Daily Archives: January 8, 2021

Highlights from Oceans Action Day and World Fisheries Day

By Student Delegate Marissa Pizaña

Two decades ago, small-scale fishers from across the world formed a global movement—protecting nature and their human rights. The World Forum of Fisher Peoples (WFFP) continue to convey the message that “fishing communities are being hit hard by worsening natural disasters of the climate catastrophe.” This year’s World Fisheries Day message focused on the threat multiplier that is a climate change, coupled with a global pandemic, and its’ impact on the fishing industry. Social distancing has caused many fishing markets to close down and has reduced patronage of hotels and restaurants–a prime location where fish are sold. The demand for fishing products has collapsed and the price for catch has been lowered. Furthermore, the safety of fishers at sea has been affected by the closure of fishing ports and the impossibility of making crew changes. Additionally, the lack of Personal Protective Equipment has increased the risks of transmitting the virus because fishers work in restricted and enclosed spaces.

Virtual Oceans Action Day 2020

Virtual Oceans Action Day 2020

The topic of fisheries was also discussed during the Virtual Oceans Action Day 2020. Designed to take stock of progress on ocean and climate issues towards UNFCCC COP26 in Glasgow, the intersectionality of climate change, food security, and fisheries was addressed. Fish are known to have the lowest carbon footprint among all the food commodities. Fish consumption is growing and is projected to be a large amount of future food baskets. A third of fisheries are at risk of over-exploitation and the aquatic ecosystems they rely on have been identified as vulnerable to climate change. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) hopes that fisheries and aquaculture will contribute significantly to improving the well-being of poor and disadvantaged communities in developing countries and to reducing poverty, improving food and nutrition security, and environmental protection.

Where does this leave the essential fisheries of the Seychelles? Fisheries contributes to the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP), employment, and livelihood. Because agriculture is limited due to land area, fisheries are fundamental to the social and economic wellbeing of Seychelles inhabitants. In a country where each inhabitant consumes an average of 62 kilograms (approximately 137 lbs.) of fish per year, fishing–including artisanal (small-scale and low-technology)–is an important activity. Fishing is the primary source of protein and ensures food security for many of the country’s inhabitants.

67174944_2425687790853200_5288672387259170816_nBecause fishing is such a key aspect in the Seychelles, the Fisheries and Blue Economy Minister met with seafood processors and exporters to introduce new plans of the new government for fisheries sector. During this meeting, fishers and operations were able to outline operational challenges they face regularly. Unfortunately, echoing the threats discussed during World Fisheries Day, COVID-19 has caused many local markets to close and export markets have scaled down. Minister Ferrari assured all partners that the government will provide them with the support necessary to navigate through these troubled waters.

Meanwhile, the FAO is looking to build a large partnership with financial institutions, governments, and civil society organizations to develop comprehensive and coordinated responses in the context of acheiving blue growth. This transformation would start by turning oceans of problems into oceans of solutions. This transformation is the best way to sustain and conserve 100% of the oceans and seas. Almost 7 million people are malnourished. The ocean can rectify these malnourishment levels. The transformation will change the national, regional, and global levels. Fisheries do not operate in a government vacuum and consensus-building strategies must be discussed in the future.


Reef Rescuers raise 40,000 corals in nurseries

By Student Delegate Suhasini Ghosh 

Coral reefs are a valuable part of the marine ecosystem. Local economies and thousands of marine species rely on coral reefs for survival. However, coral reefs are in danger of disappearing due to the rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide.

NOAA PMEL Carbon Program

NOAA PMEL Carbon Program

Increased temperatures and ocean acidification are two specific threats coral reefs are currently facing. Extreme heat causes coral bleaching. Coral reefs contain specific algae, which give them their vibrant colors. However, when coral bleaching takes place, the coral becomes stressed and then expels the algae. If the temperature is not reduced, the coral eventually dies. Ocean acidification is “the drop in seawater pH as the ocean absorbs carbon dioxide.” Coral reefs have calcium carbonate skeletons. But, ocean acidification causes a reduction in the amount of calcium available to keep the skeletons strong.

