Maritime Security and the Blue Economy are vital policy concepts for sustainable development in the western Indian Ocean. Yet, how do both of these agendas link to each other? Exploring this relationship, using the Seychelles as an exemplar, was the core task set out by a workshop at the University of Seychelles on Tuesday, the 18th of July 2017. The workshop was the outcome of a joint international initiative by SAFESEAS in collaboration with Cardiff University’s Sustainable Places Research Institute, the University of Seychelles James Michel Blue Economy Research Institute and the Sir James Mancham International Centre for Peace Studies and Diplomacy
The event held at Anse Royale, the main campus of the University of Seychelles, brought together core policy makers and users of the sea to discuss the organisation of marine policy in the Seychelles, as well as the challenges and success stories of the country.
Professor Bueger, PI of SAFE SEAS, opened proceedings with a discussion on the multifaceted character of marine policy by outlining the connected challenges associated with the blue economy, maritime security, ocean health and blue justice and how these concepts reflect different policy objectives. This includes pathways for sustainable exploitation of ocean resources, the prevention of maritime threats, the protection of the marine environment in the face of climate change and ensuring the appropriate distribution of revenues, responsibilities, and risks among the diverse users of the sea.
Next, Professor Susan Baker (Cardiff University) presented an overview of some of the challenges the Seychelles is facing in sectors such as tourism, energy, water, biodiversity, or the economy. She highlighted the importance of recording the experience of the government of Seychelles, in order to allow other countries to learn from it and also the need to broaden what security means in a maritime context by focusing on, for example, bio and genetic security.
These introductory presentations were followed by several short presentations by workshop participants including Philippe Michaud and Dominique Benzaken (Blue Economy Department), Vincent Didon (Seychelles Maritime Academy), Kelly Horeau (UniSey) and Matthew Harper (British High Commission). These presentations explored the inter-linkages between a diverse range of maritime security and sustainable development problem spaces and explored ways these problems might be addressed.
Key issues included the enduring impact of piracy off the coast of Somalia, domestic and international fishery crimes, the challenges of monitoring and enforcement in the vast EEZ of the Seychelles, the lack of regulation for the use of fertilizers in agriculture and its effect on the coastal environment, increasing challenges of waste management and ‘bottom-up’ ownership.
To address these diverse challenges, participants agreed that improvements are required in three core areas: (i) developing the blue economy requires more emphasis on better law enforcement to ensure compliance with legal regulations and marine spatial planning; (ii) coordination between different governmental and non-governmental actors is crucial. The blue economy/maritime security link requires a “whole of society” approach, in which the government and different civil society organizations work hand in hand, ensure the transparency of decision making, and hold each other accountable; (iii) Seychelles has no shortage of good ideas and excellent knowledge and research. Yet, putting ideas and plans into action, concrete projects and compliance mechanisms is often slow or hampered by a lack of continuity within governmental institutions.