Shielding ecosystems and economy from climate change and unsustainable development

  • Rare species and corals protected while fishing and tourism industries can thrive sustainably
  • Proves concept of debt refinancing for marine protection, a model others are following
  • Seychelles has now tripled global biodiversity target protected areas

VICTORIA, Seychelles  – Close to a third of Seychelles’ ocean, an area larger than Germany, will be guarded from climate change and unregulated economic exploitation with new Marine Protection Areas to be announced today (MARCH 26).

Danny Faure, President of the Republic of Seychelles, will confirm final details of the 13 new Marine Protection Areas covering more than 410,000 sq km (158,000 sq miles). This significant milestone delivers on the world’s first debt refinancing for ocean conservation co-designed by The Nature Conservancy and the Government of Seychelles.

Corals in cooler waters are now better protected and could recolonise reefs affected by future bleaching events. Species including the Indian Ocean’s only dugongs, Southern Ocean humpback whales, manta rays, sharks, endangered turtles, and economically vital fish like tuna are now under increased protection.

Oceanic nations like Seychelles are among the most vulnerable to climate change because their economies are often almost totally reliant on marine resources. Failing to plan how to sustain those resources as waters warm or acidify could eventually be ecologically and economically disastrous.

 “Seychelles is ultimately an Oceanic State and our people are connected to the ocean. By protecting these large areas we are not only safeguarding our marine environment but balancing economic growth through the management of the resources that the sea provides. We realise we are not the only island nation that faces these challenges.  We are proud of this accomplishment and hope that other nations will follow suit.”

Read full speech.

Danny Faure

President, Republic of Seychelles

Seychelles’ new Marine Protection Areas cover more than 30% of its waters.  High biodiversity zones cover 15% and all extractive uses are either excluded or highly restricted including the waters around the Aldabra Group that, like the Galapagos Islands, offer a window into evolutionary processes in a relatively untouched ecosystem.

The rest are ‘medium biodiversity and sustainable use’ zones where enterprises vital to Seychelles’ economy will continue to operate, under new sustainability regulations. More than 200 consultations with Seychelles’ citizens, scientists, and key businesses guided the process.

“Leveraging what we’ve learned from Seychelles, it is our hope that we will be able to scale up and bring this kind of debt conversion work to countries elsewhere in the world.”

Matt Brown

Africa Program Director, The Nature Conservancy

The announcement delivers on a ‘debt-for-conservation’ deal that Seychelles signed with The Nature Conservancy in February 2016, the first for marine conservation and climate adaptation. The Seychelles Government bought back $21.6 million of its sovereign debt at a discount, using private philanthropic funding and loan capital raised by The Nature Conservancy’s NatureVest arm.

The Government now repays those loans to a local trust, the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), with a portion of repayments funding marine conservation and climate change preparation projects and to implement the marine protection areas.

Designating 30% of its marine area as protected means Seychelles has already tripled the UN Convention of Biological Diversity Target 11 for 10% marine protection by 2020, and the UN Sustainable Development Goal SDG-14 for 10% coastal and marine protection.

The Marine Protection Areas form part of a whole-ocean Marine Spatial Plan that will cover all of Seychelles’ ocean, addressing increased management of all marine resources, regulatory attention, and unified government coordination to support the country’s Blue Economy.

Since 2016, SeyCCAT has disbursed grants to different Seychellois initiatives to support the Seychelles’ Marine Spatial Plan Initiative. Learn more about how SeyCCAT-funded projects are supporting the SMSP.

Investigating the marine predator community around Aldabra to assess connectivity between shallow and deep-sea ecosystems and the effectiveness of the Aldabra marine zonation strategy

Jennifer investigates the marine predator community around Aldabra, from groupers to sharks and finding a six-gill shark at the depths of Aldabra’s waters.

Roadmap to Blue Carbon opportunities in the Seychelles

James Michel Foundation builds a roadmap for pathways to explore blue carbon opportunities in Seychelles.

Mapping coral population connectivity and ocean currents to inform management & policy of the coral reef system in Seychelles.

How connected are our corals? SIF investigates the coral connectivity between Aldabra and other nearby reefs.

Citizens’ Guide to Climate Change

S4S increases accessibility by making the Citizens’ Guide to Climate Change available in the Seychellois’ mother tongue – Creole.

First use of satellite telemetry on small pelagic and abundant seabirds (juvenile Sooty Terns) to define potential Marine Protected Areas through identification of foraging areas used during the gaining of independence from their parents

Discover where fledgeling juveniles fly to before returning to breed on Bird Island.

Marine Biodiversity baseline assessment around Fregate Island, the eastern most Seychelles ‘Inner’ granitic island

Development of first baseline data of the marine environment of Fregate island through a long-term marine monitoring programme.

Abundance, habitat selection and movements at sea of the Red-footed Booby (Sula sula) as informative tools for conservation within the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan

The research seeks to determine population size estimates, the geographical distribution of the Red-footed Booby (RFB) in Seychelles, and to identify the foraging areas exploited by this species and its habitat selection at sea around Farquhar.

Assessing the effectiveness of Curieuse Marine National Park in the protection of the critical early life stages of sicklefin lemon sharks (Negaprionacutidens)

Through acoustic tracking, an improved understanding of spatial movements and habitat preferences of critical life stages to enhance knowledge of lemon shark ecology.

SeyCCAT-Nekton funded Seychellois Researchers on deep-water (up to 500m) expedition.

SeyCCAT and Nekton co-financed five research projects led by different individuals in Seychelles.  In total, 7 Seychellois directly benefited from this grant. Read more about the research projects undertaken on the Nekton Mission in Seychelles, here. All...

Spatial ecology and response to catch-and-release of recreationally targeted fish species on St. François and Alphonse Atolls: Implications for conservation and management.

With ICS’ cutting-edge research, whether catch-and-release is really as harmless as we think it is with the tracking and monitoring of the response of the Giant Trevally to catch-and-release.

Assessment and Mitigation of Impact of the Artisanal Fishery on Species of Local Concern

Local fishers partner with a non-governmental organisation to confirm whether their anecdotal concerns are in fact, correct through systematic data collection on 13 ‘species of local concern.’

Development and Operationalisation of National Fish Identification Website and Database

John has developed a nationanl fish identification database and website to support research, management and education and awareness.

Science based restoration of commercially important spiny lobster habitats to help develop a sustainable fishery

MCSS’ project seeks to gain a better understanding of the spiny lobster with the intention of improving the management of this commercially important fishery.

Piloting voluntary fisheries zone closure on Praslin Island for the benefit of the marine environment and fisher folks

An association of small-scale fishers on Praslin pilots a voluntary trap fishery closure in the bay of Baie Ste. Anne for a period of 6 months for increased safety and revenue during the South-East monsoon.

Improving the socio-economic knowledge of the Seychelles Artisanal Fishery

Karine’s PHD thesis seeks to improve our of socio-economic knowledge on the artisanal fishery to subsequently inform fisheries management and policies. Her fieldwork is funded by SeyCCAT.

The Government of Seychelles led the Marine Spatial Planning initiative with planning, science, and facilitation provided by The Nature Conservancy, with the GOS-UNDP-GEF Program Coordinating Unit.

Learn more about Seychelles’ Milestone 3_March-26-2020