Representatives from Seychelles and Mauritius met last week to discuss and review progress made on the framework to sustainably develop the joint management area of the Mascarene Plateau.
The discussion during the joint commission meeting included the signature of an agreement with a company to carry out a seismic survey in the joint management of the extended continental shelf.
The Mascarene Plateau is a large shallow area ranging in depth from 8 to 150 metres in the Indian Ocean situated to the north and east of Madagascar. The shelf extends approximately 2,000 km from Seychelles in the north to Reunion, a French department, in the south. It covers an area of over 115,000 square kilometres.
Talking about the seismic survey to be carried out by Dr. Fridtjof Nansen, Philippe Michaud, the special advisor in the Department of the Blue Economy, said that the joint commissions have already received an environmental impact assessment from the company.
Dr. Fridtjof Nansen is a vessel equipped for advanced and multidisciplinary marine research. It is owned by the Norwegian Organisation for Development Cooperation (NORAD).
"The assessment essentially talks about precautions that the company need to take," said Michaud.
He added that the survey will provide an excellent opportunity for two professionals - one each from Seychelles and Mauritius - to receive practical opportunity onboard the vessel. The vessel is expected to start its research in June.
The research will be done under the Ecosystem Approach to Fisheries (EAF) Nansen Project being implemented by the Food and Agriculture Organisation in collaboration with the Norwegian Institute of Marine Research.
The seismic survey, which is not costing the two countries anything, will explore the marine eco-system and hydrocarbon deposits on the plateau. Once all the data is compiled, it will be sold to companies involved in oil exploration, said Michaud.
Another research to be carried out by the vessel is to find out what kind of marine species live in the area. If the area has commercial potentials, licences can be issued to interested parties.
The joint commission has also agreed that the headquarters of the commission will be located in Seychelles, and managed by a Mauritian.
"We haven't established where exactly the headquarters will be based. In terms of finance, both countries will be equally financing the headquarters and details about the total cost have not been discussed yet," said Michaud.
Since the last meeting of the joint commission, an agreement with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) to fund a standalone project in the development of the area was also signed.
An international symposium will be held in November to officially launch the joint management area with the aim of attracting potential investors.