2053 Seychelles - Mainstreaming Biodiversity Management into Production Sector Activities

Isolated from the continents for 65 million years, the fauna and flora of the Republic of Seychelles have evolved into unique species of Gondwanan lineage. This archipelago nation is a repository of globally important terrestrial diversity and a storehouse of marine biodiversity. Additionally, Seychelles is part of one of Conservation International’s designated biodiversity hotspots, Madagascar and the Indian Ocean Islands. Due to a variety of human-induced pressures, this biodiversity faces the risk of extirpation and—in some instances—outright extinction. These pressures relate to the fundamental constraints of Seychelles’ geography, which are typical of Small Island Developing States (SIDS): small land area and population, remoteness from major markets, limited natural resources, and environmental vulnerability.

The country’s most important assets are the truly rare beauty of its environment, and its significant fishery resources. This biodiversity serves as the basis for the two major economic sectors in Seychelles—tourism and fisheries. However, these sectors currently pose the main threats to the very biodiversity on which they rely. Overfishing is taking a toll both on specific species that are highly sought and on fish stocks where incipient control is contributing to resource depletion. Poorly planned tourism developments can result in the disturbance of habitats and the degradation of already stressed ecosystems. However, tourism offers some of best opportunities for Seychelles to generate finance for conservation and interest in the theme. Thus, the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity is of vital importance to the country’s development.

Past efforts at biodiversity conservation in Seychelles have focused on protected areas. Recognizing that many threats to biodiversity are associated with the main production sectors, this GEF-funded project differs from past efforts by taking a sector-based approach. Through “mainstreaming” biodiversity management, the project seeks to integrate biodiversity conservation into the day-to-day operations of those sectors—the tourism and fisheries industries.

The project will: (a) strengthen the systemic and institutional capacities for mainstreaming biodiversity management; (b) develop methods and means for integrating biodiversity into artisanal fisheries management; and (c) make biodiversity conservation a routine part of business operations in the tourism sector. Partners in this project include the Government of the Republic of Seychelles, USAID and a number of national NGOs.

Though early in its implementation, the project has made significant progress. The project has supported the formation of various partnerships and the development of conservation management plans for several islands. Also under project support, joint management plans were established for areas across six islands with a total area of over 600 ha. Other select results include:

Increased investment in conservation. Stemming from the project’s work with the tourism sector, there has been a visible increase in the annual investment in collaborative sustainable management models by the sector. The project reported an increase of approximately 20% for yearly investments in conservation activities, which was determined based on the newly established tourism-conservation partnerships and newly managed areas. The project will conduct similar work with the fisheries sector in the near future.

Fisheries association. The project facilitated the establishment of the Praslin Fishers Association, the first artisanal fishers association in Seychelles, which will be instrumental in developing the co-management of fisheries resources on Praslin Island. The project is also assisting the government in developing its capacity to manage fisheries within sustainable limits through the deployment of highly qualified technical assistance.

Promoting ecotourism. The project has initiated several activities at the national level in the tourism sector: the development of improved guidance for investment tourism developers; the consideration of the adoption of a national tourism sustainability label; and the development of guidelines and criteria for joint management of ecologically sensitive sites with private tourism operators. Over 800 ha of ecologically sensitive habitat have been placed under improved conservation management plans through collaborations among NGOs, the government and private tourism operators.