The Seychelles National Parks Authority(SNPA) held a training and strategic workshop this week in Curieuse Marine Park, from 16th  to 20th August,  to develop visionary goals and objectives for the parks and a bold plan of action to build staff leadership in moving towards those goals. The workshop, which was held under the regional SAM (Strategic Adaptive Management) program included representatives from SNPA and three other conservation agencies: Global Vision International (GVI), Island Conservation Society (ICS), and Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF) and also representative of the Ministry responsible for Environment.

Seychelles is deeply committed to the conservation of the ocean and its marine life. This commitment is shown by the establishment of 6 marine national parks and the race to increase protection of the country’s marine areas from 1% to 30%. While this commitment places Seychelles high on the global conservation scorecard, it is equally important to ensure that enough resources and capacity exist to manage the marine parks. In fact, the World Conservation Union (IUCN) has emphasized that protected area management is a global challenge.

The International Maritime Organization (IMO) celebrates World Maritime day, each year, during the last week of September. The day is used to focus attention on the importance of shipping safety, maritime security and the marine environment, and to emphasize a specific aspect of IMO's work. It aims at ensuring that international shipping keeps up to date with technical and technological advances in safety.

As is customary, the Maritime Training Centre hosted an open week to coincide with the event. This year’s theme was ‘Go to sea’. The exhibition showcased the link between training at MTC and job opportunities in the maritime industry. It was open to Secondary and Post Secondary schools all over Seychelles, with the aim of encouraging students to develop an interest and love for the sea, and to teach them how to face the challenges of a career at sea.

Seychelles National Parks Authority display at the exhibition

Various organizations from the maritime sector participated in the event. The Research Section from the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) also participated, showcasing the work they do, such as; Beach Profiling, Tortoise Census and Turtle Monitoring. They also distributed brochures and pamphlets on coral conservation, and displayed colorful and educational posters on corals and climate change.

On Sunday 26th January, staffs of the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) teamed up with a group of University of Seychelles (UniSey) students and staffs from Ministry of Environment and Energy, for a hike to commemorate National Parks Day, despite heavy rains the previous day.

Group photo of participants

The trail started at Le Niol and we walked through the national park to Mare aux Cochons. We then walked downhill through Cape Verte, to reach the end of Mont D'Or. We proceeded to walk all the way to Port Glaud and ended up at Port Launay. Participants were able to appreciate and learn about the flora and fauna they encountered thanks to the help Mr. Simon Dogley and Mr. Terrence Valentin, from SNPA, who acted as guides. Participants engaged in the planting of Pandanus seeds along the trail at Cape Verte, and searched for Sechellophrine gardineri frogs which are amongst one of the smallest frogs in the world.

Planting of Pandanus along the trail

As the rain had been very intense the previous day, the participants had to cross many small streams and ran into trees and branches that had fallen along the path. The hike took a little under 4 hours, and ended up at Port Launay.

Contributed by Amanda Rene - University of Seychelles

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) research staffs were approached by the owner of the Whitetip dive centre on Praslin, as his dive crew had noticed an increase in the number of Crown-Of-Thorn’s (COT’s) starfish on some popular dive sites. He had heard of an ongoing eradication program on Mahe and was seeking SNPAs’ assistance to start up an eradication program for Praslin.

The Crown-Of-Thorns (Acanthaster planci), is a large starfish with lots of arms that usually preys on hard corals. COTs receive its name from its venomous thorn-like spines that cover its upper body. It threatens coral communities, especially Acropora species, which serve as their primary food source.

Crown of Thorn starfish measuring and data recording                                                         

The eradication dives took place on two well known dive sites; Booby Island and Ave Maria, in August 2014, famous for spotting large marine animals, such whale sharks and dolphins.

The dive centre staffs learnt the method, used on Mahe, of removing this species, and the necessary precautions they needed to take to prevent injuries. Once the COT’s had been removed, they were measured and examined for any distinguishing features and damage. The data collected will be given to the Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS), the organisation heading the eradication programme. The first part of the programme is the removal of as many COTs, on our reefs, as possible. The dive crew was really enthusiastic to take part in this eradication program. They are now better equipped to lend a helping hand in future COTS eradication.

Data collection by SNPA and white tip dive centre staffs

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) is initiating a new action plan to better discuss with boat operators from the inner islands about various issues affecting their operations and to serve as a platform to boost future working relations between the two parties.

The meeting with the boat owners

This was said during a recent meeting hosted by the Minister for Environment and Energy Prof. Rolph Payet, along with the SNPA board with boat owners from Praslin and La Digue.

The meeting, held at the Baie Ste Anne Baha’i centre, followed a series of other meetings by Minister for Home Affairs and Transport Joel Morgan and the Minister for Tourism and Culture Alain St Ange with the boat owners, during which several issues were raised regarding their operations in the marine protected areas.

