Forum created to address tuna fishery in Seychelles

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Nature Seychelles’ Eric Blais (Cousin Island Special Reserve Coordinator) just attended a one day workshop together with other local civil society and private sector organisations in Seychelles that have an interest in tuna and tuna-like fishery. The consultative workshop was an initiative of the World Wildlife Fund for Nature (WWF). The meeting which was held at Seychelles Fishing Authority premises on the 27th November 2014 was aimed at information and experience sharing in a bid to influence tuna fishery national and regional processes, with the hope of “promoting stock sustainability and maximize socio-economic benefits from these resources.”

One of the outcomes of the meeting was the creation of a forum which will be used as a platform to address issues in the tuna fishing industry. Four organisations (Nature Seychelles, Apostleship of the Sea, Seychelles Sports Fishing Club and Fishing Boat Owners Association) volunteered to spearhead discussions and a way forward. As the steering committee, representatives from the four organisations will meet in the first quarter of 2015 to work on the next steps to be taken to move forward with the forum.

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Below is the context of tuna fishery as outlined by the WWF, in preparation for the workshop:
The tuna fishery is one of the most important, but also on of the most threatened fisheries in the world, mainly due to overfishing. Overexploitation has caused declines in tuna stocks and threatens the wider ecosystem by depleting marine biomass and potentially disrupting the trophic chain. Yet, this is one of the biggest food businesses in the world, involving a complex mix of ecological, economic, geographical, political and cultural factors. In the Indian Ocean, tropical tuna do not seem to be overfished at present according to scientists, although some other species managed by the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission are subject to overfishing or to lack of fishery data. With an average annual catch of 826,088t, tropical tuna are of great importance for the region and many challenges remain, such as ensuring a sustainable management to prevent overfishing in the future, or equitable benefits from this resource. These issues are of primer importance for Seychelles, as these islands are located at the center of the migration pattern of tropical tuna, and tuna fishing and processing accounts for close to 5% of GDP.

Through the years, WWF has spent significant efforts in promoting initiatives for improving the sustainable management of fisheries and governance, and experience showed us that strategic partnerships around a common vision are powerful tools for triggering significant reforms in this field. WWF has therefore committed to promote the involvement of civil society and private sector in tuna fisheries issues. We have already supported financially and technically the establishment of civil society and private sector platforms in the South West Indian Ocean States. Some of these platform are institutionalized and already well recognized at the national and regional level (e.g. TuFak in Kenya), or are still in a development process (e.g. in Madagascar). Since 2010, WWF is also promoting annual meetings gathering the civil society and private sector from the SWIO region (including representatives from these platforms) to share experience on tuna issues.

This dynamic aims at enabling the civil society and the private sector to play a central role in ensuring that the SWIO states derive sustainable benefit from the tuna industry to foster economic development through generation of additional revenues for the country, poverty reduction, income increase for local communities and job creation.In the Seychelles, the creation and institutionalization of a civil society / private sector coalition on tuna issue could enable all participants to develop a common voice in the sector. This would also be a good opportunity for the civil society to have a common understanding of tuna fishery and management issues in the Indian Ocean and in the Seychelles, and to influence regulations, decision making and the

we are gods

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The People, 4/9/2014
This whole week I’ve been eating “gro manze” for lunch and dinner. Crazy, you say. But this is the staple food of many islanders all over the world including our own ancestors

Small Islands, Big Food

I’m in Samoa attending the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) third international meeting as part of the Seychelles delegation at the kind invitation of President James Michel. “Lerouy” (or taro), breadfruit, bananas and plantains are the staple of Samoans, and in fact many Pacific islanders. Everywhere you care to look, in every garden even in the conference center grounds, “gro manze” (literally translated as big food in English) are so common I can only describe Samoa as an Edible Landscape. Samoans make sure that all households are food secure – I suppose the way Seychellois did in the past with the similar crops. But the food choice is extremely limited. A disease for example or rising sea levels could wipe out one or more of these staples and people would starve. Seychelles is different, you say. We have a wider choice of foods, you would argue. But, hang on, unlike the Samoans we import 70% of non-fish foodstuffs! We are so dependent on foreign food for food and nutrition security I get a headache thinking about all the implications.

Does Size Matter?

