Agenda 2063 and the Blue Economy






Agenda 2063. The Africa We Want”, a plan for Africa’s structural transformation, was agreed upon by the African Union Golden Jubilee of May 2013. Continue reading Agenda 2063 and the Blue Economy


As Somali Piracy Drops Global Maritime Risks Rise

Somali pirate activity in the Indian Ocean has declined considerably. Yet in 2014 there was more than 25% rise in maritime piracy and armed robbery according to Maritime Risks Forecast. Somali pirates accounted for only 4% of global activity in 2014. Attacks by Nigerian groups in the Gulf of Guinea—another piracy hotspot in recent years—declined by 12%. Asia was the region with the most attacks on vessels in 2014 accounting for 30% of the global.


Tom Patterson writing in Forbes magazine in February this year says that though criminal activity is a persistent risk, maritime operators will be more affected by broader political, operational and security risks. Geopolitical tensions and territorial disputes in Asia will shape the maritime security environment in Asia for the foreseeable future. Geopolitical uncertainty over Russian sanctions affects dry bulk container and tanker shipping. An increase in the number of migrants fleeing conflicts in North Africa and the Middle East will place further strain on Mediterranean shipping routes.

Nirmal Shah, 

Cruise ships can be bad for the environment

Early this week I saw a huge cruise ship coming into harbor. The vessel was so large it dwarfed the port facilities. One usually associates cruise ships with retired people as passengers, but in reality this industry is one of the fastest growing components of global tourism. Continue reading Cruise ships can be bad for the environment

Tagging and Monitoring fish to safeguard Seychelles’ resources

“When I was growing up, I remember a lot of fishermen fishing outside Port Victoria, near what we used to call ‘The Far’. The Light House. In those days there were spawning aggregations of groupers every April. Fishermen knew to fish there for a big catch. This spawning site vanished even before the land reclamation because of overfishing.” Dr Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO said in introducing a workshop presentation on conventional and acoustic tagging of herbivorous fish. Continue reading Tagging and Monitoring fish to safeguard Seychelles’ resources

Forum created to address tuna fishery in Seychelles


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.


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

A New Way to Walk


The People 2 October 2014: When addressing the UN General Assembly last week, President Barrack Obama remarked “Seychelles President James Michel said it was up to the countries that burn the most coal, oil and gas to do the most. If they don’t do something, the Earth will not survive and that will be the end of us all, Michel said”

Time to Walk the Talk.

By quoting President Michel the United States has finally acknowledged the seriousness of climate change. Obama and Michel joined 120 heads of states and government last week to attend a climate summit entitled “Catalyzing Action” hosted by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. When Ban Ki-moon had invited world leaders to the climate summit on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly, he had envisaged that some other things would happen. The first “happening” was Climate Week in New York where 4000,000 people marched demanding that their leaders take action. Then days later the climate summit happened where our own President’s words were echoed by Obama. In November countries will meet to make pledges to fill up the Green Climate Fund. Then onwards next year to Lima, Peru, where the first draft of the so-called Paris agreement will be sorted out. March 2015 is the deadline for countries to agree on new national targets for cutting climate pollution. Only if this is done can success be grasped at the next conference of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCC) in Paris in December 2015. If not it means the end.

The President Enters the Ring Swinging

In his hard-hitting intervention at the climate summit President Michel exhorted world leaders to go beyond talk into action. He said “We have been given four minutes to address this plenary. It doesn’t matter. It is four minutes too many, I say! For now is not the time for speeches, but for action. We have heard it all before: the well-crafted speeches, the promises and the exhortations…We have also heard the scientific facts, the complaints, the pleas for help from those on the front line: Small Island Developing States.” But the President is an optimist before everything else. He has said he is hopeful that a legally binding agreement will be adopted in Paris next year. The president has said that the UN summit “has given a new momentum to the process of achieving successful climate talks that will be acceptable to all of us, small islands included, and I have much hope that we will reach an agreement in Paris next year”

The End of Seychelles As We Know It?

