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PRESS RELEASE                                     Date: 12th December 2015

Priorities for expansion of the protected area system of Seychelles

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 (PAs). Recently, the Government has made bold new commitments to expand the PA estate, especially for marine areas which will be expanded to cover 20-30% of the Exclusive Economic Zone (PAs – as defined under the 2013 PA Policy - include both totally protected or exclusive zones, and sustainable use areas).

In making a commitment to expand the PA system, the Government 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.

The conservation planning process has recently been completed and the GOS-UNDP-GEF Programme Coordination Unit will be holding a workshop on 13th January, at the Care House, from 9 am to 4 pm, to present the results. This represents the first systematic conservation assessment of the Seychelles EEZ and will present the following results:

i. The level and distribution of threats to the terrestrial and marine areas

ii. The current levels of protection, which assesses the current distribution of protected areas against different habitat types

iii. A spatial prioritisation analysis: an assessment of threat status, protection level, and the distribution of important biodiversity which determines where conservation actions should be focused.

The outputs of the workshop will indicate where new protected areas should be located in order to minimize potential future loss of biodiversity, while at the same time minimizing socio-economic impacts, costs and conflict with other human resource user groups.

The Workshop will be facilitated by Dr Rebecca Klaus, a marine spatial planning expert.

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About the Protected Area Project

Background

The 21 formal protected areas in Seychelles are under the administration of a number of different Government institutions, parastatals and NGOs, including the Ministry of Land Use and Housing (MLUH), Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), Island Conservation Society (ICS) and Nature Seychelles (NS). As Seychelles has limited financial resources, and is geographically isolated from global centres of excellence in protected area planning and management, it is important that the diverse Government and non-government partners in the field of protected area management in Seychelles work in partnership to complement their individual capacities, knowledge and skills.

The Protected Area project started in 2011 to create synergies between current Government conservation efforts and those of non-government partners in the establishment of new protected areas, and also to improve the management of existing terrestrial-marine protected areas.

Expected Outcomes

For marine protected areas:

• designing a more representative system of marine protected areas that builds resilience against environmental variations associated with global climate change

• facilitating the establishment of new or expanded marine protected areas and conservation zones that will more effectively safeguard habitats associated with fish spawning aggregations (e.g. rabbit fish, groupers) and coral reef ecosystems

• strengthening the operational capacity of NGOs, artisanal fishermen and the private sector to establish and manage marine protected areas and marine conservation zones in a collaborative partnership with the SNPA and SFA

• improving the policy, legislative and institutional framework for collaborative management between state and non-state partners in MPA management

For terrestrial protected areas are:

• designing a representative, adequate and comprehensive system of terrestrial protected areas

• facilitating the establishment of new protected areas on privately-owned and state-owned islands under different co-management arrangements and using a range of different sustainable financing strategies

• testing the feasibility of establishing and enforcing seasonal conservation areas for nesting turtle habitats

• strengthening the operational capacity of NGOs, parastatals and the private sector to establish and manage terrestrial protected areas and

• improving the policy, legislative and institutional framework for collaborative management between state and non-state partners in terrestrial protected area management.

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