) is a leading educational institute partnering with SFA to train skilled labour for the sector with a particular focus also on entrepreneurship.
  • The Seychelles Investment Board (SIB) is the point of contact for any businesses wishing to invest within or from outside Seychelles and is assisting SFA to market aquaculture.
  • The Department of Investment assists SFA with investment-driven policies to ensure the sustainability of the sector in years to come as the global investment climate changes.
  • Entrepreneurship Development and Business Innovation is a unit within TGMI and the University of Seychelles is the dedicated government-owned tertiary education institute, both partnering with SFA to conduct scientific research.

Development and implementation of the MMP was assisted by an experienced team of consultants (Advance Africa), including an Emeritus professor of ichthyology and an agricultural/resource economist, who various scientific and socio-economic surveys and modelling of the sector’s impact on Seychelles.

Results, accomplishments and outcomes

Aquaculture development and activities in Seychelles are now governed by the 2014 Fisheries Act, the Regulations for Aquaculture in the Seychelles (pending Official Gazetting) and the Seychelles Aquaculture Standards. The Standards are designed to provide detail to the Aquaculture Regulations and are mandatory. They cover the following issues:

  • Aquaculture in Sustainable Use Areas;
  • Responsible Finfish Cage Culture;
  • Responsible Effluent and Waste Management;
  • Aquaculture Biosecurity and Fish Health Management in Land- and Sea-based Facilities;
  • Responsible Prawn Farming in Ponds; • Responsible Pearl Oyster Farming;
  • Responsible Sea Cucumber Farming, Ranching and Stock Enhancement.
  • ADZs have been established to fit with the recommendations of the 2016 ESIA. The ESIA covered some land-based sites and specific ADZs, but did not include inshore and offshore zones.
  • Market research was carried out in 2015–2019, including study visits to Taiwan, Japan, Hong Kong, Thailand, Singapore and Norway, with the aim of ground-truthing market assumptions and identifying potential development partners.

A multi-species broodstock acclimation and quarantine facility (BAQF) has been established in Providence, Mahe, to provide scientific and institutional support to aquaculture operators by developing hatchery techniques and producing fingerlings to supply fish farms. Seychelles is taking an approach of using only indigenous species in this new sector, so as to negate the risk of importing diseases and other biosecurity issues. With this approach, and with limited land and human resources, among others, the Government will house and manage the main finfish hatchery on the island. This will benefit start-up businesses, as they can purchase good quality fingerlings at a subsidised rate.

Also in Providence, a sea urchin research facility (SURF) has been set up to develop production protocols for collector sea urchins (Tripneustes gratilla) and investigate markets and distribution networks for Uni, a product derived from the gonads (roe) that is in high demand in Japan. The research facility is located at the Seychelles Maritime Academy (SMA), a post-secondary school. SFA has been able to sign a memorandum of understanding with the school so that the students can occasionally participate in the research, thus building their capacity for the world of work.

A sea cage site has been identified off the coast of Providence and close to the BAQF to hold fingerlings and carry out pilot-scale grow-out of marine finfish. Two “Polarcirkel” sea cages have been installed with the help of a Norwegian company. This will be used to prove the business case for marine finfish farming in Seychelles as well as studying environmental impacts of cage farming on the seabed.

Plans are at an advanced stage for an R&D centre on La Digue Island. This will be a multi-species centre for fisheries and aquaculture focused on new species, aquaculture production techniques and nutrition research. It will also include coral reef conservation, climate change, restocking research and a public aquarium.

An integrated aquaculture hub will be developed at Grand Anse, Mahe, with the aim of carrying out research on integrated systems using a number of different fish and invertebrate species and including marine ornamental fish hatchery and production.

At present, this is a Government-led strategy. As Seychelles is a small island developing state, most people do not have the necessary resources to start aquaculture on their own. The Government thus needs to assist by providing services such as centralised infrastructure, fingerlings, expertise, etc.

