Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association
Our plastic challenge
The Seychelles is an archipelago of over 115 islands, stretching over 1,374,000 km2 of the South West Indi-an Ocean and separated into inner islands (e.g. Mahe, Praslin, La Digue) and outer islands (e.g. the Amirantes Group, the Farquhar Group, the Aldabra Group, etc.). The Seychelles economy relies heavily on tourism and fisheries, and both potentially contribute to and suffer from the marine litter problem (Regional Overview and Assessment of Marine Litter Related Activities in the West Indian Ocean Region, 2017).
During the 2019 Seychelles Outer Island Clean-Up Project organised by TOP and the Islands Development Company, over 10 tonnes of marine litter was collected between 4-9 days across 8 main outer islands/ atolls. In parallel, a 5-week clean-up exercise on Aldabra, a UNESCO world heritage site, resulted in the collection of 25 tonnes of marine litter. Whilst it is evident that vast quantities of marine litter have accumulated along the coastlines of Seychelles, particularly on the outer islands, it is unclear how much of coastline waste is in-country generated. On the outer islands, the vast majority appears to originate outside Seychelles.
The physical and chemical impacts of plastic pollution have been widely documented globally. Although there is a lack of recorded evidence in the country, it has been observed that plastic pollution in Seychelles is having an impact on wildlife, which raises alarming concerns for Seychelles endemic and endangered wildlife. The potential socio-economic impacts of plastic pollution are also concerning for Seychelles. Seychelles sells “sun, sea and sand” and whilst the impact of marine litter on tourism in Seychelles has yet to be investigated, the social sciences have established a negative link between the amount of beach litter and beach visits (Brouwer, Hadzhiyska, Ioakeimidis & Ouderdorp, 2017).
The ban on PVC bottles has been followed in recent years by bans on certain single-use plastics including bags (2017), polystyrene takeaway boxes (2017) plates, cutlery & cups (2017) and straws (2019). These bans suffer from certain defects. For instance, the plastic bag ban is only a partial ban and there is a significant exemption list for certain plastic bags and uses; biodegradable and compostable plastic alternatives are permitted in the country despite the lack of industrial composting facilities and waste separation; and the lack of enforcement results in plastic bag usage in instances where they are illegal.
The Ocean Project Seychelles (TOP) is a not-for-profit, non-governmental organization (NGO), that was estab-lished in November 2016 in response to the mounting issues affecting the marine environment in Seychelles, such as marine pollution, climate change and unsustainable fisheries; with a mission to tackle these issues through education, action and research. For information on on-going and past projects, visit www.theoceanprojectseychelles.com or our Facebook or Instagram.