Friday, November 8, 2013

"Blue Economy" needs R&D

Opening ceremony of the WIOMSA Scientific Symposium

Last week, as WIOMSA President, I presided over the opening of the 8th edition of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Symposium held in Maputo, Mozambique. This week -long gathering of over 400 scientists from the Southern & Eastern African and Western Indian Ocean countries and beyond, is the largest and most prestigious event of its kind in the region. Keynote lectures, Special Sessions, as well as over a hundred presentations of research results and rooms full of scientific posters by local scientists were the highlights. This was the 8th edition. Organised by WIOMSA it has been going on since 1997.

Thursday, October 3, 2013

OIl and Whales dont mix

Whales stranded in a Madagascar lagoon. Photo: Tim Collins
As oil exploration intensifies in our waters, we need to understand the potential impacts of not only oil drilling, if indeed commercially-viable oil deposits are found, but also of oil exploration on marine biodiversity.

Way back in 1990, in a far- reaching paper written by myself and petroleum geologist Phil Plummer, the potential dangers of petroleum exploitation to the marine environment, which is not only beautiful and unique but very important to livelihoods and the present and future economy of Seychelles, were highlighted.

Friday, September 13, 2013

Food Insecurity – The Next Zombie Apocalypse

Sounds like some B movie? Well, it was to get your attention to talk about the coming food scarcity. Seychelles ranks last in Africa as regards investment in agriculture. Old news you say. Indeed, I reported on this dubious distinction twice already in my articles in the local media. But it seems that the dire news has not really found traction in the general Seychellois populace, the private sector or most government ministries outside the agriculture sector.

Peter Sinon, The Minister for Natural Resources seems to be the lone voice in the wilderness. He said in the National Assembly this week that his Ministry is working to remove obstacles which are hindering the progress of the agricultural sector . This move is really necessary but I wish the entire country would pay attention to what global experts have been calling “the coming food crisis”.

Thursday, August 29, 2013

Costs of damage to oceans could bankrupt most nations

Small island states will be bankrupted if damage continues
A new study says the cost of damaging our oceans could run up to $2 trillion. Pollution, overfishing and climate change are severely compounding each other and shouldn't be tackled individually, the report warns.

Pollution, overfishing and climate change are just some of the environmental pressures that are amplifying each other more than previously assumed, according to a new study of the world's oceans by the Stockholm Environment Institute (SEI).

Monday, August 12, 2013

Face Time with Minister Alain St Ange on beach and hotel access

Nirmal Shah and Alain St. Ange
Many, even some hospitality industry pundits, thought that the growth of the 5 star hotel segment in Seychelles was a one day wonder. But up-market establishments really seem to be the next big thing for our tourism industry, with new 5 star hotels on the cards and other older establishments ratcheting up their game through refurbishments and re-branding.

The sun, sea and sand marketing formula has dominated the entire tourism spectrum in Seychelles since the 70’s and is still the dominant brand positioning.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

FAT - Missing From The SIDS Agenda

As Small Island Developing States (SIDS) representatives meet this week in Seychelles to prepare for the small island summit to be held in Samoa next year, I propose they focus on FAT. FAT?? Yes, you heard right. FAT. And its missing from the agenda!!

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Forget about Creol Architecture - What about Creol Agriculture ?

Herbalists & agronomists at Nature Seychelles' "Creole Garden"
The international Environment Day theme this year is 'Think, Eat, Save'. Linking food and agriculture with the environment is timely. It comes at a time when Seychelles has been ranked the last country in Africa in meeting agricultural goals - a very dubious distinction indeed!

I have pleaded repeatedly for a new approach to food and nutrition security in Seychelles. The Nature Seychelles’ Heritage Garden at Roche Caiman is showcasing some exciting aspects of this new approach to a distinctly Seychellois agriculture - “going back” to what I call the Creole Garden.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Eyes Wide Shut - how effective are EIAs?

Plan for Police Bay development available on the internet

The public scoping for the proposed Police Bay hotel development (see my previous blog) has brought EIAs into the public eye with a bang. In fact, this area is listed in the law as an Ecologically Sensitive Area and therefore one that needs an EIA for any project undertaken there. The public meeting at Takamaka was arranged by the developers and therefore it was a response required by law.