This approach is similar to that in the fisheries sector, whereby the Government spearheads the initiative and supports development, providing a mechanism to start the ball rolling. Once the sector is fully fledged, then some components, such as the government hatcheries (BAQF Phase 2), will be considered for private–public partnership (PPP) or privately run. On the other hand, the broodstock component (BAQF Phase1) will remain Government-owned as it will house the country’s genetic bank of important flagship species, to ensure small operators are not compromised in their access to inputs as the sector grows.

Challenges

MFAg has reviewed the Aquaculture Sector Plan and published a Fisheries Sector Plan in late 2019 that synergises with this. Additionally, now the Fisheries Policy and Strategy 2019 now aligns well with the Aquaculture Policy 2018 Aquaculture Regulations are currently being drafted into legal texts before being published in the Official Gazette to allow for the launch of the industry.

Human resources development is on-going through various local and international training. SFA has funded and facilitated the training of both government and private sector staff. Training in subjects such as fish health management has benefited veterinarians, giving them the competence to deal with fish-related diseases or health issues. Sea urchin production training has enabled SFA staff to be able to run the sea urchin experiments at SURF. SFA has embarked on an education and awareness campaign since 2017, whereby it gives talks to various classes at the different schools on the main three islands and also the general public. Lots of educational materials such as posters and videos have been developed for this campaign. The different ministries in Seychelles organize several fairs throughout the year, in which SFA participates to educate the wider population on aquaculture and the opportunities it brings, but also to openly discuss the negative sides of aquaculture. The SFA office also has an open door policy whereby people can drop by for a discussion at any point during normal working hours.

There has been investment interest by several local and foreign investors but for the time being no investment has taken place, since the Aquaculture Regulations have not yet been promulgated.

Seychelles now has a BAQF but no hatchery, thus, if the finfish starts spawning, there will no hatchery for the larval stage. The lack of a hatchery will affect the ability to start producing larvae and fingerlings for the industry and slow the anticipated pace. This will also affect the plan for implementation and usage of the two sea cages.

Previous mariculture failures, such as the prawn farm, have taught the country a great deal in terms of simple factors such as proper site selection, surveys, market analysis and alignment with global development. Preparation of the legislative framework has been an important step in avoiding repeating the same mistakes at a time when there was a lack of proper regulations and standards in place to ensure operators were implementing best management practices and conforming with regulations. However, existing farms, such as the pearl oyster farm, have had to wait until the legislative framework is complete before they can carry out any new developments, as they will need to reregister and adhere to new standards.

This has been a long process, taking around a decade so far. Many baseline studies have had to be conducted, regulations and standards have had to be drafted and there was scarce funding in the implementation phase (from 2015) when expensive infrastructure-based activities were implemented. Also, legislation was outdated and sometimes conflicting with what was needed for the aquaculture sector. Identification of suitable sites was also difficult. On the other hand, the delays also helped in some ways. For example, some assumptions at the beginning over target candidate species changed over time as production increased in other countries, leading to falling market prices, making these species no longer attractive for Seychelles.

New feed developments have also been important, with lower feed conversion ratios and replacement of fishbased raw materials by plant-based alternatives. This has allowed the focus to change and enabled the adoption of new and more modern methods targeting economically more appealing and high-value species. Also, it has provided more confidence in the way aquaculture operates while addressing environmental concerns that were more of an issue 10 years ago.

The biggest advantage has been that no new aquaculture licenses have been issued over this period, meaning that, when the sector is opened up, all new and existing applicants will have to abide by the new regulations. This is in contrast with the Seychelles fisheries sector, which is struggling to get fishers to register their activities as proper businesses, use electronic reporting and adopt best management practices from fisheries management plans (only one has been recently approved over thirty years).

In summary, the delay has not been negative. On the contrary, lessons have been learnt and strategies are in place to ensure optimal results will be achieved when the Aquaculture Regulations are launched.

Key lessons learnt

Seychelles depends heavily on the ocean for food security and economic development so there has been strong support to developing sustainable aquaculture as a means to diversify the economy.

The Blue Economy initiative has placed emphasis on economic diversification, providing an opportunity to prioritise aquaculture development alongside other ocean-based initiatives.

The research commissioned by the initiative has shown that aquaculture has the potential to become a new pillar of the economy. However, this is a long-term objective.