The UN’s big boss Ban Ki-moon said that “Samoa is small in size but big in heart” at the opening of the SIDS meeting. No matter how we spin it, the challenge facing all small island developing states is usually described as one of size. Many SIDS are not large enough to have proper infrastructure, their populations are small which result in lack of capacities, the economies are miniscule which cause a host of problems including inability to reach, what economists call, economies of scale, they do not have mineral resources, their small sizes are not attractive enough to interest large investors outside the tourism industry. But at the end of the day it’s really about limited options. Seychelles may have greater food diversity than Samoa but our development options are almost similar – narrowly funneled into only tourism and fisheries. Our cross to bear is energy. Despite more than 100 studies and reports on alternative and renewable energy since Independence we have, because of the limitations of size versus cost, been forced into extreme fossil fuel addiction. This is a massive drain on the country’s foreign currency reserves and has also resulted in a large carbon footprint.

Everyone talks about the climate but no one does anything about it

“We should recognize climate change for what it is: a collective crime against humanity… its robbing island nations of their right to exist” said President Michel in a hard-hitting address at the opening of the SIDS meeting. I believe the President said this is not only because we could be wiped out by rising sea levels or increased storms, but because climate change is constantly reducing our natural capital and in turn our economic options. Reefs have died, affecting fisheries, dive tourism, coastal protection and sandy beaches. Increased rains lead to flooding affecting homes, industry and other infrastructure. Extreme droughts need to be managed through more water reservoirs, deployment of bowsers and critically, desalination plants. The investments needed to adapt to climate change and to protect against future impacts are immense. These moneys could have been better used for much needed development. And, that’s the point the President was making: scarce funds are being used to deal with problems that other countries have caused.

The Tyranny of GDP

Seychelles like several other island states have reached middle income status. This is great because it means our development trajectory has been the right one. But, paradoxically, middle income status has squeezed our options even more. President Michel outlined some of the challenges at the SIDS Meeting. The huge reduction of foreign aid is well known to many Seychellois who care to know about such things -our GDP per capita is supposed to be the highest in Africa and this has made us “graduate” from being a country that received foreign aid to one that doesn’t need this assistance any more. This is in itself a problem. But what most people don’t know is that the cost of running a government or a business in such a small country is very high. In other words the per capita cost to the economy is very high and most things we do become costly, many times uncompetitive, and sometimes prohibitive.

A New Deal

President Michel reached out to the rich nations on behalf of all SIDS this week requesting a “fair deal for SIDS”. Seychelles and other SIDS need to be treated differently than other nations by the United Nations and by bilateral partners. “Countries like Seychelles don’t need just aid…we don’t need handouts. We need access to development mechanisms that take consideration of our vulnerabilities” said the President. In fact the President is putting money where his mouth is, so to speak. Seychelles is a pilot country for a project funded by the UN and the EU to test a new tool called the Vulnerability Resilience Profile. This project will assist Seychelles to collect solid data and put in place indicators for the purpose of developing what is being called “beyond-GDP” measures that will be vital for Seychelles to make a case to donors for increased funding and other forms of partnerships.

Reality Check

For us to understand the reality of Seychelles and all SIDS we first have to re-orient the way we perceive these bits of land floating in vast seas. Seychelles is a Great Ocean Developing State (GODS) or Big Ocean Small State (BOSS). This may sound frivolous but its high time for it sink in (pardon the pun) that most of our country is made of ocean space. If the United Nations and rich countries only grasped this they would understand the challenges that a country with only about 50,000 people in its workforce faces to manage more than 1 million square kilometers of territory – an Economic Exclusive Zone (EEZ) that is bigger than France, Spain and Portugal land areas combined. But, with such a huge territory containing all kinds of riches, Seychelles can turn adversity into opportunities. Ocean-related resources and activities hold huge potential for the future and can leapfrog our tiny economy to the next level by creating new wealth for all through sustainable fishing, ecotourism, marine based energy production, new pharmaceutical products from marine animals and plants, ecosystem restoration and conservation, marine research and much more. What is now labelled the Blue Economy seems to be our future.