Every once in a while an advert appears in the Seychelles Nation stating that an Environmental Impact Assessment for some proposed hotel or other development is available for public inspection. Environmental Impact Assessments or EIAs are necessary for many types of development under Seychelles law. The Environment Protection Act and the Environment Protection (Impact Assessment) Regulations, S.I.39 of 1996 defines the types of development requiring EIAS as well as the procedures necessary. EIAs have been undertaken under this law since 1996, the first one for a hotel development on Praslin which I undertook. EIAs are conducted by consultants hired by the developer.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

A Take Away From Takamaka

Proposed resort development at Police Bay
The world is changing. And so is Seychelles. Things that we took for granted a few years ago are now being challenged. It's probably ironic but not unexpected that with government sanctioned "people-centred development", fuelled by a liberalising economy, taking centre stage in our country, we hear voices clamouring to be heard. 

This is the single most important message I took away from the Police Bay tourism development public scoping meeting held at Takamaka last Saturday. People wanted to be heard, and more than that, they wanted their needs and wants to be acted on by authorities. 

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Everyone a farmer?

Nature Seychelles' book 
The Seychelles is burdened with meetings – scores of them every month with the majority being quite forgetable and having little impact. However, I was at a not-so-ordinary workshop recently which despite not attracting enough publicity will, in my opinion, turn out to be a game changer. This was the national food and nutrition security workshop organized by the Ministry of Natural Resources.

I was taken by the notion of trying to rebrand agriculture as the food AND nutrition security sector. By doing so it is possible to shift our thinking and find new and innovative solutions for agriculture in Seychelles, which by all accounts is in the doldrums

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Where are the Green Buildings in Seychelles?

Nature Seychelles' Zero Energy Net (ZEN) bulding.
I know and accept that we live in a small island republic, distant from markets and knowledge centres, but I’m still haunted by the notion that the world is passing us by. One of the world trends, if I can call it that because it started in the 1970’s, that hasn’t taken off in Seychelles is the concept of Green Buildings or Green Design.

Green buildings have been developed in response to the energy crisis and growing concerns about the environment. One would have thought the urgent need in Seychelles to save energy and reduce environmental problems should have encouraged a wave of green buildings. But even new infrastructure with ample investment such as Eden Island don’t have solar energy, rain water harvesting, etc.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Only PETs allowed

Visitors on the PET-recycled boardwalk

You could be forgiven if you thought the boardwalk at the Nature Seychelles’ run Sanctuary at Roche Caiman was made from wood. The 600 metre long boardwalk looks like wood but is made entirely from recycled PET bottles. The planks, trusses and beams are made in the UK and are guaranteed to last 40 years with little or no maintenance.

 While most plastics can, in principle, be recycled, PET bottle recycling is more practical because of the high value of the PET resin and the almost exclusive use of PET for water and soft drink bottling. The main uses for recycled PET are polyester fiber, strapping, and non-food containers. Planks and poles such as the ones used by Nature Seychelles at the Sanctuary at Roche Caiman are also produced.

Negotiations between EU and Seychelles for Tuna fisheries

EU-flagged tuna vessels in Port Victoria
The European Union (EU) and the Seychelles met in Brussels on 15-17 April 2013, for the second round of negotiations to agree on a new Protocol to the Fisheries Partnership Agreement, which expires in January 2014.

The Agreement with the Seychelles is the most significant tuna agreement in the Indian Ocean both in terms of the fishing access it provides the EU and the financial benefits derived by the Seychelles as a result of the EU fleet's activities in the region.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Singing the seagrass carbon blues

Guitarist Gary Cox
In a previous blog I wrote about the importance of seagrasses in carbon storage (see: ) Sea grass meadows cover between 30-60 million hectares (around 0.2% of the area of the oceans) and between 4.2 to 8.4 petagrams of organic carbon (one petagram is equal to a thousand million tonnes) are stored in the top metre of seagrass soils. A less conservative estimate suggests the figure could be as high as 19.8 petagrams. Soils on land, by comparison, cover 15 billion hectares and contain between 1500-2000 petagrams of organic carbon. A further 75.5 to 151 teragrams of carbon are stored in seagrass itself (one teragram is equal to one million tonnes). 

WTF is all that???? Well if you are baffled don't be! Gary Cox and Bill Dennison have made a great blues song about seagrasses and blue carbon. Check it out:

Monday, April 15, 2013

Somali piracy declines as security measures take effect

A sea change in the global response against Somali piracy maritime piracy was seen in 2012. Between naval operations, improved international coordination, continued observance of industry best practices, and increased use of private armed guards, the number of hijackings dropped 50% from 2011, and attempted attacks fell by just over 70%.