Lead contact

Aubrey Lesperance, Principal Aquaculture Officer, Seychelles Fishing Authority Email: [email protected]

Sources

Alphonse-Uzice, V. (2020) ‘Seychelles Aquaculture’. Presentation at Commonwealth Secretariat Sustainable Aquaculture Action Group, Cyprus, February. FAO (2010) ‘Ecosystem Approach to Aquaculture’. Technical Guidelines for Responsible Fisheries 5, Suppl. 4. Rome: FAO. FAO (2014) ‘Seychelles Country Review’. Rome: FAO.

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Webinar reveals keys to aquaculture success

Specialists from around the world have outlined core factors for success and sustainability in the multi-billion dollar aquaculture sector.

The fourth webinar in a Blue Charter series hosted by the Commonwealth Secretariat and attended by more than 50 participants, featured fish farming case studies from Cyprus, Seychelles, Mozambique and Egypt, which together contribute to a global total of more than 80 million tonnes of fish produced each year.

Most aquaculture goes towards feeding an ever-increasing world population, making up more than half of all seafood produced annually.

Opening the event, ocean governance adviser and lead expert on the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Jeff Ardron, outlined an important caveat for the growing sector: “There is incredible room for growth in the ocean, but it must be done sustainably.”

“Ultimately, aquaculture must be profitable to continue, but in doing so, it should not degrade the marine environment, which is already facing significant pressures. Also, to be sustainable in the long run, it must not irrevocably displace people or their local activities.”

Legal frameworks

The webinar underlined the importance of having far-sighted laws and policies to support aquaculture activities.

Cyprus, for example, began exploring aquaculture as early as the 1960s and 1970s, recognising the interdependence of economic, social and environmental factors in the sector.

The government created an aquaculture development policy and strategy as a priority in the Ministry of Agriculture, Rural Development and Environment.

This led to the creation of specific laws in 2000 and 2002 for the establishment, operation and further development of aquaculture activities in Cyprus.

The ministry’s Head of Aquaculture, Vassilis Papadopoulos shared how this provided a secure regulatory environment for investors, while fostering transparency, better monitoring and improved health of farmed organisms.

Similarly, in Seychelles, aquaculture can help diversify the tourism-reliant economy. Support from the government was crucial, with aquaculture featuring in the country’s ‘Blue Economy Strategic Framework and Roadmap’, developed with assistance from the Commonwealth Secretariat. This resulted in an updated Fisheries Act, a new national policy and new regulations.

According to Principal Officer at the Seychelles Fishing Authority, Aubrey Lesperance: “Aquaculture cannot develop without a proper framework. You definitely need a plan in place before you venture into aquaculture because it’s a new science and still being developed.”

Training and community

Discussions also showed how training and capacity building are essential to the sector’s sustainability.

Looking at lessons learned outside of the Commonwealth, Egypt’s aquaculture sector provides at least 100,000 full time jobs, half of which are filled by youth. World Fish’s Ahmed Nasr-Allah said the NGO has delivered vital training on best management practices to Egyptian fish farmers since 2010, with real impacts on efficiency and profitability.

From 2015-2018, they trained about 4,300 fish farm workers, who went on to train thousands more in their networks. The result was 13% more profits and 20% less wastage of aquaculture feed which reduced the impact on the local environment, as well as a 22% drop in greenhouse gas emissions.

In Mozambique, where aquaculture has significant domestic and regional markets, community engagement has also proved valuable.

The Chicoa Fish Farm in Lake Caora Bassa for instance, runs a small-scale farmers’ programme and training centre, while employing local women and youth.

Director Damien Legros said: “Our project has already inspired other people and there have been a couple of farms that we’ve helped. Just the presence of a strong fish farm already induces other people to do similar things.”

Opportunity and profitability

However, aquaculture does not work everywhere. UK-based expert Malcolm Dickson emphasised that performance varies from country to country.

In the Commonwealth, the top producers are in Asia – namely, India, Bangladesh and Malaysia – while other ‘aspiring countries’ such as Seychelles, Mozambique, Fiji and Jamaica, are still in the early stages of development.

