Seychelles is located in the Western Indian Ocean, between Madagascar and the Horn of Africa. Its archipelago is made up of about 115 islands, which make up less than one percent of its ocean territory spreading across more than one million square kilometres in the Western Indian Ocean. Considered a global hotspot for biodiversity, the boulder-strewn, mountainous, granitic inner islands are the oldest mid-oceanic islands on Earth, and home to its 97,000 inhabitants. The waters are rich in biodiversity and for more than 200 years its people have relied on the ocean for survival and prosperity. However, years of over-exploitation of fish stocks and increasing impacts of climate change increased the vulnerability of the livelihoods of fishers and virtually all Seychellois living on the coast.
This realisation prompted the Government of the Seychelles to initiate a series of mutually-reinforcing responses to restore the sustainability of the fishery and the health of marine and coastal ecosystems, transitioning the country towards sustainable ocean management – a blue economic future.
In 2012, the Government of Seychelles set a target of bringing 30 percent of its marine territory under protection by December 2020. A marine spatial plan (MSP) initiative was adopted to propose new marine protection areas in conjunction with improved management for uses and activities in the entire ocean exclusive economic zone including territorial sea. However, effectively managing these expanded protected areas (PA) required significant financial resources. In 2016, the Government of Seychelles, with support from the Global Environment Facility and United Nations Development Programme, initiated a Protected Areas Finance project to directly address this challenge.
When the project began the Seychelles PA system consisted consisted of 25 PAs (terrestrial, marine and combined) totalling 557km2. Management of these areas was split between several different entities, and is neither integrated nor coherent. Individual sites are managed independently of one another. The management of most sites was sub-optimal, with capacity and financing for even basic management of the new areas at a sub-optimal level. By the end of the project, the PA system would be more than 700 times larger, with new management authorities and modalities, new PA categories, a new PA policy, a new Ocean Authority and government framework being introduced. It is within this dynamic and shifting country context that the Protected Areas Finance project was initiated. The project was designed to improve the financial sustainability and strategic cohesion of the Seychelles protected area system, while also =addressing emerging threats and risks to biodiversity in a shifting national economic environment.
Understanding the existing situation was critical to plot the most effective path to reducing the national financing gap. The project developed the first National PA Financial Plan . It reviewed the revenue, expenditures and financial needs of the existing PAs as well as the potentially expanded network. In 2016, the existing PA system generated USD 6.4 million in revenue, of which USD 5 million was retained for conservation management. Site-based revenue is significant, constituting 68% of all PA financing, predominantly from tourism entrance fees.
An assessment of the existing PA network, as well as the potentially expanded network, identified that revenues would need to increase by USD 3.7 million (74%) annually to achieve their basic management needs, of maintaining the status quo and avoiding biodiversity loss. However, to achieve an optimal management scenario where biodiversity levels are strengthened an additional USD 6.8 million (136%) annually would be required. Furthermore, a legal and institutional review was conducted in 2016 to identify and rectify bottlenecks hindering management effectiveness of the national PA system.
These two planning outputs provided a roadmap for national and project implementation, prioritising existing and potential financing options. It adopted a practical strategy – in the short-term focus on optimising the inefficiencies of existing finance options and the current PA system, before in the longer term, address new finance options that could benefit the future potential expansion of the PA system.
As a result, a USD 1.4million gap was identified immediately – the difference between financing generated and finance retained for conservation management. The difference between these figures mean that the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), the entity managing the largest number of PAs, was a budget-dependent institution and is thus unable to retain any site-level revenue generated. The project conducted a systematic assessment of SNPA operations and current revenue and expenditures, communicated in the SNPA Strategic Plan. The plan provided a vision of the future of the organisation, how it intended to revolutionise its activities to become a leading conservation organisation. It clearly outlined that SNPA had the potential to substantially increase its management effectiveness, whilst managing its own financial resources. This convinced the Government of Seychelles to grant SNPA financial autonomy in January 2019. This change instigated a significant reinvestment programme to improve visitor facilities and operational change to strengthen revenue collection.
Effectively planning how to raise and utilise financial resources are critical skills for PA managers to ensure that annual budgets generate the greatest return on investment. As a result, the PAF project organised, in partnership with the GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Island project, management planning training for five existing organisations and a further four aspiring conservation organisations in Seychelles. The purpose of the training was to demonstrate global best practice in management planning, with examples from other countries similar to Seychelles, as well as provide an opportunity for PA teams to share their experiences. The training stimulated the development of a series of management plans, especially for SNPA. Plans were subsequently developed for Curieuse National Park, Port Launay and Baie Ternay Marine National Parks, Saint Anne Marine National Park, Recif Special Reserve and Vallee de Mai UNESCO World Heritage Site. [AR6] A status quo analysis was also completed for Morne Seychellois National Park, which would be developed into a management plan upon completion of the National Policy on Land Ownership in National Parks. Additionally the GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands project has developed management plans for Desroches island, Alphonse island, Poivre island and Farquhar Atoll for proposed PAs in the outer islands. A framework management plan for Fond Ferdinand on Praslin island (a new PA site) was completed in 2017 at the direct request of the Government.