Constraints during excursions to Curieuse, Ile Coco and St Pierre marine parks were the main points of discussions on the meeting’s agenda. This include lack of mooring facilities, bad state of the BBQ facilities on Curieuse, illegal taxi boats, lack of guides and mismanagement of the island, among others.

Illegal taxi boats – unlicensed boats – was the most discussed issue during the meeting and it was agreed that the SNPA will seek the help of the police and the Seychelles Licensing Authority.
It was pointed out by boat owners that their businesses are being greatly affected by such activity, which they said is not safe for clients.

As for the lack of moorings, the SNPA announced that new buoys will be installed soon with the help of various partners.

Part of the strategies to tackle the issues include upgrading the facilities on Curieuse, including proper and efficient water management, toilet facilities, curbing illegal activities, increasing revenue collection, better collaboration with key stakeholders and other partners and also a review of the present management to fit the current context.

The possibility of setting up a marine parks committee with a boat owners’ representative included will be a boost in updating the management plan of all the marine national park

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) has donated a set of books to educators of the eco-school programme at the Ministry of Education.

The presentation ceremony took place during the first eco-school committee meeting at the Ministry of Education and was attended by eco-school educators from 35 primary and secondary schools.

The aim of the meeting was to discuss the upcoming environmental activities for this year. Eco-school is a programme whereby teachers and students become aware of the different environmental issues and help the schools to become more environmentally friendly.  Students can take part in environmental-based competition such as Clean up the World, World Wetlands Day, Water Day, Subios…etc.  ‘Reflection from the sea; Thinking through the marine and Coastal System’ is the title of the book presented by Patsy Thérésine from the Research section. 

The book was sponsored by the Coastal Oceans Research and Development in the Indian Ocean East Africa (CORDIOEA) organisation which takes part in programmes to evaluate and respond to the degradation of corals in countries in east Africa.

The book is very resourceful and will guide the eco-school educators so that they can prepare different activities with their members. It sets out activities that can be carried out in different sessions based on maritime and coastal environment, and will help the student to understand, actively take part in activities and create awareness for the sustainability of our environment.

The environmental education unit of the Ministry of Education has also previously received several donations of books for use in the eco-school programme from various other organisations such as the Mangroves For the Future, Save Our Seas Foundation, the Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles, Plant Conservation Action Group in a bid to strengthen knowledge and build capacity of both students and teachers in the field of environmental education.

“We are thankful to the generous donation from the SNPA at this early month of the year and we hope that more of such gestures will come our way for the betterment of Seychelles’ beautiful environment,” said Terence Crea, the new environment education coordinator for the section replacing Shane Emilie who has just left Seychelles to further his studies in environmental education at Rhodes University in South Africa.

This year’s Earthwatch expedition took place from April 26th to May 5th. The first part of the expedition took place in the Curieuse Marine National Park. It focused on understanding how present day and future reef systems respond to environmental changes. This information is useful for managing coral reef ecosystems of the future. The research also examines reef responses to large environmental disturbance events and utilized an experimental approach to assess the tolerance of reef building corals to temperature changes.

The second expedition was based on Mahe, the first time an Earthwatch expedition takes place on the main island. This involved the implementation of a social science survey. The survey conducted was focused on the socio-economic life of humans and how it might have an impact on coral communities.    

Earthwatch fellows conducting the survey with fishermen on the fishing port (© Dereck Louange)

The  survey  targeted fishing communities and was conducted  in the northern and eastern part of Mahe, targeting Bel Ombre, Beau Vallon, La Batie, Pascal village in the north, and Roche Caiman and Anse Royale in the South. Survey was also carried out at the fishing port, with numerous fishermen. The result gathered will help Earthwatch to investigate climate impact on coral community and the impacts on human and the fishing community.

Training on census and monitoring of Aldabra Giant tortoise on Curieuse, was carried out from the 8th-10thMay 2013 on Curieuse Island. Dr. Jeanne A. Mortimer was the facilitator and the training saw the participation of Research and Monitoring staffs from SNPA, Marine rangers, Curieuse management staffs, Global Vision International (GVI) staffs and Maritime Training Centre students.

The training started with presentations on the history and ecology of Curieuse tortoises. The aim was to increase awareness of tortoise conservation, while providing training in censusing and monitoring of tortoise.  The purpose of the census is to determine the total number of giant tortoises on Curieuse and assess reproductive success of these tortoises. It also aims to look at the longevity and growth rates of the original tortoises that were brought to Curieuse from Aldabra, and to provide a resource for managers and students to better understand giant tortoises and their role in the ecosystems of the inner islands.