Seventy nine million tons of carbon dioxide (CO2), a main greenhouse gas, are released into the atmosphere every day from sources such as fossil fuel burning, deforestation and cement production. The UN is seeking to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius over the levels found before the Industrial Revolution began. But if this doesn’t happen, then by the end of the 21st Century greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere will have more than doubled. Across the planet temperatures would have risen by 3 to 8 degrees Celsius. The world as we know it would have disappeared. At least seventy percent of the land territory of Seychelles would be under water and what would be left would be facing greater storm frequency & intensity and flooding. The population would face the spread of infectious disease. We would have no port or airport and would be unable to get food and fuel from overseas. Our great grandchildren and their children will revert to the Stone Age. There may not even be a government – only groups of people scrabbling for territory, food and dominance

President Michel at the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York (
President Michel at the opening of the UN Climate Summit in New York (

We Refuse to be Victims

“Climate change – on our current path – is a crime against humanity. We are all guilty. And we are all victims. But increasingly, SIDS themselves, are refusing to be victims,” said President Michel in New York. The President went on to describe some of the things that the Seychelles government is doing to adapt to climate change including the debt for adaptation swap to create marine protected areas that build climate resilience while receiving debt reduction. But personally, I see the President’s refusal for Seychelles to become a victim as a huge inspiration for local action by people in our own country. Unfortunately, for too long Seychelles like all SIDS has portrayed itself as a victim of climate change because it didn’t see itself as a contributor to global warming. The danger with this position is that our people have become too blasé about personal responsibility. It’s the same all story all over again: Whoever you talk to in Seychelles about climate change is into denial and says “it’s somebody else’s problem to solve”.

We have to do something about our oil addiction

It isn’t someone else’s problem! Seychelles has a high per capita use of fossil fuels, more than 3 times that of Mauritius. It’s a dubious distinction that we are in the list of the 50 countries with the highest energy use per capita. Minister Pierre Laporte only this week remarked that 78% of the foreign currency generated by tourism goes to purchase petroleum products. Our lifestyles keep adding emissions and other impacts into the environment. Private car ownership is about 11,000 out of a total of about 17,000 vehicles in the country. This is the highest private car ownership per capita in the region, more than Mauritius and South Africa, actually the highest in Africa. It’s interesting to also note that the total number of persons with driving licenses is less than 10,000. Renewable energy is only now taking off. Electric and hybrid cars seem to be trickling in. The constraint is that the up-front investments into renewable energy are very high. We must somehow get these costs reduced to get more individual action.

We Have to Do Something about Our Big Ecological Footprint

It is said that Seychelles has the highest per capita ecological footprint in Africa. The idea of the ecological footprint concept is to compare the ecological area available in a country with the ecological area required to support a certain lifestyle, thus offering an instrument to assess if consumption is ecologically sustainable. Because we import so much including food and fuel our per capita carbon footprint is huge and is much larger than our ecological space. It may be wonderful to have so many goods in the shops but most of these come from somewhere else, transported by ships and planes that use fossil fuels and whose emissions contribute to global warming. Professor Stefan Gossling of Sweden and his colleagues published a paper in 2002 in the journal Ecological Economics showing that just to service the tourism market Seychelles has made itself unsustainable in terms of ecological foot-printing. The lesson to be learned is we must consume less from overseas and produce more locally.

We Must Be Champions

We must see ourselves as climate champions not climate victims -victims will always feel powerless, angry and frustrated. Nature Seychelles is one local organisation that has championed climate action seriously by going beyond talk. It has restored the wetland at Roche Caiman and proven that it can absorb flood waters effectively and work as a carbon sink. It has made Cousin island the first carbon neutral island in the world. One if it’s most successful projects attracting global attention is the restoration of coral reefs in the face of climate change. Nature Seychelles has now planted 40,000 pieces of corals, all grown in underwater nurseries using internationally accepted methods. The worldwide services of coral reefs have an average annual value estimated at US$172 billion. Coral reef services include the provision of food, raw materials, climate regulation, and moderation of extreme events, waste treatment/water purification, biological control, recreation, tourism and maintenance of genetic diversity. And one quarter of all marine species depend on coral at some time in their lives.

We Need a Climate Army to Win the Climate War

The only way to win the climate war is to mobilise everyone. The problem is that most of the funds coming into the country for climate change adaptation go through the Ministry of Environment and Energy. If we want to solve problems then we must have climate democracy as the world saw in New York. Organisations which can take action, and I mean real, effective action not more talk, must be supported to do so. At the SIDS meeting in Samoa I heard Tommy Remengesau the President of Palau say: “The future problems are not going to be solved by governments but by the private sector and civil society”. But our civil service culture in general has been not open to citizen input and collaboration. The need to control blocks creativity, innovation and personal initiative, all necessary components of what President Michel has described as the new frontier. It is a mentality that also refuses to admit that there are people outside government who may have more knowledge and drive than government officials. This has now become the biggest barrier to getting the private sector, NGOs and the rest of civil society united with government in combating climate change. To deal with climate change we must first change ourselves.

Nirmal Shah