Back to News

Why the Seychelles Scores High

November 18, 2012
Global Stories

The Ocean Health Index measures ocean health by assessing how 174 countries around the world fare with ten different goals or benefits.  Carbon Storage is one of those ten major goals; fourteen countries rated the highest possible score of “100.”  This means that the area of seagrass meadows, salt marshes and mangroves forests is the same as or greater than it was in the past (defined as the 1980s, the earliest period for which global data exists).  A high score also reflects the likelihood that existing carbon-storing habitats will continue, due to proper management or restoration.  In the case of some countries, the score is high because destruction of these habitats occurred prior to the 1980s.  This was not the case with the Republic of Seychelles, which has long conserved its coastal habitats and made sustainable development its goal.

This following was written by Sylvanna Antat of the Marine Research and Monitoring Department in the Seychelles National Parks Authority.  

I grew up surrounded by the legendary beauty of the Seychelles.  I took many trips into the mangrove forest behind my school as a child.  I have always been fascinated by these trees that seem capable of thriving in seawater, while other plants cannot.  I always thought I would spend my life working to conserve the beautiful environment that the Seychelles people are lucky enough to enjoy, and now that I do, I especially enjoy working with young people to build environment advocates and leaders.

Our nation is 115 islands off the east coast of Africa, in the western Indian Ocean.  In the middle, 43 islands called the “Inner Islands,” make up the economic and cultural hub of the nation. These islands are considered the oldest in the world.  The Seychelles has always placed great emphasis on the environment for many decades.  Almost 50% of its landmass is set aside as national parks and reserves.  Our islands are home to two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, including the Vallee de Mai, once believed to be the original site of the Garden of Eden.

On top of great natural resources, the government and people of Seychelles have worked hard to conserve their islands.  In 1994, we passed a comparatively strict Environment Protection Act.  The Department of Environment has a team dedicated to monitor change in environment variables such as sedimentation and surface runoff, and a team ready to deal with any environmental issue that arises, on a 24 hour basis.  As people have grown in awareness of the importance of conservation, through the work of ENGOs and other government agencies, they have become adept at informing the local authorities of infringement to the environmental law. 

The government of Seychelles invests a large part of the budget in the protection of mangrove wetlands, salt marches and associated ecosystems, to ensure proper ecosystem functioning and minimised adverse impacts. According to Dr. Murugaiyan  of the Coastal Adaptation and Management Section,  the Government spends between $U.S. 3.5 – 5 million annually on wetlands and river conservation and management. 

So I was very happy to learn about the high Carbon Storage score for Seychelles in the Ocean Health Index.  The mangrove forests, sea grass beds, and salt marshes found within the Seychelles archipelago have clearly contributed significantly to the high score.  There has been little publicity about the achievement, but now that people are learning about it, there is great pride.

Besides the overall attitude toward conservation, there are several reasons why the Seychelles has maintained its carbon-storing habitats. The first is the distribution of the Seychelles population. More than 98% of the entire population of roughly 87,000 lives on the Inner Islands, which are called called “granitic” because they have been formed by a hard rock composition.  As a result, less pressure has been put on the marine ecosystems of the outer islands, which are largely unpopulated. 

Secondly, there has been no major degradation of our coastline, apart from some minor tourism development, to promote foreign earnings. Even these developments have had some impact, especially on our mangrove forests, but the scale has been minimal, according to Dr. Murugaiyan.

Finally, the Seychelles, being a small country, is very lucky not to have a large number of major industries so that release of chemicals and pollution in the sea is relatively minimal and we are better able to manage our coastal ecosystem and maintain its good conditions.

Climate change will impact the Seychelles low-lying islands, and the government has worked to educate local communities and get them on board the marine environment conservation bandwagon. People have an increased understanding about the role of mangroves and seagrass beds in protection of the coastlines and coral reefs, and mangrove forest protection is being given major attention through public participation in its conservation. These strategies have been especially effective with young people and a large number of these youngsters are involved in mangrove rehabilitation and conservation. 

Seychelles' high carbon scores can thus be described as a result of the collaboration of its people.

Follow us