Ocean conservation: Seychelles’ marine spatial plan in final stages of completion
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (SMSP) is expected to be implemented this year, with the final works now being completed, according to a top official.
The SMSP Initiative is focused on planning for and management of the sustainable and long-term use and health of the Seychelles’ ocean. The SMSP is for the entire 1.35 million km² of Seychelles’ ocean and will support Seychelles’ Blue Economy in different ways.
The SMSP will be the first comprehensive marine spatial plan for the western Indian Ocean and will be the second largest ocean area covered by a marine spatial plan, after Norway.
“The SMSP is in the Zoning to Implementation phase and is aiming to complete the Marine Spatial Plan for public review and government approvals in 2023. Significant delays have been experienced due to the global pandemic from March 2020 onward. Work progressed during the pandemic using virtual meetings and several projects were completed during this time including SMSP Policy, ecosystem service values in marine protected areas, and communications materials to prepare for implementation” said Helena Sims, the project manager for the SMSP, who works for The Nature Conservancy, an international NGO.
The work that now remains to be done includes establishing a marine spatial plan governance option, gaining approval for regulations for the Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) as well as having the SMSP be signed into law.
The SMSP also includes the demarcation of more than 410,000 km² of Seychelles’ ocean as MPAs, of which there will be 13 altogether, which contain key areas for tuna, seagrass beds and corals.
“These are large scale marine protection areas and boundaries will be reflected on navigation charts as well as international databases such as the World Database on Protected Areas (WDPA), a joint project between the UNEP and IUCN, managed by World Conservation Monitoring Centre (UNEP-WCMC). The government of Seychelles is working with the necessary offices to ensure that they are demarcated on these tools once the SMSP is signed into law and implementation of these areas officially commences in 2023,” explained Sims.
Seychelles’ debt conversion programme will be contributing to financing for the implementation of the SMSP and additional financing is currently being assessed.
The SeyCCAT Act was amended and approved in October 2022 to allow proceeds from the Seychelles debt conversion to be used to support the administration of the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) and finance the SMSP activities, including the long-term management of the marine protection area network.
“Seychelles achieved the 30% marine protection goal in March 2020 using a transparent, participatory, science-based process with all key stakeholders and civil society being actively engaged. This goal met and exceeded Seychelles’ commitments for the Convention of Biological Diversity (CBD) and UN Sustainable Development Goals of 10% by 2020. The 30% achievement meets Seychelles’ commitment to the new High Ambition Coalition – Campaign for Nature,” added Sims.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan will be legally enforceable with development of regulations supported by the first-ever Seychelles MSP Policy that was approved by Cabinet in October 2020.
Seychelles, an archipelago of 115 islands, has a total land area of 455 km² spread over an Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) of 1.3 million square kilometres of ocean.