The cabinet of ministers on Wednesday approved a number of legal and policy memoranda including the incorporation of the extended continental shelf of the Northern plateau region under the Seychelles jurisdiction and the establishment of the outer limits of three maritime spaces to which Seychelles is entitled under international law.
In a press briefing at State House yesterday, special advisor to the department of the Blue Economy, Philippe Michaud, provided more details on both decisions, stating the benefits that both present to Seychelles.
Following the ruling of a United Nation’s body in August 2018 and official confirmation on August 31, 2018, Seychelles was granted an extension of its territorial waters by 14,800 square kilometres, extending the continental shelf of the Northern plateau.
“In August 2018, there was an agreement permitting Seychelles to claim the extension of the continental shelf. This is different from the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and falls outside the EEZ. The government doesn’t have as much right as if it was in our EEZ but nonetheless, they have sovereignty over the resources in the plateau, both living and non-living resources,” Mr Michaud explained.
“We have a plateau that is jointly managed by Seychelles and Mauritius but only Seychelles has sovereignty over the Northern plateau which measures 14,800 square kilometers,” he said.
According to Mr Michaud, Seychelles is in the process of negotiating to claim the Aldabra plateau around the remote atoll of Aldabra and with the Republic of Madagascar who shares maritime boundaries with Seychelles.
This approval will lead to the gazetting of the Maritime Zone (Extended Continental Shelf) Order, 2019.
Establishment of three maritime spaces
Cabinet endorsed a second decision pertaining to maritime spaces with the endorsement of the establishment of the outer limits of three maritime spaces within Seychelles’ EEZ. The three spaces, the territorial sea, the contiguous zone and the revised EEZ had to be established as part of the activities for the marine spatial plan.
According to the 1982 United Nations convention on the Law of the Sea, the territorial sea is a belt of coastal waters extending at most 12 nautical miles from the baseline of a coastal state whereas the contiguous zone is a band of water extending farther from the outer edge of the territorial sea to up to 24 nautical miles from the baseline.
Within the contiguous zone, a state can exert limited control for the purpose of preventing or punishing “infringement of its customs, fiscal, immigration or sanitary laws and regulations within its territory or territorial sea”.
With regards to the revised EEZ, Mr Michaud stated that the exercise was important in order to accurately measure the EEZ through the use of modern equipment.
Fisheries Transparency Initiative
Cabinet was on Wednesday also briefed on the actions under the Fisheries Transparency Initiative (FiTI), a global multi-stakeholder initiative headquartered in Victoria, Seychelles.
The initiative aims to increase transparency and participation in fisheries governance for the benefit of more sustainable management of marine fisheries.
“As you know, the government has agreed to host the institution in Seychelles. There is a local group, the Fisheries national stakeholder group consisting of 7 members. In order for it to be more effective and to encourage participation, since the fisheries sector is vast and varied, including processing and the participation of civil society, we have decided to enlarge the group from 7 to 12 to ensure that there are replacements when meetings are held and that there is diversity,” Mr Michaud stated.
The local branch consists of individuals directly involved with the fishing industry including fishermen and those involved with fish processing activities, representative of the government, members of the national assembly and civil society.
While there are many aspects to achieve sustainable fisheries, the public availability of credible information is essential. The need for governments to share information is provided for in the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea and despite great public interest in the fisheries sector, basic information often remains out of the public domain. Such information includes the status of fish stocks and marine ecosystems, conditions attached to fishing authorisations, the contracts of fishing access agreements signed between fishing nations and coastal states or the amount of fish taken from the ocean.
FiTI aims to tackle such issues as well as other issues affecting the fisheries industry by making fisheries management more transparent and inclusive of all stakeholders.