Keynote Address by President James Michel at the National Stakeholder Dialogue Forum on the Blue Economy held on the 09th December 2014
Tue, 09 December 2014 | Blue Economy
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is not possible to address sustainable development unless we are addressing the Blue Economy.
No discourse today relating to Small Island Developing States, to ocean governance, to management and exploitation of marine resources, is possible without mention of the “Blue Economy”.
We have articulated and propagated this concept. From the Rio Summit on sustainable development in 2012, to the special conference on the Blue Economy that we organised in Abu Dhabi in 2013, to the Samoa summit on Small Island Developing States in 2014 and to the UN Climate summit a few weeks ago, the concept is now firmly established on the international agenda.
And we are all very proud of it!
We are proud of the way in which the world has responded to our people’s call.
Seychelles does not have the most experts, the most economists, the most financial institutions… But we have a population that understands that the ocean is our way of life. It is our life source. We have a people who understand that our oceans should provide more benefits to our own communities. And we all know that with the right frameworks our oceans can bring transformational development.
Whenever I have spoken internationally on the Blue Economy, I have been convinced that Seychellois are well placed to be the greatest of activists for the Blue Economy. When I meet the fishermen who are building their own sustainable brands and who have created community partnerships, this conviction grows.
When our young people create innovation hubs to share ideas internationally and nationally, I am more inspired. When our NGOs remind us that we are a ‘large ocean nation’, the momentum for our blue economy goes from strength to strength. And when our private sector is bringing forward innovative public-private partnerships, and seeking to build new revenue streams, my faith in the activism of the Seychellois only grows.
Your presence here today is testament to your commitment to and participation in the Blue Economy.
You represent a wide and diverse range of stakeholders that are actively involved in one way or another in the Blue Economy: fishermen who harvest our marine resources, the Coast Guard who protect our marine space, workers in the port, scientists, environmentalists, representatives of the tourism industry, academia, civil society and representatives of foreign tuna companies that have found it important to come to Seychelles for this dialogue.
I bid you all a very warm welcome to this forum.
I also take this opportunity to particularly welcome our partners from the Commonwealth Secretariat. After Seychelles emphasised its desire to develop the Blue Economy at the last CHOGM in Colombo, I express our heartfelt appreciation to the Secretary General and the organisation for assisting us with the expertise to truly harness the full potential of our oceanic space. The Commonwealth experts will help us establish a framework for assessing the opportunities available to Seychelles for diversification and sustainable growth beyond the land-based economy and for assessing Seychelles state of preparedness to realize these opportunities.
Ladies and gentlemen,
Industrial tuna purse-seining activities started around three decades ago with our French and Spanish partners. This led to the transformation of the economy and made the fisheries sector one of the pillars of our economy. Much has been achieved but more remains to be done.
We need to have a more integrated fishing industry where the value chain is reinforced and where shore-based activities are developed with local participation. I welcome the SAPMER development as an example of public-private partnership that also creates opportunities for local companies.
It is important that nothing is wasted from the sea, that the by-catch is fully utilised, that value addition is increased and that more Seychellois work on industrial fishing vessels. The industry must be fully integrated to enable more sharing of the wealth by both local and foreign investors.
Ladies and gentlemen,
It is clear that a “business as usual” approach will not suffice to allow us to achieve what we wish to achieve.
Our first priority must be sustainability. This is where the management of our maritime safety spaces is so important, and where our various initiatives to create new marine-protected areas and also to better manage stocks must work hand in hand. We must also be ready to innovate and look beyond what is tried and tested.
In my recent meeting with President Hollande in Paris, sustainability and innovation were at the heart of our discussions. I am pleased that following this visit the Agence Française de Développement will be actively exploring ways in which financing can be made available both for the public and private sector. I also ask Seychellois banks to play their part to make affordable credit readily available to our Blue Economy entrepreneurs.
We also cannot afford to address the Blue Economy without building our climate resilience. As we speak, negotiations are on-going in Lima on a legally binding agreement on climate change. The Blue Economy approach is one of the best ways in which the governments of the world can reconcile reducing emissions with sustained long-term economic growth.
People of Seychelles,
The world’s new economic frontier is the oceans.