Partnerships for a Blue Society

To link people and the sea to become pioneers of a Blue Society is the next step. The ocean is the new frontier. But how do we go where few have gone before? Where do we get the resources needed? For us to become real GODS and BOSS we need to devise new ways of doing things and for living together. We are one of the 5 smallest sovereign nations in the world, with a diminutive economy, a tiny population, and distant from markets and knowledge centers. How can we make the Paradigm Shift first and secondly sustain the momentum both as a nation and as individuals? The government cannot do it alone. Neither can the private sector, nor civil society on their own. There are just not enough people and capital in any one of these “sectors”. The only way, is for us to forge genuine and mutually respectful partnerships and combine social and financial capital.

National Unity is the answer

We are not alone in this journey. Most SIDS share the same struggle. At the SIDS meeting it was Tommy Remengesau , the forward thinking President of Palau, who said “The future problems are not going to be solved by governments but by the private sector and civil society ”. But, Seychelles is polarized, with antagonistic relationships the norm rather than the exception. This divisive and sometimes corrosive situation we find ourselves in is holding us back, blinding us to our heritage, our potential, and in fact our destiny. We need Patriots who can put aside personal gain and differences. We need Innovators who look to the future and not seek to relive the past. Role Models who celebrate successes but don’t disown failures. Champions who create not imitate. Change Makers who are trouble shooters not trouble makers. Thought Leaders who are secure in their own skin but who can move out of their comfort zones. Where are those people? They can be found in the private sector and civil society. President Michel has made a personal step forward in creating the National Forum but it’s a leap for all Seychellois. The Forum is made up of private citizens, people of good will who have distinguished themselves as leaders and champions in their respective domains. Now it’s up to everyone else to step up.

Nirmal Shah

Successful roll-out of Praslin coastal fishery plan is a disruption of the business-as-usual model

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I congratulate the Praslin fishermen in particular the Praslin Fishers Association (PFA) for the finalization of the Praslin coastal fishery plan. The plan is now awaiting approval by the Cabinet of Ministers before it can be implemented according to the Seychelles News Agency (http://www.seychellesnewsagency.com/articles/897#sthash.TyD1fvSa.dpuf)

Nature Seychelles is a member of the Praslin Fisheries Co-Management Coordinating Committee (PFCCC) chaired by the PFA and has been supporting this initiative because as it’s the first real co-management process for any natural resource in Seychelles. The PFCCC brought together Praslin fishers, the SFA and some key stakeholders like Nature Seychelles to enable the co-management process to be successful and for the eventual roll out the plan. Whilst the plan is very important for sustainable fisheries, the process underpinning it is as vital for all other sectors because it is a disruption of the business-as-usual model which is government making the decisions and leading the implementation.

I must also highlight the innovative vision of the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) which took on board this new approach and whose technicians and scientists worked very hard to make the process and plan a success. This is the right way to achieve effective management of other parts of the natural environment and there is a paramount need for transparency when co-management or management outsourcing of natural resources is to be undertaken. Co-management of fisheries resources will be legalized when the new Fisheries Bill which contains this provision is approved by the National Assembly, according to SFA sources.

The Praslin fishery co-management plan process is an example of what could be the norm in all sectors to achieve President James Michel’s recent call for national unity. The process and plan were funded by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/Government of Seychelles/Global Environment Fund (GEF) project.

Nature Seychelles web news, July 2014

UN HDI report not a stone tablet to be followed blindly

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The 2014 UNDP Human Development Report has raised a firestorm of protest from the Seychelles Government.
What is it?

The 2014 Human Development Report “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” was published on 24th July by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). The latest Human Development Index (HDI) included in the report shows that levels in human development continue to rise, yet the pace has slowed for all regions and progress has been highly uneven.

Seychelles drops

The HDI has listed Seychelles as 71st in the human development ranking of countries, a drop of one point compared to last year. Seychelles’ Minister for Finance, Trade and Investment, Pierre Laporte, has led the charge against this drop. Minister Laporte attributed the issue to a change of methodology by UNDP as well as poorly collected data by the UN. Minister Laporte insisted that the information had indeed been provided but not incorporated by the UNDP.
I have examined the report and agree with the Government of Seychelles. There are several elements to the Report that I take issue with. These are changes in methodologies that Minister Laporte referred to, large swathes of missing data in the tables and the lack of pertinent environmental information.

