“We want to be a partner in this exciting new direction,” says Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO, on the creation of a Blue Economy Centre at Nature Seychelles. “Many people are still unclear about this new and game changing concept, so we have recently created a Blue Economy Centre headed by economist Kerstin Henri and have already established knowledge management tools.”
The Blue Economy is by no means a new concept despite recent increased discourse on economic development based on the use of the sea and its resources. Through the Blue Economy Centre, Nature Seychelles hopes to be part of the efforts to engage Seychellois in understanding the term and undertaking activities to realise sustainable ocean based economic growth.
A traditional fish trap being lowered into the water
To this end, under the Blue Economy Centre, Nature Seychelles has taken a stab at pointing out what the Blue Economy model should and should not be for Seychelles as well as the essential principles. This ‘Blueprint’ outlines the need to transition from the “business as usual model” of overexploitation; extractive industry; ecosystem and biodiversity degradation; and inequitable distribution of benefits and burdens to foreign investment.
In an article to The People, Shah points out that Seychelles should be at par with Singapore, an “economic juggernaut” in the global market. In a recent article in The Economist, Singapore was rated an economic success owing to its strategic location and natural harbor through which 40% of the world maritime trade passes. Additionally, Singapore continues to be friendly to foreign investment and over the years has enjoyed a stable and efficient government which makes for an ideal business environment for expansion and growth.
Cousin staff receiving tourists on the island
“One may say that that the third successes factor – governance – is still evolving in Seychelles and the IMF and other international partners have assisted the country in this regard,” says Shah. “The re-structuring must continue until the government can be comparable to that of places like Singapore. This is the factor that needs the most focus in coming years if we want to frog leap into the Blue Economy. We need to emulate the Singapore governance model by keeping government “small, efficient and honest” in the words of the Economist, and opening up much more space and resources for the private sector and NGOs.”
The Blue Economy Centre will draw from the work Nature Seychelles has undertaken for nearly two decades including marine conservation, coastal habitat restoration, eco-tourism, climate change adaptation and research. Cousin Island Special Reserve, a Marine Protected Area (MPA) under the management of Nature Seychelles is a wonderful example of an island whose natural habitat was restored and continues to be a draw for local and international tourists.