The species that rely on coral reefs risk extinction. Humans are also impacted by coral reef loss. For example, coral reefs serve as “natural barriers that absorb the force of waves and storm surges, keeping coastal communities safe.” Coral reefs also affect food and economic security for many communities.

The Seychelles economy is highly dependent on the ocean. Preserving coral reefs is a priority. In 2016, there was a significant El Nino event. The heat from the event caused a severe reduction in coral coverage in Seychelles. Specifically, before the event there was about 50% coral coverage, but the event reduced coral coverage to only 5%.

camila_reef_rescuersIn 2010, the “Reef Rescuers” coral reef restoration project commenced in Seychelles. The Reef Rescuers project is an ecosystem-based adaptation approach to addressing climate change impacts. Nature Seychelles, a non-governmental organization, leads the project. The project received financial support from the United States Agency for International Development, the Global Environment Facility, and the United Nations Development Programme. The project aims to create and maintain underwater coral nurseries. Fragments from healthy coral are collected, raised in the nurseries, and then transplanted to a degraded reef site. Since the start of the project, about 40,000 corals have been raised in the nurseries. There has also been a five-fold increase in fish abundance.

There has been considerable private sector engagement with this ecosystem-based adaptation project. The project has targeted private sector stakeholders who have a specific interest in maintaining coral reefs. For example, the project has teamed with local “hotels to raise awareness of the benefits of coral reef transplantation, such as decreasing beach erosion and supporting the marine ecosystems that are critical to local tourism.” The project also collaborates with a local diving center to train diving instructors on how to perform coral restoration.

The Reef Rescuers project has garnered both regional and international support. The project has been featured in various international reports and presentations. Coral reefs take up less than 0.1% of the world’s surface area. Yet, they are home to over 25% of the world’s biodiversity. The world must get creative and prioritize restoring our coral reefs. The Reef Rescuers project is a great example of what can and is being done.

Climate Smart Agriculture in Small Island Developing States

By Student Delegate Paige Beyer

Small island developing states (SIDS) are often characterized by their size, remoteness, and bountiful marine resources. Highly dependent on fisheries for food, these island nations face agricultural limitations resulting in a heavy reliance on imports. Import dependency is fraught with issues such as volatile food prices and food/nutrition insecurity. As sea-levels rise and freshwater sources diminish, island nations face increasing agricultural challenges and food security issues.

Farming is often small-scale and family-run. Limited investment in commercial agriculture and farming technology greatly impedes export markets, meaning agriculture products are simply not competitive commodities. While agriculture carries its economic issues, it also shines a light on gender inequality. Women and girls play a large (and often invisible, unpaid) role in agriculture. Women plant, weed, harvest, and process crops, providing for their families.

As a member of SIDS, Seychelles faces these agricultural challenges. In the Seychelles, fisheries, tourism, and the seafood industry dominate much of the economy, while agriculture makes up a mere 2.07% of the nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). In terms of food-related commodities, the Seychelles’ total exports is USD 8 million while their total imports are USD 126 million. The country is highly dependent on food imports, with 80% of food being imported. This means that the local agriculture productions are too small for the nation to be self-reliant.

Although completely surrounded by water, the Seychelles has about 1,540 hectares (or roughly 3,805 acres) of agricultural land, representing 3.4% of the total land area in the county. Of that land, only 0.3% is considered arable and 3% of land area constitutes permanent crops.  The food production includes tropical fruits, such as bananas and mangoes, and root vegetables such as yams and cabbages. A majority of agriculture in the Seychelles relies on rainfall, although there are irrigations systems. The agriculture input is further lowered through a limited use of fertilizers and pesticides.

Cinnamon quill maker Seychelles

Cinnamon quill maker Seychelles

Some of the biggest obstacles facing Seychellois agriculture include an aging farming population, funding, and limited land. Younger populations choose to pursue other career paths, putting pressure on an already small industry. With an insufficient domestic food supply, the nation heavily relies on imports. Coupled with the high cost of farming technology, money to pay for imports is almost more necessary than funding domestic agriculture. Further, land ownership presents another impediment. Women in particular lack the resources and control to land and production assets. The discrepancy in land access highlights the gender divide and its social and economic impact.

