Seychelles promotes marine spatial plan at high level ocean conference



The Seychelles government will establish up to 400,000 square kilometres of marine protected areas by 2020 as part of a comprehensive marine spatial plan for its entire exclusive economic zone.

This will be achieved via a debt swap of up to $27 million with its Paris Club creditors and the government of South Africa, with the support of the Nature Conservancy and private capital investors interested in marine conservation.

The announcement was made by Rebecca Loustau- Lalane, the principal secretary in the Blue Economy Department, on the main stage of the recent ‘Our Ocean conference’ at the US State Department in Washington D.C.

She was speaking on behalf of Jean-Paul Adam, the Minister for Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy who missed the conference at the last moment owing to commitments back home.

Also attending the two-day conference was the chief executive of Nature Seychelles, Dr Nirmal Jivan Shah, who said that the main aim of the conference was to galvanise countries and institutions to do something real to protect this lifeblood of humanity.

“I’ve attended more than a hundred international conferences but this is the first time I’ve been to one where over 50 leaders ranging from President Barack Obama, foreign ministers, chief executives of companies, heads of international NGOs and chairs of philanthropic institutions each made a concrete commitment to save our common  ocean. In fact no one was allowed to speak unless he or she rolled something new out, be it  technology, partnerships, funding or marine protected areas,” said Dr Shah.

Indeed, in the plenary session of the conference Dr Shah formally launched the Forum of African Marine Science (FAMS), a new network between science academies, universities, and organisations from over 12 African countries designed to enhance communication and collaboration on ocean science, host academic exchanges to strengthen local capacity, and support ocean and blue economy policy engagement across Africa.

“This is a unique association of senior academics and experts and we want to be a go-to resource for government, international organisations and donors,” said Dr Shah.

Dr Shah, who admits he skips many international environmental conferences because they are simply “talk shops”, promising more than they actually deliver, said he was intrigued by the Our Ocean vision and mission and was persuaded to accept US Secretary of State John Kerry’s invitation to the conference by Dr Jane Lubchenco, the White House Science Envoy for the Oceans who was in Seychelles recently.

“Although the conference was at such a senior level it was small and select compared to the massive summits nowadays, such as the recently concluded World Conservation Congress in Hawaii, where thousands of participants create a ‘Tower of Babel’ and prevent any real interaction. Here I was able to network with top people from key international organisations, companies, foundations and governments agencies,” said Dr Shah.

He said the conference was a huge success in terms of concrete commitments being rolled out. 

“Participants announced over 136 new initiatives on marine conservation and protection valued at more than $5.24 billion, as well as new commitments on the protection of almost four million square kilometres (over 1.5 million square miles) of the ocean. The commitments focus on the key ocean issues of our time: marine protected areas, sustainable fisheries, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts on the ocean,” Dr Shah said.

In his opening remarks at the conference Mr Kerry said “We have to do things smarter and we have to do things faster”.

He was referring to the dire straits our ocean is in and the actions needed to reverse the trend.

“I grew up in Hawaii.  The ocean is really nice there. And anybody who grows up on an island ‒ certainly those of us who grew up in Hawaii ‒ learn to appreciate very early on its magic, how it inspires awe, and sometimes, if the waves are a little too big and you’ve gone a little too far out, how it inspires fear and a healthy respect.  And the notion that the ocean I grew up with is not something that I can pass on to my kids and my grandkids is unacceptable.  It's unimaginable,” President Obama said in his remarks.

President Obama, who was the keynote speaker at the conference, said “the problem that confronts all of us today is that we’re asking far too much of our ocean in asking it to adapt to us. Life on Earth depends on the ocean.  A healthy ocean is central to human wellbeing. The ocean feeds billions of people, employs millions of workers, and generates trillions of dollars in the world economy. 

Yet, as vast as the ocean and its resources are, they are not infinite.  And today the ocean is under tremendous pressure from human activity – including unsustainable and illegal fishing, marine pollution, and climate-related impacts: the majority of fishing zones of the world are depleted, coral reefs are dying and the ocean is acidifying”.

The official mandate of the Our Ocean Conference ( is about taking actions for the ocean. It’s about conservation of marine ecosystems and sustainable use of marine resources – as the world agreed in the sustainable development goals. It’s about a Blue economy in which science-based conservation and sustainable management of the ocean and its resources is the pathway to economic development and growth, not the obstacle.






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