Sun, 25th June 2017 | Updated Tuesday 20 June 2017, 04:53:43
Seychelles has a comprehensive network of protected areas and in 2011 the Government designated 50% of its land territory as nature reserves as a contribution to fulfilling its obligations under the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) to ensure conservation of the archipelago's biodiversity for the well-being of present and future Seychellois generations and visitors to the islands.
Work has also started to identify the possible expansion of the marine protected areas in a similar manner so as to meet our international obligations.
Members of the general public, representatives from the local ENGOs and from the Government met recently at a workshop organized by the GOS-UNDP-GEF Programme Coordination Unit to validate a draft policy for protected areas, a consultancy being undertaken under the Protected Areas Project, a UNDP supported project funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) with a budget of $2.1 million.
The only current official national policy specific to protected areas in Seychelles is the Government white paper, Conservation Policy in the Seychelles (1971). This white paper accompanied the development of the then Seychelles Tourism Policy (1969) and the coming into force of the 1969 National Parks and Nature Conservancy Ordinance (later known as the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act).
In his opening address, Mr Didier Dogley, the Special Advisor to the Minister for Environment and Energy and the GEF Focal Point for Seychelles, said that "there is no country in the world that has committed so much of its territory to the cause of biodiversity conservation and sustainable use as Seychelles has. Although some may discard such commitments as empty political statements, for us as one of the smallest of nations these are real aspirations because we know how crucial it is in strengthening our resilience against natural disasters and the negative impact of climate change. For such bold and strategic decisions to make a real impact we need strong institutions, policies and legal instruments."
This policy updates and enhances the Seychelles Conservation Policy (1971) and it incorporates elements of the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (1998) and other policy documents. It will also update, re-organize and guide the management of the existing (and future) set of protected areas in keeping with contemporary international standards and best practices. It includes new elements such as co-management of Protected Areas with involvement of the private sector and a proposed re-classification of the Parks and Protected Areas as follows:
- National Parks (both terrestrial and marine) - Special Reserves
- Ecological Reserves - Areas of Outstanding Beauty
- Sustainable use area
The final draft of the policy document once completed and approved by Government will be made available to relevant stakeholders and the general public.
Protected areas are regulated under different pieces of legislation, notably the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act (1969, as amended), the Wild Animals and Birds Protection Act (1961), the Wild Birds Protection (Nature Reserves) Regulations (1966) and the Protected Areas Ordinance (1967). Other Acts supporting the implementation of PA legislation, particularly in respect of development controls and species protection (marine turtles, certain sea bird species, whale sharks and marine mammals), the Environment Protection Act (1994); the Forestry Reserves Act (1955); the Fisheries Act (1987) and the Town and Country Planning Act (1971).
Most of these legislations are in the process of being revised and amended to compliment the new policy document.