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Do politicians understand the Blue Economy?

October 16, 2020 Visit Africa / Seychelles No Comments Email Email

Although described as a small island state, Seychelles has an extremely large Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), comprising1.37M Km2 of ocean territory. The global ocean economy is estimated to be worth USD $24 trillion and as investors and policy-makers increasingly turn to the ocean for new opportunities and resources, especially during this COVID-19 period where Seychelles is turning its attention to the fishing industry to rebuild its economy.

Other political parties have come out publicly in their manifestos and PPBs on their plans to rebuild the fisheries industry. But what they fail to address is not only HOW they intend to achieve this, but also how they plan on doing this in a sustainable manner. We must bear in mind the risks of losses in natural capital resulting from unsustainable activities continuing to erode the resource base on which such growth depends. As a country, we need to raise the bar on our collective ambitions – in government, civil society, and the private sector – to ensure that economic activities in our seas are sustainable.

In many ways, Seychelles is leading the way to the development of a sustainable Blue Economy. Recently, Seychelles finalized its own Marine Spatial Plan (MSP) policy that will provide a road map for marine planning and the guiding principles to inform the decision-making process for development and conservation. The MSP provides a comprehensive, public, and participatory process to plan for sustainable development and integrate large-scale marine conservation in the context of a changing climate that will also ensure ecological protection for years to come. This will form the basis of a sustainable Blue Economy for Seychelles. It is hoped that any government that is to lead the Country following the upcoming elections continues to endorse and align with the principles of the MSP.

Seychelles will now need to turn its attention to integrating effective maritime policies particularly geared towards combating illegal fishing occurring in our waters. There have been several international publications these past few weeks on the shocking illegal activities happening within our EEZ by the Industrial fishing fleets. These activities include substantial plastic pollution, overfishing quotas, as well as reports of unmonitored fishing.

This issue will need to be taken seriously; not only for safeguarding our fish stocks, but also to secure our international economic ties. Just a few days ago, we heard that the British supermarket chain Tesco has threatened to stop sourcing yellowfin tuna and billfish from the Indian Ocean due to failures to manage the overfished stock in the region. The key issue here is that if other companies follow with similar threats, the effects may have a direct impact upon the Seychelles’ economy.

To prevent this from happening, the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC), of which Seychelles is a member Country, needs to adopt a recovery plan for rebuilding fish stocks. This, however, will need the utmost cooperation from local stakeholders. Will our Government be willing to comply?

Other forms of illegal fishing from neighboring countries, such as Sri Lanka and Madagascar, are constantly reported by our local fishermen to the relevant authorities. Unfortunately, most of the time, these offenders are let off with a slap on the wrist, leaving the local fishermen feeling disgruntled and pessimistic. It is high time that the Government realizes the grave impact that illegal fishing may have on the industry, not only in the short term, but also in the long term.

Another line that the new Government will need to address is how to provide adequate economic and legislative incentives for investment in a sustainable blue economy. This can be done by providing supportive public and private financial and investment flows. The Seychelles’ conservation and climate adaptation trust (SeyCCAT) has been a useful platform for this. SeyCCAT’s main objectives have empowered the fisheries sector with robust science and know-how to improve governance, sustainability, value and market options. They have also provided opportunities to nurture innovative business models within the blue economy, in the form of grants. It is hoped that the new government will continue to support such an organization, but also create similar opportunities for continued development of the sector.

With politicians taking to the media and using their platforms to make grand statements and promises about their plans for the fishing industry, it is hoped that moving forward they may substantiate these plans and give concerned citizens a better indication as to whether these candidates are well versed in the subject matter, or are they just electioneering?

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