Changes in methodology

The UNDP HDI has previously been criticized for its “changes in formula which can lead to severe misclassification in the categorization of ‘low’, ‘medium’, ‘high’ or ‘very high’ human development countries”. Indeed, this year’s report presents HDI values for 187 countries, and is the first index to use the latest International Comparison Program’s conversion rates of national currencies to purchasing power parity, released by the World Bank in May 2014.

A new Gender Development Index (GDI), which for the first time measures the gender gap in human development achievements has also been introduced in the 2014 report. The Report also introduces the idea of life cycle vulnerabilities, the sensitive points in life where shocks can have greater impact. While these new methods are useful and worthy of consideration, what happens is that the 2014 figures cannot be easily compared with those of previous years.

Mea Culpa

The UNDP itself has admitted that “Previous HDI values and rankings are retroactively recalculated using the same updated data sets and current methodologies, as presented in Table 2 of the Statistical Annex. The HDI rankings and values in the 2014 Human Development Report cannot therefore be compared directly to HDI rankings and values published in previous Human Development Reports.” My question to UNDP therefore is if that is so, why then try to rank countries at all because it would lead to discrepancies as has happened in the case of Seychelles.

Missing Data

If one looks at the Human Development Indices that have been used to calculate the ranking, one is astonished to find that there are huge blanks for Seychelles in the table that lists all countries with the criteria used. There are no values at all for Inequality-adjusted HDI, Coefficient of Human Inequality, Gender Inequality Index, Gender Development Index and Multidimensional Poverty Index, which are some of the main indices.

This perplexing gap is explained by UNDP in the Report as follows: “Not all indicators were available for all countries; caution should thus be used in cross-country comparisons. Where data are missing, indicator weights are adjusted to total 100 percent”. Since this is the case Seychelles cannot be compared to any other country. But more importantly if there is no data available for the key values what then is the point of even trying to rank countries.

Lack of environmental considerations:

As an environmental practitioner working in the sustainability field, I find it appalling that a UN report entitled “Sustaining Human Progress: Reducing Vulnerabilities and Building Resilience” contains little or nothing on the environment. The entire UN system, particularly UNEP and UNDP have time and time again said that ecosystem services are key to reducing vulnerabilities and building resilience. In fact, for the top scientists working in the field of resilience, ecological considerations are paramount.

A report that purports to illuminate vulnerabilities and resilience without analyzing environmental services and climate change falls short of being useful to a vulnerable small island developing state like Seychelles which relies so much on wise management of the natural environment. The recent Ocean Index for example ranked Seychelles as the number one country in protecting oceans, which are so vital to our socio-economic fabric. The Ocean Index defines a healthy ocean as one that sustainably delivers a range of benefits to people both now and in the future.

Pro-action

The debacle with the HDI shows us many things. The most important thing to keep in mind is that international reports sometimes fall short of accurately measuring small countries like Seychelles. However, the lesson learned from this Report is that we must be proactive and not reactive. We must as a matter of urgency mop up our information gathering system. Not only is new data needed on a range of subjects, but analysis, and not only presentation of statistics, is exceedingly necessary for existing data. We should not wait for international organisations to inform us of our own development status. We should instead be holding, analysing and reporting on all these areas of importance to any nation,

Reprinted form The People, 31 July 2014

Where there’s a Web there’s a Way. Or is there?

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Minister Sinon leading the way in laying fibre optic cables in May 2012 (photo Nation.sc)

The cable has landed! And with it the promise of better, faster & cheaper connectivity to what is known as the world wide web, internet or cyberspace. And with that hyper connectivity the promise of a change-making transition that would revolutionize the way we work and live. Transforming from an information to a knowledge economy by advancing human to human, human to machine, and machine to machine interactions.

Certainly the enhanced connectivity and visibility will be vital for sustainable development. One of the main constraints hindering Seychelles’ development is its geographical position – we are far from markets, and financial & knowledge centers. Increased cyber access to markets will give us the possibility new jobs and livelihoods through different business start-ups and economic opportunities. Access to the global knowledge society can bring new learning, ideas, innovation and partnerships. One example of this would be so called ‘cloud’ services, which allow sharing and processing of intellectual information and data by providing a global platform for collaboration.