Dr Dickson said that success comes down to two factors – opportunity and profitability. Physical space for aquaculture systems, institutional and legal frameworks, and viable markets are all required to create opportunity.

Furthermore, each step of the production chain needs to be profitable: “If the profitability factor is not there, then you don’t get the private sector investment to scale up.”

The Commonwealth Blue Charter action group on sustainable aquaculture was set up to explore these issues and share experiences amongst members. Led by champion country Cyprus, the group is working on a model roadmap that Commonwealth countries could use as a basis to develop “environmentally compatible, financially viable and socially acceptable” aquaculture.

The webinar event was the fourth in a series by the Commonwealth Blue Charter, which focuses sharing experiences and finding scalable solutions for pressing ocean challenges.

Webinar explores ways to raise money for ocean protection

More than 180 participants from across the globe tuned in online to hear fresh insights on how to finance ocean protected areas in the Commonwealth.

Held on July 22, the webinar was the second in a series organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat, aimed at sharing ideas and solutions for ocean challenges.

During the webinar, ocean experts from Belize to Seychelles focused on securing funding to manage marine protected areas (MPAs). These are important zones set aside by governments, where activities that harm the environment are restricted or even outlawed, to help protect and nurture marine ecosystems.

Webinar Panelists

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Before COVID-19, more than 60% of all existing MPAs in the world reported inadequate budgets for basic management. The situation will become even more dire since the pandemic, as governments are likely to further cut funding as they prioritise other sectors.

Opening the event, Jeff Ardron, lead expert on the Commonwealth Blue Charter at the Commonwealth Secretariat, said: “The intrinsic and monetary value of sustainable marine development, including the establishment of protected places, is now widely recognised.

“But despite the high rate of return financially, monetarily and in ecosystem services, the question remains: how can we finance the management of these highly valuable marine locations, where no or very few natural resources are being exploited?”

High costs, new funding sources

Managing marine protected areas can be costly. Funds must support on-the-water patrols, buying and maintaining equipment such as boats and drones, as well as putting in place required infrastructure such as buoys and signage. Office operations and marketing also require budget.

In Seychelles, the total expenditure to manage protected ocean areas in 2017 was US$5.1 million. Now, with 30% of its ocean legally protected – a milestone achieved in March – the government estimates future costs to be US$30-42 million per year.

“Protected area managers are struggling financially, especially due to COVID-19 impact on tourism,” said Seychelles’ Principal Secretary for Environment, Alain de Comarmond.

Traditional finance sources such as grants, entrance fees and corporate social responsibility donations will not be adequate in a post-COVID world.

The government is thus looking to ramp up innovative ways to fund conservation, such as ‘debt-for-nature’ swaps, where creditors agree to reduce sovereign debt if the government invests in marine conservation, as well as ‘blue bonds’ issued by the government, where proceeds go towards ocean protection.

Angelique Brathwaite, Director for the Caribbean at Blue Finance, added that tourism-dependent revenue streams such as visitor centres and underwater attractions have dried up due to COVID-19.

Her organisation, which has included a focus on tourism, is now also looking at other options, such as sustainable fishing and ‘blue carbon’ offsets, whereby MPAs can make an income from their capacity to store carbon in mangroves and sea grass, reducing the impacts of climate change.

Engaging NGOs, private sector

All the panellists agreed that sharing responsibility and costs is essential. In Belize for instance, the government routinely co-manages protected areas with either NGOs or businesses.

Valdemar Andrade, who heads the Turneffe Atoll Sustainability Association in Belize said: “This is not an undertaking you can do on your own. All stakeholders, including public and private sectors as well as academia and technical networks need to be involved.”

For the tourist town of Punta Cana in the Dominican Republic, the private sector has emerged as a vital player.

Jake Kheel, Vice President of the Grupo Punta Cana Foundation, shared how hotels and other businesses are realising that protecting coral reefs is an important part of business strategy.

He said: “The private sector and tourism economy have a great capacity to involve local and fishing communities. For example, [in Punta Cana] they have been training local fishermen to do conservation work, hiring them as boat captains, dive or maintenance staff, so they have become an important asset.”

Alain Maulion, CEO of the Blue Alliance in the Philippines added that his NGO uses both grants and loans to fund operations.

