Mon, 10 June 2019
Some 125 students and their teachers from the three main islands of the Seychelles, Mahe, Praslin and La Digue attended the James Michel Foundation’s annual conference to mark World Oceans Day. Held on the eve of the Day itself, the conference saw several high level presentations by NGOs and public organisations which are directly or indirectly related to the ocean.
In addressing the young delegates, the Executive Chairman of the Foundation, Former President James Michel told them that the ocean and the Blue Economy are at the heart of Foundation’s activities. “In a way, we are celebrating the ocean every day here and World Oceans Day is an opportunity to honour, help protect, and conserve our world’s shared ocean even more”
Highlighting the benefits of the ocean to humanity, he reminded that “as islanders, the ocean is even more important to us as it supports the pillars of our economy and our very livelihoods. It defines our unique culture. Though small in terms of land mass, the ocean gives us significant voices in international arena as we are considered “large oceanic states”.
Stressing on the importance of Marine protected areas to ensure sustainability he explained the addition of the sub theme: “Protecting Marine Space: Ensuring our survival” to the international theme which is “Together we can Protect and Restore our Oceans”. “This is very timely as Seychelles is being recognised on the international scene for its leadership role in environment protection in general, especially the innovative dept for nature swap and blue bond initiatives. As an Ocean Ambassador, I will continue pushing for more meaningful Marine Protected Areas based on scientific data here in Seychelles and in the world.
Let us not underestimate the challenges we face in this endeavour. The vastness of our oceans is parallel to the extent of the difficulties to protect it from the effects of climate change, plastic pollution, over fishing, over exploitation of other resources among others. I am deeply encouraged by the increasing number of young people both locally and internationally who are taking keen interest in the well-being of our oceans and our planet in general and are organising themselves to help in whatever way they can or to apply pressure on governments to do more”.
Mr. Michel told the delegates that he is dedicating the Planetary Leadership Award which he is receiving from National Geographic this week as well as all the other accolades he has received to the people of Seychelles who supported him in protecting almost 50% of land and 30% of waters during his time as President.