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Working towards the 14th UN Sustainable Development Goal for Life Below Water

The ocean feeds us, regulates our climate and generates most of the oxygen we breathe. Over 3 billion people depend on marine and coastal biodiversity for their livelihoods and for their primary source of protein. On top of this, the ocean absorbs about 30% of carbon dioxide produced by humans, buffering the impacts of global warming. They are also facing unprecedented threats because of human activity; from pollution to overfishing, from climate change to exploitation.

World Ocean Day, on the 8th June, reminds us of the major role the ocean have in everyday life. The aim is to inform the public of the impact of human actions on the ocean, develop a worldwide movement of citizen advocates for the ocean, and mobilise all populations to sustainably manage the world’s ocean. The theme of this year’s World Ocean Day is ‘Life and Livelihoods’, which is exceptionally fitting for an island nation like Seychelles.

The 14th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal, Life Below Water, lays out a vast array of aims targeted at the conservation and sustainable use of the oceans and their resources. These include increasing scientific knowledge and research capacity, facilitating the access of small-scale fishers to marine resources and markets, regulating catches, ending illegal or unregulated fishing, sustainably managing aquaculture and marine tourism, to name a few. Here, Seychelles has already led the way by, in 2020, designating 30% of its ocean as Marine Protected Areas, amounting to a staggering 410,000 km2.

SeyCCAT is helping to further the efforts of Seychellois with a vision of stewardship and sustainable benefits for future generations. To achieve this mission, five objectives have been established as focal points for funding.

  1. Support new and existing marine and coastal protected areas and sustainable use zones

SeyCCAT has disbursed over SCR 7 million to projects focussing on this objective, though, all with vastly different action plans. These projects involve work in the Aldabra Atoll, on Fregate, Curieuse and Bird Islands and Mahé, and range from installing satellites, tagging juvenile sharks, tracking sea birds and building walkways through mangroves. An integral part of Marine Spatial Planning is collecting baseline data to establish the ecological importance of an area. SeyCCAT has funded an impressive coral mapping project.  in conjunction with SIF and the University of Oxford, to establish which reefs in Seychelles supply coral larvae to other reef systems and are therefore vital to protect.

  1. Empower the fisheries sector with robust science and knowhow to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options

Accounting for the largest proportion of funding dispersed so far – over SCR 7.4 million – innovation, knowledge and progress in the fisheries sector have been the focus of over 15 projects so far. Work is being done to improve the connections between fishers and consumers to reduce catch waste and provide fair remuneration. Also important is implementing accurate tracking and traceability for small-scale fisheries to ensure sustainability and establish robust management plans for the sector. One new and interesting project of note is exploring the economic viability of commercial rock-oyster farming in Seychelles through a pilot scheme that, if shown to be successful, could grow and diversify the fisheries sector.

  1. Promote the rehabilitation of marine and coastal habitats and ecosystems that have been degraded by local and global impacts

Close to SCR 950,000 has been provided to a wetland rehabilitation project in Pasquiere which is currently the only project specifically working towards this objective – though we will see what the next round of BGF brings. This project, run by TRASS, is one of several actively planting mangrove seedlings in damaged wetland areas and involves consulting and working with the community to inspire better stewardship. TRASS is also engaging with Seychellois students to help raise awareness of the importance of these wetland habitats and contribute to educational materials.

  1. Develop and implement risk reduction and social resilience plans to adapt to the effects of climate change

Several small-scale projects, given SCR 300,000, have been funded by SeyCCAT and are making strides towards greater knowledge and resilience in the face of the threats from climate change. One example of this is the ‘Citizens’ Guide to Climate Change’, developed by Sustainability for Seychelles (S4S), which has been published and handed out as a free resource for climate change education in, for example, schools. Not only this, but a version translated into Kreol has also been published and disseminated so this information can have a greater reach into communities.

  1. Trial and nurture business models to secure the sustainable development of Seychelles’ Blue Economy

Lastly, close to SCR 6.5 million has been dispersed to projects aiming to boost the Blue Economy by training entrepreneurs, linking youth with Blue Economy volunteering opportunities, and developing the skills of young Seychellois. The Marine Scholarship Programme is providing practical and theoretical training to its participants to furnish them with the skills, and confidence, needed for future employment within the marine environment and the Blue Economy.

High levels of interest have been seen for the next round of funding – the BGF5. I, for one, am excited to see the array of successful projects from this cohort that will help to generate sustainable benefits for Seychelles and ultimately benefit life below the water.

Contributed by Lucy Lintott.