Wed, 23rd August 2017 | Updated Thursday 27 July 2017, 09:18:58    

Seychelles’ marine protected areas to be expanded

Seychelles’ marine protected areas to be expanded

 Dr Rebecca Klaus during her presentationSeychelles Nation 14. 01.15- The Seychelles government is committed to expanding by 20-30% the country's marine protected area network.

The first systematic conservation assessment of the Seychelles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) for this purpose has been completed and the results were presented in a workshop held yesterday at the Care House.

The workshop was conducted by Dr Rebecca Klaus.

This first assessment consists of the level and distribution of threats to the terrestrial and marine areas; the current levels of protection which assesses the current distribution of protected areas against different habitat types and a spatial prioritisation analysis which is an assessment of threat status, protection level, and the distribution of important biodiversity which determines where conservation actions should be focused.

As the government of Seychelles is committed to the protection of the marine and terrestrial biodiversity for which it is responsible and has declared a large number of protected areas (PA), it has made bold new commitments to expand the PA estate, especially for marine areas which will be expanded to cover 20-30% of the EEZ.

It has recognised a need to review and assess the adequacy of the existing marine and terrestrial protected area network in order to identify priorities for its future expansion.

In 2013 the GOS-UNDP-GEF project 'Strengthening Seychelles' protected area system through NGO management modalities' began the process of identifying these priorities. This has since developed into a wider marine spatial planning process for the EEZ that balances the needs for extending the protected areas system to conserve marine biodiversity, with needs for fishing, tourism and other uses of the marine area.

Yesterday's workshop was to discuss where the new protected areas should be located in order to minimise potential future loss of biodiversity, while at the same time minimising socio-economic impacts, costs and conflict with other human resource user groups.

Addressing delegates, special adviser in the Ministry of Environment Didier Dogley said government has been putting together a very good initiative to develop a very clear and pragmatic approach to sustainable development and protected areas is a tool that helps to achieve that.

"It is also to make sure that priority areas like core diversities ones are set aside and that the ecological processes that are necessary to ensure that Seychelles can still enjoy the benefits from ecological services are also protected. These are very important to ensure that we do a proper planning process and identify those areas that whatever we identify are really those that are the most important for us to protect," he said.

"To be able to do this work properly we need those brains and contributions," said Mr Dogley referring to the environment experts present as this is to ensure that the quality of the plan that comes out of this process is really of the highest quality possible.

Mr Dogley said the process depends on the quality of data that is available. What they are trying to do is very ambitious as far as looking at the whole EEZ to find out which part has the most biodiversity.

He said it is something that has not been done before in Seychelles describing it as a pioneering work at this stage.

"We should try and start now and then build on it as we get better data," he said.

He also made reference to the other initiatives started under the GEF like the outer island project; the sustainable financing project that is being currently developed and the fisheries management plan, just to name some.

He described them as bits of pieces of a puzzle which will hopefully come together to create a much better picture of what is going on in the EEZ.

"The overall aim is to have a robust, comprehensive and clearer plan for the whole EEZ, identify where the important biodiversity areas are and where the areas for fisheries which will be developed through the process of the marine special planning," said Mr Dogley.

There was also a presentation by Dr Joanna Smith on the marine spatial planning initiative. The 'marine only' planning scenario is aimed at identifying a comprehensive and representative marine protected network covering 30% of all marine habitat mapped.

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