This is more than evident for all Seychellois. We are conscious of the fact that our landmass occupies an area of just 455 square kilometres but that the ocean represents over 99 per cent of our territory. It is our ocean, for our Seychellois!
We are gathered here today to identify all the opportunities that it represents and what we need to do to open up those opportunities.
But we are not starting from scratch.
My Government has invested heavily in creating new opportunities in fisheries and the related maritime sector activities. We have created a new fishing port in Providence and, in so doing, we have offered opportunities for Seychellois fishermen to add value to their catch. We are now finalising a new phase for the development of Providence.
We have also built a new fishing port on Ile du Port.
We have created new opportunities for the involvement of Seychellois companies in semi-industrial and industrial fishing.
We have strengthened the Maritime Training Centre through a partnership with Sri Lanka for training of our young people in this field.
Many more Seychellois businesses are making use of the available opportunities to develop maritime-based tourism activities.
But as we continue to create new opportunities for our people, we have to recognise that we face many challenges where our ocean is concerned.
We are concerned about diminishing fish stocks.
Illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing (IUU) is also a serious problem.
Piracy has been considerably contained but we remain conscious that there are zones of instability that pose a threat to security on the high seas.
Seychellois exporters of swordfish face unfair barriers to the European market because of unjust phytosanitary regulations.
These are challenges that we need to address and we need to address them now. But more importantly we need to speak of the opportunities that we can create, which we can create for our Seychellois entrepreneurs.
Port Victoria is already a major fisheries centre of the Indian Ocean. But it can be much more than this. For instance, in the fisheries sector we can intensify and diversify the transformation of our products and generate more revenue, based on their quality. We can also develop our cargo network to become a regional centre of distribution and re-exportation.
Where aquaculture is concerned, Government has carried out a study, which demonstrates the multiplier effects of that sector for all types of businesses – from large investments involving foreign partnerships where it is necessary, and Seychellois alone where it is possible, as well as opportunities for small local enterprises.
Ocean-based renewable energy is of vital interest for us, given that we do not have sufficient space for solar farms or to erect wind turbines.
We are all aware of the importance of our tourism industry. It is the engine of our economy. The Blue Economy can add further diversification to it, creating more revenue and added opportunities for our people.
The potential development of our petroleum resources under our seabed should also form part of our ambitions to develop the Blue Economy. We have already invested significant efforts in implementing a legal framework to ensure that developments in that sector do not adversely affect the environment and that they take place in all transparency. We should also consider other mineral resources that could potentially be found beneath our sea.
This forum presents yet another opportunity for us to chart our future.
We need to keep an open mind. We need to prepare ourselves to seize all available opportunities.
We can all contribute to the discussions. There are no taboo subjects. Let us all work together in the spirit of sharing and solidarity.
Our work does not end here, however.
We need to disseminate the conclusions and recommendations that we have reached here, as well as take into consideration the views of the public at large.
This dialogue on the Blue Economy is not just for one generation. It concerns us all. It concerns our parents and grandparents. It concerns our children.
The sea has always been a source of livelihood for the Seychellois. The Blue Economy, we are all convinced, can increase substantially the opportunities from it.
The Blue Economy we are aiming for is about participation, the creation of new opportunities and social justice. Every Seychellois has a stake in it.
I am convinced that we can achieve our objectives.
I am even more convinced when I see what is happening around me. I see everyday more Seychellois assuming their responsibilities to create more opportunities for themselves through the Blue Economy.
And at this point I would like to pay tribute to the fishermen who have joined together in associations and brought better services to their respective communities. I pay tribute to all those enterprises that have invested and created new outlets for their products. I pay tribute to the owners of fishing vessels who, in spite of numerous challenges, have not hesitated to create a Seychelles fishing fleet, based on quality and sustainable fishing. I also pay tribute to the Seychellois entrepreneur who, in spite of the difficulties in raising funds for their project, perseveres, knowing that our future depends on our ability to maximise the potential of our resources from the ocean in order to bring more benefits for us all.
The Blue Economy is not just a space for the creation of soci-economic opportunities. It is also a powerful means to further foster our unity, in all our diversity, through its spinoffs, its activities and benefits.
The Blue Economy is a shared opportunity. It is also a shared responsibility. For us Seychellois. And for the whole world.