The panel agreed that a combination of revenue streams are needed and solutions would have to be adapted to the circumstances in each country. Key ideas and scalable solutions shared during the webinar will be circulated to participants.

The webinar is part of a series being rolled out to support the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by all 54 Commonwealth member countries to work actively together to promote ocean health and sustainable ocean development.

 

Seychelles milestone offers lessons on marine protection

Commonwealth countries committed to saving the ocean will benefit from new knowledge gained from the Seychelles, which has just designated almost a third of its ocean as marine protected areas (MPAs).

The island nation recently set aside 30 per cent of its marine territory, or about 410,000 square kilometres, to be legally protected from activities that damage the marine environment.

Other than sustainable tourism, the new laws will ban almost all human activity in half of the protected areas, while allowing only low-impact sustainable businesses to operate in the other half.

The milestone is a culmination of six years of intense technical and legal work, scientific research, as well as community and political engagement.

Commonwealth Secretary-General Patricia Scotland said: “Seychelles has demonstrated remarkable leadership as the ‘champion country’ for marine protected areas under the Commonwealth Blue Charter. It is immensely encouraging to see  how the experiences, insights and lessons learned from Seychelles will  inspire and catalyse other member states who also wish to protect their ocean.

“Marine protection goes beyond conservation, allowing for the development of  ‘blue’ economies based on sustainable ocean activity. A healthy ocean also presents enhanced opportunities for economic recovery post COVID-19, and for building resilience and withstanding the impacts of natural disasters and extreme weather events.”

The new marine spatial plan maps out the entirety of Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (spanning 1.37 million square kilometres) and was financed through an innovative ‘debt-for-nature’ swap co-designed by the Government of Seychelles and The Nature Conservancy.

Path to success

Alain de Comarmond, Principal Secretary of Environment at the Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change of Seychelles stressed that countries would need to set their own targets and methods according to their own circumstances.

He outlined four basic elements that led to Seychelles’ success: political support, efficient partnerships, a robust framework for implementation, and patience.

He explained: “The starting point in all of this is the political support and commitment. The President and political leaders were clear about the objective for Seychelles, and the Cabinet was updated regularly on all progress of our work.

“Finding the right partnerships is also very important. For small developing states like Seychelles, most of us do not have all the technical capacity or knowhow needed. We were very lucky to have a very strong partner in The Nature Conservancy, which provided technical and financial assistance.”

Mr de Comarmond added that a well-oiled chain of teams and committees across various agencies helped to ensure that the process was inclusive. The government recognised that the business community and civil society needed to be fully engaged and take ownership.

He said: “We took a very patient and persistent approach, investing a lot of time in building trust and getting the agreement from all our stakeholders. Proposals were always backed with scientific data.”

Seychelles’ achievement of 30 per cent coverage is far beyond international targets of 10 per cent by the end of this year. However, a growing number of Commonwealth countries are supporting a more ambitious target of 30 per cent by 2030, to be agreed at the next UN Biodiversity Conference.

Blue Charter Champion

Under the Commonwealth Blue Charter, Seychelles leads an action group of 16 member countries, including: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, The Gambia, Ghana, Jamaica, Kiribati, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Sri Lanka, St Kitts and Nevis, Tonga, the UK and Vanuatu.

Head of Oceans and Natural Resources at the Commonwealth Secretariat, Nicholas Hardman-Mountford, said: “A key goal of the Blue Charter is to share knowledge and experiences, while working together to scale up strategies, in this case for the effective management, monitoring and enforcement of MPAs.”

Sustainable aquaculture strategy to boost growth and food security

Commonwealth countries have outlined a joint plan to boost economic growth and food security through the sustainable farming of fish, shellfish and aquatic plants.

Aquaculture generates more than half of the seafood people eat across the world, and sustains some 26 million jobs. This translates to about 80 million tonnes of fish produced globally per year (up from 3 million in 1970), valued at around US$ 240 billion.

Nine countries are now joining forces to explore ways of expanding the sector within the Commonwealth. They are part of the Blue Charter action group on sustainable aquaculture, whose aim is to develop local communities, create more jobs, produce high quality food, while ensuring a healthy ocean.

