On Global Recycling Day, 18th March 2021, we’re reminded of the well-known slogan: ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ to address our personal responsibility for our consumption and environmental impact. But what does this mean on a larger scale? The 12th United Nations Sustainable Development Goal is driving towards responsible consumption and production which encompasses developing and implementing sustainable practices that create jobs and promote local culture and products. A large part of this is also raising awareness and providing accessible information to ensure that everyone can get involved.
SeyCCAT has provided over SCR 7 million* in grant funding to numerous projects that are tackling existing problems, like marine pollution, increasing community awareness and engagement, and making advances towards more sustainable everyday practices. A prime example is a project to clean up some of the marine debris that had been washed ashore on the remote Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Not only were 25.75 tonnes of trash removed, a large proportion of which was discarded fishing gear, but 10 new ambassadors and environmental campaigner roles were created to help unlock the local capacity to change the way waste is thought about.
In an exciting new project, divers will be cleaning up litter from the seafloor in three areas around Mahé that are popular with snorkellers and divers. Having witnessed the rise in pollution and marine trash over their last 13 years of fishing, three Seychellois sea cucumber fishermen felt the need to do something about it. They are going to put their diving skills and experience to good use and, importantly, will be filming their clean-ups to raise public awareness about the extent of the pollution problem.
Fishing is an essential part of the Seychelles economy and the social and economic wellbeing of many Seychellois. Therefore, the role of responsible and sustainable fishing practices is vital for the long-term future of the waters to which the Seychelles are so inextricably linked. There have been growing concerns over the drop in total catch and catch rate as well as the increased pressures on fishermen. SeyCAAT has provided over SCR 3 million to projects focussed on improving the connections of fishermen to their consumer and avoiding wasting their catch. This also allows them to bypass ‘middlemen’, so they can set their own prices at a level that will provide them with appropriate remuneration. They can then increase their income without having to increase their catch, thereby relieving pressure on fish stocks.
This drive towards changing supplier-consumer pathways has come after extensive research into the costs and benefits to everyone in the chain. Information has been gathered to understand fish consumption, wastage, fishing practices and consumer preferences, among other things. Research has also been carried out to assess the impact of smaller, artisanal fisheries on the populations of species of concern, including rays and parrotfish. By addressing the issues with the current practices, the Seychelles can meet its national and international commitments to transition to sustainable fisheries and to safeguard the oceans while still developing the Blue Economy.
Going forward, community awareness and engagement are key to ensuring that long-term sustainability goals are met. As part of a SeyCCAT funded project, the Praslin Fishers Association has agreed to informally close the Baie Ste Anne to fishing during the northwest monsoon period so that the fish have the opportunity to increase in size and number. This has effectively created a Locally Managed Marine Area (LMMA), giving the local community a greater sense of responsibility for safeguarding this environment. Interestingly, 2 of their 40 fishers did not abide by the closure and consumers, who were aware of the importance of the closure and the species typically found in the closed areas, questioned the fishers about where their fish had been caught. This shows the importance of community awareness and engagement for social accountability. Interactions with Praslin communities have also been a part of the project assessing the sicklefin lemon shark populations in Curieuse Marine National Park with educational signboards erected and seminars organised to highlight the importance of shark populations for ecosystem health.
Spreading knowledge about sustainable practices and responsible consumption is key to ensuring wide-spread involvement. The SeyCCAT-funded national fish identification website and database gives access to information that will enhance public engagement and support marine management through education, conservation and sustainable use of resources. SeyCCAT is also funding initiatives to encourage entrepreneurship within the Blue Economy sector with a special focus on innovations in fisheries and waste processing.
Responsible consumption and production happen at all levels; reflected in the everyday choices of individuals, the practices adopted by industries, and the policies decided by governments. The number of SeyCCAT-funded projects that are working towards these important sustainability goals makes me optimistic about the path ahead.