Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Breaking the Silos: Implementing the ‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’

The‘2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development’ will require a new culture of “shared responsibility,” described by the UN Secretary-General as based on agreed universal norms, global commitments, shared rules and evidence, collective action, and benchmarking for progress.

This includes new forms of solution-oriented, inclusive and integrative multi-stakeholder partnerships, which will be a key element of Agenda 2030 and efforts to implement the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Friday, May 15, 2015

photo source: edition.cnn.com/

Everyone knows about it but no one wants to discuss it as one of the most important problems of  sustainable development and the transition to a Blue Economy. I’m talking about the F word – FAT

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: http://goo.gl/zcYDT ) 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: http://goo.gl/xt9lM

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%.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Seychelles has a Big Stock of Blue Carbon

Sea grasses in Seychelles (Grida.no)

The Seychelles archipelago has huge expanses of sea grasses, one of the largest in the Western Indian Ocean. Most people here mistake sea grasses for “seaweeds”. But sea grasses are flowering plants like plants on land unlike “seaweeds” which are algae.

For years many marine conservationists and agencies have given sea grasses stepdaughter treatment. Yet, these ecosystems have extremely important roles to play as habitats, food sources, and sediment stabilizers. Sea grass meadows are well frequented by fish and therefore are targeted by some trap fishermen. About 50 species of fish are found in the sea grasses around the granitic islands of Seychelles.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

What’s the future of the University?

University of Urbino signs MOU with Nature Seychelles

Its really a no-brainer - higher education and research are fundamental to our work in conservation and environmental management. Only by underpinning conservation with science, both social and natural, can we save biodiversity.

But higher education around the world is undergoing a huge transformation in terms of its role, mode of operation, and economic structure and value.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Eat like a caveman.

Do you want to be a caveman? (Healthyteacher.com)
There are people on this planet who are slimmer, stronger and faster than us. They rarely contract diseases such as arthritis, diabetes, hypertension, heart disease, schizophrenia and cancer, says Dr, Ben Balzer, a physician in the US.

These people are the last tribes of hunter-gatherers in the world. Their secret is their so-called natural” diet which has changed little from that of the first humans 2 million years ago, says Balzer, a proponent of the hunter-gatherer or Paleolithic diet, sometimes called the caveman diet. The thing is, would you want to live like them and eat the food they eat?

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Vertical Garden – a solution to the urban food blues?

Nature Seychelles portable Vertical Garden

So you want to grow herbs and spices but you don't have enough space? Live in an apartment and don’t have land around you for a veg garden? Have no fear Nature Seychelles has come up with a solution that will give everyone a garden. On the occasion of World Food Day vertical gardens are the latest innovation launched by Nature Seychelles’ Heritage Garden programme. Our portable model has been built from ‘found’ wood and recycled ice cream tubs, but really, you can use bamboo, plastic guttering, pipes, fencing or any other appropriate material. The garden can be as big as you want it to be. I would like to see a time when every home in the new estate at Perseverance has a thriving vertical garden. Wow! That would give each household a good measure of food security.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Prototype this! Scientists get money to apply research in the Western Indian Ocean

Nature Seychelles' Reef Rescuers - proof of concept
“You scientists are always doing more research on the same things. Why don’t you solve all these problems that we have here?” a venture capitalist in Kenya grumbled to me last week.

I was in Mombasa, Kenya last week for the Inception and Partnership meeting organized by WIOMSA, the organization of which I am the President. The meeting was to launch WIOMSA's brand new Marine and Coastal Science for Management program.

My friend the businessman would have been pleased if he had been present because this new 5 year program aims to fund research that will lead to demonstration on the ground. In other words making a workable prototype of whatever the research comes up with.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Roofs in Seychelles are rusting - is the sea getting saltier?

Cousin Island Field Station in 1973 when thatched roofs didn't rust

“I don’t understand it. We just changed the entire roof two years ago and now we need to replace it” says Kerstin Henri, Nature Seychelles’s Director. Kerstin is talking about the international Field Station on Cousin Island Special Reserve which had been re-roofed with supposedly good quality pre-painted, galvanized iron sheets.