To date, members include: Cyprus (as the lead or ‘champion’ country), The Bahamas, Bangladesh, Barbados, Fiji, Malaysia, Mauritius, Seychelles and Trinidad and Tobago.

Following the action group’s inaugural meeting in Cyprus on 25-27 February, the Director of Fisheries and Marine Resourses, Ms Marina Argyrou said: “Aquaculture, being the fastest growing food producing industry on a global scale,  has an important role in contributing to food security, creating employment opportunities, as well as improving the welfare of local communities.

“It also has the potential to provide environmental services in the framework of fisheries re-stocking programmes, as well as restoration projects for mangroves and corals.”

Ms Argyrou referred to aquaculture as a “main pillar of blue growth”, adding that: “It is our obligation to develop it in a sustainable way so as it will be financially viable, socially acceptable and environmentally compatible.”

The Action group will assess aquaculture practices in member states, outline shared priorities for action, and establish a framework for cooperation with the European Union and other international organisations.

It is one of 10 such groups under the Commonwealth Blue Charter – an agreement by all Commonwealth leaders to cooperate actively to protect ocean health and promote good ocean governance.

These action groups are led by ‘champion’ countries have stepped forward to rally members around key ocean issues, such as marine pollution, climate change, ocean acidification and the sustainable blue economy.

Ms Argyou concluded: “Cyprus is honoured to champion the Commonwealth Blue Charter Action Group on sustainable aquaculture. We hope this platform will spur action among like-minded countries and partners, with a focus on knowledge-sharing, cooperation, and taking a science-based approach to sustainably develop our activities.”

Blue Charter action group aims to strengthen marine protection

Commonwealth countries are joining forces to improve how they protect the ocean, as part of the voluntary actions being rolled out under the ground-breaking Commonwealth Blue Charter.

The Blue Charter is an agreement by all 53 member countries to actively cooperate to protect ocean health and promote good ocean governance, with nine action groups to date set up to coordinate action around key ocean issues.

Seychelles champions the action group on marine protected areas (MPAs) – essential conservation zones where human activities such as fishing and tourism are restricted. The inaugural meeting of the action group was hosted in the capital, Victoria, on 4-7 November.

Principal Secretary for Environment at Seychelles’ Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Alain de Comarmond, said: “The first meeting of the action group was a great success, where we had active participation and contribution from the countries and partners present. It has certainly set the tone and momentum to move the priorities identified in our action plan forward.”

More than one-third of all marine waters under national jurisdiction are part of the Commonwealth.

At least 15 per cent of the ocean within the Commonwealth is protected for conservation. This surpasses the current UN target to conserve at least 10 per cent of coastal and marine areas by next year.

Seychelles has already protected about 26 per cent of its waters, and is on track to achieve 30 per cent in the coming months.  Along with the United Kingdom and others, it is part of the drive to raise the ambition for marine protection to 30 per cent by 2030.

Commonwealth Blue Charter lead Jeff Ardron said: “Protecting a greater amount of the ocean is essential for safeguarding coastal resources for future generations and building climate resilience.

“At this meeting, we have discussed how to make this work in practice through management plans, enforcement, and long-term financing. Without paying attention to these sorts of details, our protected areas will not really be protected.”

The event was opened by Minister for Environment, Energy and Climate Change, Wallace Cosgrow. Government officials were joined by non-governmental representatives, including from the Pew Charitable Trusts, Oceana, The Nature Conservancy and the ocean research foundation Nekton.

Participants drafted key points of an action plan, agreeing to learn from one another’s experiences, while testing and scaling up the effective management of MPAs. They discussed partnerships to strengthen capacity, mobilise funding and raise awareness across all sectors of society. Finally, they explored institutional frameworks for the establishment, management, monitoring and enforcement of MPAs.

To date, 16 countries have joined the action group, including: Seychelles (Chair); The Bahamas; Barbados; Belize; Dominica; The Gambia; Ghana; Jamaica; Kiribati; Papua New Guinea; Samoa; Sri Lanka; St Kitts and Nevis; Tonga; the UK and Vanuatu.