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.

A project to find out how threatened species are using the Bay Ternay marine park is currently being run by the Marine Conservation Society, Seychelles (MCSS).

“Conservation of threatened marine biodiversity of Nothwest Mahé through increased public awareness and community involvement in a multi-species acoustic tracking programme” is the title of this project funded by the GEF Small Grants Project.

The Seychelles Fishery Authority (SFA) and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) are working cooperatively with MCSS to help this project succeed.

So far several sharks, groupers, turtles and stingrays have been fitted with acoustic tags. These tags give off acoustic signals and are either placed surgically inside the animal (in the case of sharks and groupers) or on the outside of the animal (stingrays and turtles).

The signals from the tags are picked up by receiver stations that have been placed in a grid pattern on the sea floor inside the bay and in lines between Bay Ternay, Conception and Thérèse.

The Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) is collaborating with Anchors Away, a non-profit organisation based in Seychelles, to help save coral reefs.

Anchors Away is assisting the SNPA with the necessary equipment and materials for the installation of mooring buoys in Baie Ternay, Ste Anne, Curieuse and Ile Cocos marine national parks.

The marine national park contains coral reefs with important ecological functions.  Coral reef is home to a diversity of colourful marine animals and plants.  Visitors

can discover these amazing creatures through snorkeling and scuba diving.  Anchoring at a popular dive spot or on areas on coral reef can have detrimental effects on corals.  Boat anchors can significantly damage the sea floor habitats through the dragging of a single anchor or anchor chain.  The damage can then transform the physical structure or seascape to rubble.  Because of the slow growth of most corals (only a few centimeters per years), constant anchoring can have devastating effects on a healthy coral reef.

One of the easiest and yet most effective means to protect and mitigate against the impact of boat anchors to the living coral reef is through the installation of mooring buoys.  Mooring buoys can help to eliminate the destruction of corals reefs.  The buoys can be installed close to or over a traditional boat anchoring sites.  Instead of dropping their anchors, boats can make use of the moorings and thereby eliminating chain sweep and anchor damage to corals.  This practice is being used in various parts of the world.  It helps to support healthy coral reefs, thus supporting biodiversity and the resource which coastal communities depend on. 

Recently, the SNPA was approached by Royden du Plooy to discuss about possible assistance to install new mooring buoys for ships that anchor in the marine national parks.

Mr du Plooy and his wife Tania, who reside in Seychelles, are the patrons of Anchors Away, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the conservation of coral reefs for future generations.  Its mission is to halt the destruction of coral reef ecosystems caused by the repetitive use of boat anchors and anchor chains at recreational dive sites and marine parks in Seychelles, by raising funds to supply and install mooring buoys, both within the marine parks and on other popular dive sites and recreational anchorages.  The organisation receives its operating funds through donations of conservation minded individuals, companies and organisations. 

The installation of mooring buoys will prevent further destruction of the coral reefs.

The SNPA has already received the first batch of equipment and four mooring buoys have already been installed at Baie Ternay.  According to Mr du Plooy, they are already in the process of securing more funds and they have already placed order for more new equipment which include mooring buoys, ropes, helix, etc.  These will be used in the installation of more buoys in Ste Anne, Curieuse and Ile Cocos marine parks given the increase in the number of boats visiting these parks. 

Denis Matatiken of the SNPA says he would like the authority to formalise this agreement with Anchors Away under a memorandum of understanding.  The authority has also initiated discussions with other partners such as Silhouette Cruise to assist with the installation of both the mooring and demarcation buoys as well as the buoys maintenance. SMSA is also being consulted in the process. 

The activity is being coordinated and facilitated by Rodney Quatre, Paul Lavigne, Bernard Bijoux, Ritval Pillay and Davis Monthy from the SNPA.