Business plan training was given to project partners to strengthen their ability to raise financial resources to implement the new management plans. For SNPA, their business plan is combined with their Strategic Plan to demonstrate how their future will be financed. Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) subsequently developed a Strategic Plan [AR8] to guide the future of the organisation’s conservation efforts. Green Island Foundation (GIF) developed business plans for North and Denis islands, in anticipation of their intent to proposed MPAs surrounding these privately-owned islands. GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands project also supported the development of business plans for Desroches, Alphonse, Poivre and Farquhar islands. [AR9] This training also generated additional, wider benefits: firstly, a catalogue of over 70 examples of existing business plans was developed and hosted on the National Biodiversity Strategic Action Plan (NBSAP) Forum website; secondly, global webinars, based on the training, were conducted for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as well as the UNDP Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).
Implementing revenue strategies
The implementation of SNPA’s Strategic Plan had led to the organisation receiving its financial autonomy. This transition, from budget dependence to financial autonomy, is a complex process that requires significant organisational change. The PAF project supported the implementation of its Strategic Plan with systematic support to the organisation, at the management and operational levels. Legal advice was utilised to ensure that SNPA’s foundational documents and operational procedures were compliant with the requirements of financial autonomous organisations. Furthermore, the SNPA Board received training to review their existing and new responsibilities in order to ensure that Board members are able to advise SNPA management effectively.
SNPA’s financial autonomy provided the organisation with the opportunity to combine an adjustment of user fees, in line with demand, with a significant investment programme to improve tourism facilities. A tourism product and services study and fee collection assessment [AR12] were conducted to determine the most effective plan for implementing its vision outlined in its Strategic Plan. A willingness-to-pay survey [AR13] in 2017 also assessed the potential to adjust entrance fees to specific PAs, which has remained at the same level for the preceding decade. The reports provided SNPA with a clear implementation plan, which guided their investment programme. The PAF project provided financial and technical support to develop an online payment system[AR14] , replacing the existing paper-based system, which would significantly increase the efficiency of collection (for both SNPA and tourism operators) and enable SNPA to effectively manage tourists and operators entering and leaving MPAs. Furthermore, new and refurbished visitor centres were established on Curieuse island, [AR15] SNPA’s flagship site, and Veuve Special Reserve. Nature trails have been upgraded with information boards and signage posts as well seating and viewpoints.[AR16]
Depending on single sources of income can be risky, so other conservation organisations, with financial support from the PAF project, developed additional financial options. Nature Seychelles have established a new voluntourism project, named Conservation Bootcamp, on Cousin Island Special Reserve to inspire the next generation of environmentalists as well as enable increased conservation activities. The Green Island Foundation has established visitor centres on North and Denis islands. [AR17] These privately-owned islands aim to become marine protected areas and the visitor centres become focal points to educate guests and offer additional services to guests which would contribute towards financing the conservation activities.
Additional support has been provided to the Department of Environment’s efforts on Recif Island to develop a management [AR18] plan and support alien invasive species eradication activities. Furthermore, the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles has utilised project support to ongoing monitoring activities at Grand Police [AR19] beach, a nationally important turtles nesting site, in anticipation of establishing the country’s first Temporal Protected Area.
Whilst efficiently raising and utilising PA financing are crucial functions of management organisations, it is equally important to be able to effectively communicate how these resources are being used. The project organised marketing and communication training for all PAs to attract greater support for their activities. SNPA subsequently, with technical support from the project, developed a marketing and communication plan , as well as brand guidelines , with a series of templates, to ensure that all of their communication and marketing materials are consistent and developed to a professional standard. Furthermore, SNPA received support from professional marketing consultants to help jumpstart the implementation of the marketing and communication plan, transferring their skills to the SNPA communication team as well as providing a series of communication templates [AR23] based on approved brand guidelines.
