The Republic of Seychelles is an archipelago of 115 islands within a rich tropical marine ecosystem in the Western Indian Ocean. The Seychelles’ Exclusive Economic Zone and Territorial Sea are 1.35 million square km, with a land area of only 455 square km. The island ecosystems have high rates of species endemism and their global importance for marine biodiversity is highlighted by UNESCO World Heritage Sites – Aldabra Atoll UNESCO World Heritage Site. The marine waters support thousands of species of fish as well as regionally significant populations of seabirds and marine mammals. The cold water water upwelling to the Mahe Plateau supports a rich ecosystem of sharks, pelagic fish, cetaceans and invertebrates.
Tourism and tuna fisheries are both vitally important to the economy, and Seychelles is a valuable partner in regional and global trade through shipping and international port facilities in Victoria on Mahe Island. The dropoff habitats leading from the Mahe Plateau are excellent for the local sport fishing and marine charter operators, and are also important for the semi-industrial longline and artisanal fisheries. Seychelles and foreign owned tuna fishing vessels harvest four species of tuna in Seychelles’ waters using purse seine and longline vessels. The unique geology of Seychelles is of interest to the petroleum sector, and seismic surveys have been undertaken to explore oil & gas potential.
Like other small island developing states (SIDS), Seychelles is concerned about the effects that increased storm frequency and rising sea levels may have on coastal areas. In addition, coral bleaching from warm ocean temperatures dating back to the late 1980s threatens the beautiful coral reefs that provide valuable ecosystem services for people and their livelihoods, including artisanal fisheries and tourism. The Blue Economy Roadmap is important for Seychelles to support its sustainable development goals, diversify its economy, and address climate change adaptation and ocean management.
In 2012, Seychelles committed to a 30% marine protection goal for its waters. In 2014, the government began the process of developing a comprehensive marine spatial plan with facilitation and process leadership from The Nature Conservancy. The marine plan will ensure representative species and habitats have long-term protection, resiliency of coastal ecosystems with a changing climate, and ensure economic opportunities for fisheries, tourism and other uses. The Seychelles MSP will be the second largest in the world by area, and the first comprehensive MSP in the Western Indian Ocean.
In 2016, TNC completed the world’s first marine debt converstion aimed at ocean conservation and climate change adaptation with the Government of Seychelles and its Paris Club creditors. TNC’s leadership for the MSP process tincludes facilitating meetings with stakeholders, and managing communication materials, geospatial data management, spatial analyses and cartographic outputs.
- Process design and faciliation
- Science and technical expertise
- Stakeholder engagement
Lead Authority: Government of Seychelles
Facilitation: The Nature Conservancy
Other Partners: Government of Seychelles – UNDP GEF Programme Coordinating Unit
Phase 1 of the Seychelles MSP Initiative began in February 2014 and was completed in February 2018. Phase 1 included the first milestone for marine protection – 15% – and two new areas for marine protection were gazetted and officially designated: Zone 1 – Aldabra Group and Zone 2 – Amirantes to Fortune Bank. Zone 1 is for high biodiversity protection and Zone 2 is for medium biodiversity protection and sustainable uses. Milestone 1 covers more than 210,000 sq km (81,000 sq miles) and successfully reaches the target for 16.1% by area.
Phase 2 began in March 2018, will continue through Dec 2020, and has two milestones. Milestone 2 is for 7.5% by area and consultations were held from March to October 2018. New areas were proposed for protection and are in the final stages for designation and gazetting. Milestone 3 was launched in March 2019 and is for the final 7.5% of the area. Phase 2 will also deliver on SMART objectives for climate change adaptation and the Blue Economy.
The Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan will be completed by 2020 and implementation will begin in 2021. The plan will be adapted and revised over time.
Fact Sheets and Project Links
Joanna Smith, Ph.D.
Seychelles MSP Process and Science Lead
Director, Ocean Planning and Mapping
Global Oceans Team
Nature United, Canada
Helena Sims, B.Sc.(Hons.)
Seychelles MSP Project Manager
The Nature Conservancy, Africa