And yet, perhaps the biggest threat of all is climate change. As a small island state, Seychelles is particularly vulnerable to the effects of a warming planet. The already small agriculture sector faces issues of food security and dwindling farmer livelihoods. However, the Seychelles has implemented several climate-smart agriculture (CSA) technologies.  CSA technologies work to enhance food security while also addressing issues of adaptation or mitigation. Some of the CSA practices the Seychelles have adopted include inter cropping and anti-erosion measures.

Example of intercropping (Naturally Colourful website)

Example of intercropping (Naturally Colourful website)

Inter cropping refers to planting crops in between rows of trees. In the Seychelles, intercropping works as a natural pest repellant, improves soil structure, and balances fertility levels of the soil. Anti-erosion measures refer to practices that mitigate erosion. Examples of such include planting grasses along the outer areas of farms as a means of filtering sediments, excess nutrients, or pesticides from water runoff.

CSA practices are linked to broader climate action and policy. Although the oceans are the heart of many SIDS, agriculture plays a unique and understated role. Investing in sustainable agriculture is a way to not only increase food security, but to create food sovereignty or bolster domestic food reliance. In doing so, SIDS can decrease their reliance on imports and instead support domestic farming operations.




Seaweed Sweeping Women contribute to Circular Economy in the Seychelles

By Student Delegate Andrea Salazar 

Seaweed has become increasingly more problematic than promising in some parts of the world. Dense ½ meter mounds of seaweed have washed up on the beaches of Caribbean and Atlantic States. If this trend makes its way to the Seychelles, women already have a solution planned in the form of composting. SeyCCAT partnered with an organization that delivers services to people suffering from gender-based violence and violence at home or at work, called the Women in Action and Solidarity Organization (WASO), to pilot a project to compost Seaweed from Seychellois shores. The project contributes to SDGs 5 (Gender Equality), 8 (Decent Work and Economic Growth), and 14 (Life Below Water).

This project holds great promise because humans can heal in natural environments while converting seaweed into compost that is valuable and effective. Various cultures and scientists have documented the healing effects of interacting with nature (seeing, hearing, smelling, feeling, or taste). For example, in Japan, the State with the most people 100+ years of age, the act of “forest bathing” is commonplace. Recently, more scientists have drawn ties between positive health effects and experiencing nature. The reported positive health effects include increased: happiness, improved manageability of life tasks, decreases in mental distress, positive social interactions, memory, attention, and cognitive function, impulse inhibition, and creativity. There are associations between nature experiences and reducing burdens of acute and chronic stress, insomnia, depression, anxiety, and ADD.

The Seaweed Sweeping Women of the Seychelles (SeyCCAT website)

The Seaweed Sweeping Women of the Seychelles (SeyCCAT website)

As women harness the power of nature to heal themselves, they will also be harnessing the power of nature to provide compost in dry environments. Compost from seaweed contains micro-nutrients like Manganese, Zinc, Iodine, Phosphorus, Potassium, Calcium, and Manganese, and seven times more amino acids – each making for better soil nutrients than a regular compost mix. In a study from Patagonia, Argentina, the seaweed compost added to tomato plants helped growth and kept the plant alive when it was not given water. Notably, the potential applications of seaweed compost include growing plants in a changing climate facing water shortages and increased dry conditions.

Seaweed compost is part of the circular economy (SeyCCAT website)

Seaweed compost is part of the circular economy (SeyCCAT website)

The experience of listening to the ocean and working with soil should have a positive effect on the participants in Seaweed Composting program. The project makes it more possible to increase economic stability because even without the compost component, the job of cleaning shores will now be rewarded justly. For example, Mexico has had to remove seaweed from its shores since 2011 and has spent 17 million USD to prevent the seaweed’s major impacts on tourism and fishing. This project also can become a robust resource that contributes to healing of survivors. The women of the Seaweed program embody empowerment: for themselves, their coastal communities, their nation, all in a changing climate and uncertain future.