People will be able to have faster e-conferencing and online meetings, thus saving time and money. Importantly for sustainable development these e-connections will reduce Seychelles carbon footprint. Seychelles currently has the largest per-capita carbon footprint in Africa. This is a consequence of our dependence on imports and on international tourism, but also on our own overseas travels. We may not need to travel as much if business can be done in cyber space. Some years ago I uploaded a Power Point presentation with my own voice digitally added on to be shown at a UN meeting without my physical presence there. With the arrival of the fiber optic cable though, so much more will be possible. Imagine being able to give fully interactive lectures (over the internet) to entire rooms of people, thereby sharing both information and expertise.

However, a large percentage of traffic carried over the internet is content for the purpose of entertainment and social networking. This includes everything from iTunes files, Facebook updates & BitTorrent traffic, to on-line gaming, video streaming and more. Many Seychellois will be very happy with the “infotainment”. But, as has happened elsewhere, it may not promote creativity, innovation and drive because so much of it is designed to be received in a passive manner.
Of course the ICT companies will want to make as much money as possible out of the new capacity, and will ensure that infotainment content takes precedence over other traffic because there is so much more profit to be made from these ‘top drawer’ services.

As we enter what may be the re-architecturing of our society, we must remain acutely aware of cultural, political, religious and privacy concerns. All manner of things from pornography to online purchasing will crowd our TVs, computers, phones, and other devices. The cable is not only a promise of better things to come, it will also test the limits of our understanding of who we are and what we want ourselves, our children and our country to be.

Nirmal Shah, The People 21 June, 2011

Seychelles and the blue economy at Rio+20

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Seychelles Vice President Danny Faure, who was representing the country at the UN Conference on Sustainable Development Rio+20, has said future negotiations on the green economy should include the issue of blue economy. “As islanders, we would like the blue economy to be an integral part of future negotiations on the green economy,” the Vice President told the Conference. “The oceans, seas, and their resources, not to mention the islands and coastal areas, are important for global food security and for achieving sustainable economic prosperity,” he said.

The existing international framework for the protection of the oceans, however, may not have the required capacity to meet the challenges and respond to pressures exerted on the marine environment, the Vice President said.

“Rio+20 should call for firm political commitment for better protection of the marine environment and define the modalities for implementation of a blue economy,” he added.

And thanks to sustained pressure and support of the oceans community, there are 20 paragraphs in a dedicated section on oceans and seas, and an additional three paragraphs on small island developing States (SIDS) in the Rio+20 outcome document (“The Future We Want”), which stressed the critical role the oceans play in all three pillars of sustainable development, and “commit[ed] to protect, and restore, the health, productivity and resilience of oceans and marine ecosystems, and to maintain their biodiversity, enabling their conservation and sustainable use for present and future generations,” the Global Oceans Forum says.

And at the “Leaders Valuing Nature” High-Level Leadership Platform at Rio+20, which was organised by the nature Conservancy and Global Island Partnership and co-hosted by H.E. Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono President of the Republic of Indonesia and Prime Minister Thomas of Grenada, Seychelles and five other nations (Antigua and Barbuda, Australia, Colombia, Grenada, Indonesia) and the Nippon Foundation, made commitments to preserve natural resources that provide livelihoods, food, protection from natural disasters and other benefits to people.

During this meeting, Vice President Faure said that if the Seychelles were able to complete a debt for adaptation to climate change swap that created a funding stream of at least US$2.5 million per year, it would establish 30% of its coastal zone as marine protected areas, with half of this area in no take zones. Seychelles further committed to providing three years of financial support the Global Islands Partnership and to continue to support the launching of the West Indian Ocean Challenge.

The green economy and the blue economy have been gaining ground in recent years, said H.E. Dr. Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono in his opening remarks. “They are not contradictory; they are complementary. Blue economy is an integral part of the green economy, which is our common objective. They are very much part of our sustainable future.”

Seychelles has also made a voluntary commitment to achieve 15% energy supply from renewable energy by 2030. This Voluntary commitment is based on the Barbados Declaration on Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in Small Island Developing States

Sources: http://www.globaltimes.cn/content/716460.shtml, the Nature Conservancy, UNCSD Voluntray commitments, and Global Oceans Forum.