Authorities collaborate to eliminate illegal activities in Port Glaud region | 19 July 2019
The Illegal Activities Committee of Port Launay held its first workshop at Constance Ephelia Resort yesterday morning to educate police and coastguard on local maritime and protected area laws and regulations pertaining to Seychelles coastal waters.
The committee comprises representatives from the tourism department, Seychelles Maritime Safety Administration (SMSA), Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Seychelles Coast Guard, Seychelles Police Force, Constance Ephelia Resort and the district administration (DA) and member of the National Assembly for Port Glaud Egbert Aglae.
The aim of the workshop, which was attended by representatives of the Seychelles Licensing Authority (SLA), Marine Police, Coast Guard and police officers from Anse Royale Police Station, is to better equip the participants to detect any illegal activity when they are conducting their routine surveillance and patrols in the region.
To kick off the workshop, two presentations were facilitated by officials from SNPA and SMSA on the relevant laws, regulations and policies in place that give powers to agencies to take action against offences such as illegal fishing and poaching in protected areas.
Marine Operations Coordinator of SNPA, Gilberte Gendron, explained the mandate of SNPA and noted that one of the limitations that make it problematic for SNPA to effectively fulfil its mandate is the existing legislation in place which is outdated and which is contradicted by other legislation.
The relevant laws pertaining to Baie Ternay and Port Launay marine park, namely the Baie Ternay Marine National Park (Designation) Order and the Port Launay Marine National Park (Designation) Order, both of which are designated under the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act, Chapter 141 (1979) set out lenient penalties for offences including lenient fines of R2000 and 3-month prison sentences.
Furthermore, Ms Gendron noted the numerous issues faced by SNPA in managing protected areas including excessive damage caused to coral reefs by indiscriminate anchoring of charter boats and yachts coming into parks, poaching of octopus and turtles and lack of information provided to visitors on sustainable use of parks.
She concluded by informing the participants that new legislation has been drafted but is awaiting the Cabinet of Ministers endorsement.
“A new protected areas (PA) legislation will be developed and this will become the principal statute that implements this policy and will replace or combine some of the existing legislations. The new PA will further be complimented by the Physical Planning Act and Regulations, a revised Fisheries Act, and a revised Environmental Protection Act,” Ms Gendron stated, making reference to the illegal activities that take place within protected areas including the Port Launay and Baie Ternay National Park.
The second presentation was delivered by Captain Marc Hoareau and Anissa Hermitte from SMSA who also detailed the mandate of the entity and the offences that SMSA can take action against, as per its mandate.
Participants voiced numerous concerns and proposed that the laws in place need to be revised and updated to reflect modern times and circumstances. In particular, they noted that the laws do not make provisions for the licensing and registration of jet-skis which makes it difficult for the SNPA, Marine Police and Coast Guard to identify jet-ski owners. According to the participants, jet-skis are a common sight in protected marine areas and owners do not necessarily respect the rules and regulations in place and pose a risk to the environment and other users of the marine park.
Captain Hoareau of SMSA also noted that jet skis also pose a problem for SMSA and that a Beach Control Act and SMSA Act is at the Attorney General’s Office and that it will make provision for laws and regulations to address the problem.
Other concerns centred around maritime vessels including older model yachts that are not equipped with retention facilities and thus all the sewage is released into the oceans. Captain Hoareau asserted that this will also be addressed by the new legislation.
Member of the National Assembly for Port Glaud Egbert Aglae stated that the committee is imperative to address the illegal activities that are going on in the Port Launay and Baie Ternay region.
“We feel that there is a lack of coordination between the concerned agencies. The idea to form a committee started over three years ago. We have had constant dialogues with the Ministry of Tourism, the hotel and the marine park authority and since there is now some changes in the way the maritime authority operates and it is more ideal for them to support us now since they are autonomous now,” he said.
“At the same time, we are considering the regulations that are in place and we feel that there are a lot of weaknesses and shortcomings and there is a lack of coordination and we feel that by working together and collaborating, all stakeholders will understand their roles, how to react when there is an incident,” Mr Aglae noted.
He added that the Committee’s priority is to educate the general public inclusive of boat operators, those offering excursions as well as the public since the environment is everybody’s concern.
“It is always our aim to get the public involved since this concerns the environment and the tourism industry and in our region, we have two reserves, one marine and a forest and it is always our aim to bring people and we are already working on it and we feel that they need to be more active. They should join the initiative and the public in other regions should also be concerned since the same activities are happening in Beau Vallon and on the inner islands but we need a collective effort rather than everyone pointing to the other and saying it is the other’s responsibility. If we all work together things will move forward,” MNA Aglae asserted.
Hon. Aglae addressing the gathering