Officials from the Republic of Seychelles, Ministry of Environment, tour the R/V Odyssey.
Photo: Chris Johnson
October 8, 2002
Protecting the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary
The Odyssey crew has been in port reprovisioning over the past few days in preparation for our next research leg. During this time, we were pleased to have a number of Government officials pay the Odyssey a visit. As they toured the Odyssey, we tried to give them as much insight into our research and education programs as we could fit into the time they had available. Among those who visited today from the Seychelles Ministry of Environment were the Minister for Environment, Ronny Jumeau, the Principal Secretary, Maurice Loustau-Lalanne and the Director General of Policy, Planning, and Services Division, Rolph Payet.
Since our arrival in Seychelles we have received continued support from both the Government and the local community, all of whom share an unwavering pride in their marine environment and a strong commitment to the preservation of marine life.
The Seychellois are rightfully proud of their past environmental achievements and are probably most highly respected for their strong anti-whaling stance and commitment to the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary. The sanctuary was initially declared in 1979 after meetings hosted and led by the Seychelles.
Ronny Jumeau - Minister of Environment, Republic of Seychelles:
As you know, the Seychelles was one of the pioneers of the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary - we spearheaded this. Before the recent meeting in Japan of the International Whaling Commission , we received quite a few queries from interested governments especially in the region, Australia, France etc... as to our position now because there was some questions as to whether it [the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary] would be continued. First of all, we expressed our opinion through the Indian Ocean Commission of which we now chair. The Indian Ocean Commission, it represents Madgascar, Seychelles, Reunion, Mauritius, and the Comoroes, came out unanimously in favor of continuing the sanctuary. Then I took a paper to [Republic of Seychelles] Cabinet where we explained the pros and cons of keeping the sanctuary and the Cabinet was
unanimous in the Seychelles that we continue with the Sanctuary and we are all for it.
Well when I first read about you [The R/V Odyssey] coming over here, I was quite excited because all of the Seychelles is very environmentally conscious and has a world reputation for protecting the environment.
I must admit that when it comes to whales and the whale sanctuary, it is one of the least researched parts of our environmental protection program. But, we have always wanted to know more about the whales in our waters, about how successful the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary has been, so any visit by a boat like this would be greatly welcomed. And, as you are finding out, we will do everything we can to help out.
Sperm Whales in Seychelles waters.
Watch the video presented to the Minister of Environment and other officials from the Ministry of Environment, onboard the R/V Odyssey.
Real Video (No Audio)
Photo & Video: Chris Johnson
Maurice Loustau-Lalanne, Principal Secretary of the Ministry of Environment, Republic of Seychelles:
I think we are very excited. As you know the Seychelles championed the cause of the International Whaling Commission, way back, when we created this as a whale sanctuary in the early 70s. We have seen something quite remarkable with what you have discovered here last week and I think that in itself makes [the whale sanctuary] all the more worthwhile and I think we should keep it that way.
Rolph Payet - Director General, Policy, Planning & Services Division, Ministry of Environment, Republic of Seychelles:
When the research proposal came on my desk, I think that this was the most exciting moment because for me, staying in the Seychelles also involved in Marine research work, there has been so much work done on fish and other marine organisms and animals, not so much done on mammals. I was getting worried because this would have underminded the kind of political support that was put forward over twenty years ago, even before that, for having a whale sanctuary in the Indian Ocean and I was scared that this kind of consciousness would erode. So it came at a very opportune time.
We had a very intensive discussion last year with countries in the region about the commitment to keeping the Indian Ocean sanctuary and I think that this is the biggest contribution for me personally, the Odyssey has brought to the region. I think that we should make use of this expedition as much as possible and use the information that we are capturing from all of you sightings and observations as a foundation for rejuvenating that kind of political support that has been there. I think that the Seychelles has stood ahead and have said 'yes, we are still firm on our position for the whale sanctuary in the Indian Ocean.
The crew is once again heading offshore to search for sperm whales in Seychelles waters. The example set by this important Indian Ocean nation, fills us with hope for the sustainable future of the world's oceans and the animals that live there. The people of the Seychelles have much to be proud of. It is they who have demonstrated memorably that one small, dedicated country can make a major difference in the future of all ocean life.
- Learn more about the Indian Ocean Whale Sanctuary.
Log by Genevieve Johnson