Scaling up and focusing on the future
At the project’s mid-way point, it was subject to an external independent review. It received a satisfactory rating and clean financial audits. It noted that “[t]he project is producing technically strong outputs and support… The project has the potential to showcase ‘best practice’ in terms of PAs finance and business planning in the context of SIDS and the Blue Economy”. However, it noted that “the situation has however shifted since the project was designed, which has implications for how the project should position itself going forward. While two key initiatives – Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT), are taken into consideration in the Project Document, they had not yet started when the project was designed. The key question now is how to finance the expanded PA system. The expanded system will greatly increase the number of protected areas in the outer islands which are remote and involve more partners including private island owners and conservation organizations”.
As a result, the project shifted levels and increased its collaboration with both the MSP and SeyCCAT. Its first support was to develop a strategic planning document to map the future financing options to implement 400,000km2 of new Marine Protected Areas under the Seychelles MSP . The objective of the report was to develop three options for implementing the new marine protection areas (30%) and a sustainable financing strategy that ensures the effective management, monitoring and enforcement of the 400,000km2 of marine protection areas (MPAs) over the next 10 years. It highlighted that the annual cost of management for the 400,000km2 of MPAs ranges from USD 30million to USD 42million per annum. This equated to an average annual management cost of between USD 75 and USD 106 per km2, approximately between 1.8% and 3.6% of the total contribution of fisheries and tourism to gross domestic product (GDP). However, with the implementation of the activities outlined above, economic productivity will increase further, reducing the proportional costs of management. In addition, accounting for the ecosystem service generated by the ocean, the cost of management at its most expensive option equates to 0.06% per annum. The plan emphasised that:
- Implementing optimal management of the marine space is only possible if a multiple finance option strategy is implemented.
- Earmarking revenue generated from utilising the marine space could go back into managing the marine space, ensuring that it continues to generate benefits long into the future.
- Structural changes from open access to effective monitoring, control and management of the marine space is fundamental to the long-term success of the MSP.
- Collaboration and working towards common agreed goals and standards is critical for improving cost efficiencies.
- The implementation of specific finance options should be based full feasibility studies.
Seychelles had completed the first climate adaptation debt restructuring just before the start of the project, with support from The Nature Conservancy, focusing on incentivising marine and coastal conservation. The SeyCCAT was established as an independent, nationally based public-private entity to manage the proceeds generated from the Debt-for-Nature swap as well additional national revenue sources. Next, the first sovereign blue bond was issued by Seychelles, with support from the World Bank, to finance the transition to sustainable fisheries management. The project provided support to operationalise SeyCCAT’s activities and grow its asset base. The project formed part of the SeyCCAT’s Finance Committee, advising on the development of a national environmental levy and Blue Enterprise Fund[AR26] . Furthermore, the financing options identified to implement the MPAs under the MSP provides SeyCCAT with a roadmap to ensure that large scale ocean management of sufficiently financed.
Challenges and lessons learned
Challenges during project implementation is expected. The key is to identify them early, work proactively to address them and learn from the lessons that they teach. The project experienced three strategic challenges which affected performance and outcomes; namely:
- Fragmentation of the PA system – The project was designed with the assumption that PA management was under a single coherent system, whereas in reality, management was fragmented with little communication and collaboration preferring to pursue individual, rather than collective, initiatives. The project continued to prioritise initiatives that had collective benefits, providing more opportunities for partnerships between PAs.
- Changes in management at key points. From the outset, the project engaged in an extensive planning and capacity building programme with the management of SNPA. At the point that SNPA received their financial autonomy, the organisation experienced a series of key management changes. This resulted in a series of delayed activities and required the project to revisit the future vision of the organisation.
- Shifting framework conditions. The project has operated within a dynamic time for the PA system in Seychelles. When the project began PAs equated to 557km2 and by its end Seychelles had expanded its network to 400,000km2, with types of PAs, management models and governance arrangements. This meant that the financing needs and available options were perpetually evolving as the system changed, required continuous adaptive management.
All these pieces of the puzzle contribute to achieving the government’s vision to use marine, coastal and terrestrial resources in a responsible, sustainable and integrated way towards better stewardship and governance of its marine space. Under-financing of PAs is a global concern, and Innovative approaches are needed. The experience of Seychelles provides important lessons on how to address the challenge of financing conservation head-on using imagination, innovation and determination! The project has aimed to contribute to achieving this national vision, in partnership, working together towards a collective objective.
Where to find additional information
For more information on the Seychelles project, please visit the project profile: Seychelles Protected Area Finance project – https://www.pcusey.sc
 WTTC (2017) Seychelles country report / World Bank (2017) SWIOFISH3 PAD.
 Source: ASCLME 2012. Cost and Benefit Analysis Island States, report 28, cited in World Bank (2017) SWIOFISH3 PAD, Table 8.3, pg. 99-100.