The Blue Economy is a concept devised by Gunter Pauli – its aim is to shift society from “scarcity to abundance” by tackling issues that cause environmental problems with scientific solutions and new technologies. Seychelles is championing the Blue Economy as its future sustainable development model.
Seychelles’ economy is based on fishing and tourism, both of which by their nature are vulnerable to small changes. Illegal, unreported and unregulated fisheries, toxic dumping, pollution, climate change and ocean acidification are all issues that threaten the country’s economy and future.
Seychelles is comprised of low-lying islands, and so rising sea levels cause erosion and flooding of beaches. This is beginning to have a significant impact on the tourism industry and is putting the livelihoods of the Seychellois at risk. Warming ocean temperatures are also causing declining fish stocks, a vital national source of revenue.
The Blue Economy model aims to tackle these problems. However, it is not restricted to only improving fisheries, beaches for tourists, ports and maritime sea lanes. It looks at the ocean as a whole: something that can’t be divided up but must be viewed holistically and protected in its entirety.
Therefore, in a considerable move to protect its oceans, Seychelles completed a debt-for-nature swap in 2016 that enables conservation and climate adaptation goals to be achieved through debt restructuring and a marine spatial plan. The deal converts a portion of Seychelles’ foreign debt into a $22 million investment in marine conservation.
As part of the debt swap, Seychelles has committed to increasing its marine protection to 30 percent (from 0.04 percent) of its Exclusive Economic Zone and ensuring protection of all marine habitats and species. By 2021, marine protection areas in Seychelles will total more than 400,000 square kilometers of ocean and will have identified best practices for marine conservation using science and global knowledge and research. Once completed, the marine spatial plan will provide a zone designed for biodiversity protection, climate change adaptation and the Blue Economy.
The plan will contain a decision-making framework to guide government leaders on how to balance Seychelles’ conservation and climate change goals with its development needs. The process will involve engaging stakeholders from multiple sectors including fishing, conservation, infrastructure, ports, renewable energy, non-renewable resources, tourism and recreation. The future affects everybody – everybody should be involved in securing it.
“We know what the blue economy is not. It is not business as usual. It is not the current fishing patterns and practices. It is not distant fishing fleets from Europe coming to our waters. It cannot be a new brand for the old. It must be a new brand for the new economy that benefits locals as well as the world at large.”
– Dr Nirmal Jivan Shah, head of Nature Seychelles.