SEYCHELLES: PROTECTING OUR SEAS IS GOOD FOR SOCIETY

The National Parks Authority held month-long celebrations to mark 30 years of Marine Parks conservation.  Part of the celebrations  included an exciting tour to Curieuse Island on Saturday June 13 for the reopening of the famous Doctor's House used by Scottish Doctor William McGregor to look after his patients during the leper colonies era. The house has been renovated and serves as an education and information centre, and no doubt is a key touristic attraction. Curieuse Island is one of the Country's fourteen marine reserves, protected under the Nature and Conservancy Act and accorded a strict non-utilization status.

Through this protection, there has been notable successes, including the safeguarding of marine species and the protection

Part of the Curieuse Marine Park

of coral reefs and critical marine habitats.

There was therefore much reason to celebrate at the reopening, not in the least being the marine parks contribution to the Seychelles economy through tourism and fisheries. Mr. Joel Morgan, the Minister for Environment, Natural Resources and Transport, noted in his speech, an increase in the number of nesting turtles on the shores of the parks over the last ten years.

And as the Minister confirmed, the parks are not only protecting marine habitats from destructive activities, but also promoting the growth and reproduction of coral line fish species which would otherwise have been depleted by human population, predation and natural phenomenon such as coral bleaching.

According to the IUCN (The World Conservation Union) and its World Commission on Protected Areas (WCPA) web portal on oceans, "Scientific evidence shows that marine reserves usually boost the abundance, diversity, and size of marine species living within their borders. Marine reserves may also be able to replenish fished areas when young and adult fish move out of the reserve".

The two organizations are part of global efforts to save oceans heavily impacted by human activity. "The sheer number of people who use and depend on the ocean, and the sometimes unwise practices we adopt, have created problems such as overharvest of resources, reduction in biodiversity, and degradation of marine habitats and species, among others. We risk the very ecosystems on which our survival depends" they say.

One way to better protect  oceans is by creating marine protected areas.

Globally, the statistics on protected ocean areas are not encouraging: only 0.8% of the world's oceans are protected, and only 0.08% of this protection is in marine reserves. Various targets have been adopted to increase the levels of marine protection but none will be met unless there is more commitment towards speeding up the creation of more areas under protection by countries with marine areas.

The Seychelles distinguished itself for establishing one of the first Marine Protected Areas in the South Western Indian Ocean; the Sainte Anne Marine National Park in 1973, subsequently adding 14 marine reserves. The status accorded to Seychelles marine parks is not only beneficial to Seychelles, but is contributing to protecting world oceans.

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