“Cheap Ch....se crap” was someone's response. That may be so but I have another theory. I think that the ocean around the Seychelles has become saltier.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Seychelles animals among World’s Most Endangered

 World's Most Endangered: Seychelles Earwig
Most people who come across earwigs think they are creepy and want to kill them immediately. But there is one earwig that no one in Seychelles has seen alive. The Seychelles Earwig is known from a specimen collected at Morne Blanc on Mahe island.

The Seychelles Earwig, the Seychelles Sheath tailed bat (sousouri banan), the Seychelles Moominia snail have been included among the 100 most endangered species in the world. The report by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and IUCN has been released at the World Conservation Congress taking place in Korea.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Green Jobs - what's the reality?

Convincing government Ministers and young job seekers

As entire nations are being rescued, global unemployment is reaching record levels but at the same time the labor market is expanding by tens of millions of workers each year. In the face of the twin challenges of stagnating economies and climate change, stimulating green industry is more important than ever.

“It's time for a bailout for the environment: one that creates jobs, is global in scope, and can help rebuild communities amidst the ashes of the current economic crisis," says Michael Renner, author of the report, Green Jobs: Working for People and the Environment. The report is summarized from a longer study entitled Green Jobs: Towards Decent Work in a Sustainable, Low-Carbon World, commissioned by the United Nations Environment Programme, the International Labour Organization, the International Trade Union Confederation, and the International Organization of Employers.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

No fish and no fishers? The future of the Seychelles artisanal fishery looks bleak

Artisanal catch (Tim Holt)
Ah! A nice plate of grilled fish and rice. Familiar yet delicious. As much a part of Seychellois cuisine as it is an important piece of our cultural identity.

The Seychelles food staple is fish and rice. The rice comes from overseas but the fish from our waters. As individuals we eat more fish than almost anyone else in the world - every Seychellois eats 65 to 75 kilos of fish every year.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Something Wicked This Way Comes

mosquitoes spread the disease

 During my teenage foray into science fiction I read a novel by Ray Bradbury by this name which scared my pants off. It is about a dangerous character Mr. Dark who comes to a small town with his maniac carnival. Sometime later I bumped into the original phrase whilst reading Shakespeare’s Macbeth in school: “By the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes” says Macbeth.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Hot temperatures cool economies and heat up conflicts in poor countries

A new paper by Melissa Dell, Benjamin Jones and Benjamin Olken in the American Economic Journal: Macroeconomics reveals that increases in temperature may have reduced the industrial and agricultural production of developing countries.

The paper examines historical fluctuations in temperature in countries to identify effects on economic outcomes. The researchers found three key results. First, higher temperatures substantially reduce economic growth in poor countries. Second, higher temperatures may reduce growth rates, not just the level of output. Third, higher temperatures have wide-ranging effects, reducing agricultural output, industrial output, and political stability. The authors compared annual temperature and precipitation changes from 1950 to 2003 with aggregate economic output data. Based on the data, the researchers estimated that a one degree Celsius rise in temperature in a given year had reduced economic growth by about 1.3 percentage points on average.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Seychelles tops Ocean Health Index.

Global map of marine health index scores (Halpern et al, NCEAS 2012)

Seychelles and Germany have the fourth healthiest seas according to the Ocean Health Index which provides the first ever global benchmark of 171 coastal regions http://tinyurl.com/8mmb6co

The top 3 on the list are the US-owned Jarvis island in the Pacific, a grab bag of other US posessions labelled as USA Pacific Uninhabited Territories and Clipperton Island owned by France.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Into the Blue: Ocean Foundation offers Blue Carbon Offset

As a member of the International Advisory Board of the Ocean Foundation it gives me great pleasure to announce that the Ocean Foundation is offering the first Blue Carbon offset possibility.

The Foundation's SeaGrass Grow! project will be used to offset greenhouse gas emissions from the core activities of the 2012 International Seafood Summit. Seafood Choices to be held in Hong Kong from the 6th to 8th September. http://www.seafoodsummit.org

As such, the 2012 International Seafood Summit is a premier, global stage-setting opportunity for advancing blue carbon, an exciting and emerging concept that addresses climate change and promotes marine conservationhttp://goo.gl/oaxKD

The natural coastal ecosystems of seagrasses, tidal marshes, and mangroves take up and sequester large quantities of carbon. If these ecosystems are degraded or damaged by human activities, their capacity as carbon sinks is lost.