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. 

A variety of interesting activities were available to students from the west region of Mahe to mark Biodiversity Day this week.

Students from Grand Anse, Port Glaud and Anse Boileau primary joined up with those from Anse Boileau secondary for a day of fun and learning at the Port Launay beach on Wednesday.

The event was organised by the Department of Environment, in partnership with the Seychelles National Parks Authority, Global Vision International, Seychelles Wildlife Clubs of Seychelles and Mangroves for the Future.

Activities are organised every year for Biodiversity Day, which falls on May 22, and this year’s theme is Marine Biodiversity.

The Seychelles Tourism Board (STB) and the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA) have signed an accord to formalise the good partnership which exists between the two parties.

The memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed on Monday at the STB’s headquarters at Bel Ombre by its chief executive Elsia Grandcourt and that of SNPA Denis Matatiken.

Nature Seychelles and the Seychelles National Park Authority (SNPA) are joining forces to work on a new project to help protect one of Seychelles’ iconic bird species – the Paradise Flycatcher (‘Vev’).

The project will see work carried out on La Digue with the island’s school and the local community to follow up on a previous project. Under the 2008 project, 23 birds were moved to Denis Island to create “a safety net population” there. 

According to a recent census, 10 new birds have since been hatched and are doing well, removing the species from the endangered list.

The partnership was formalised yesterday with the signing of a memorandum of agreement at the Nature Seychelles headquarters, Roche Caïman by the heads of the two organisations, Dr Nirmal Jivan Shah (Nature Seychelles) and Denis Matatiken (SNPA).

The Minister for Home Affairs, Environment, Transport and Energy Joel Morgan has appointed the Board of the Seychelles National Parks Authority for a period of two years, with immediate effect.

Flavien Joubert, a representative from the Department of Environment, has been appointed chairman while Denis Matatiken is the chief executive officer.

The other members are Capt. Jean Atalla (representative of the Seychelles Coast Guard), Roy Clarisse (Seychelles Fishing Authority), Dr. Frauke Dogley (Seychelles Islands Foundation), Dr. Marie-Reine Hoareau (Department of Education/Unesco), and Philomena Hollanda (Seychelles Tourism Board).

The government authorities charged with the implementation of the recommendations provided by the South African experts from the Kwazulu Natal Shark Board have started their work.

The Praslin Development Fund with the assistance of local companies involved in the fabrication and reparation of fishing nets have been working long hours in preparing two temporary exclusion nets that will soon be installed at Anse Lazio. 

Unfortunately their work has been delayed by the rainy weather that we have experienced over the last five days.  It is now foreseen that the first exclusion net will be installed on Monday if weather permits.  In the meantime we are waiting for quotations from South Africa for us to import exclusion nets designed according to international specifications and standards for installation on a longer term basis. 

The laying of drumlines and longlines by Seychelles Fishing Authority and some fishermen has continued.  This is aimed at controlling the entry of large and dangerous sharks close to shore.  Surveillance using both underwater cameras and personnel of Seychelles National Park Authority has yielded no confirmed sighting of large sharks in the area. 

The police, the tourism police and Seychelles National Park Authority personnel have been enforcing the ban on swimming and snorkelling in the declared areas.

The South African experts have contacted the organisation which will conduct the DNA research and plans are underway to send the tooth fragment for DNA profiling.  The same applies to the jaw of the tiger shark that was caught off Praslin, which will undergo more detailed studies.

Further discussions have taken place regarding the strengthening of a collaborative work and research programmes on sharks between the Seychelles authorities and the Kwazulu Natal Shark Board.  A letter has been sent to the Kwazulu Natal Shark Board to that effect and they have already indicated their willingness to work with the Seychelles authorities.  During the coming weeks the programme will be elaborated and finalised.

The ban on swimming in Anse Lazio, Grand Anse Kerlan, Petite Anse Kerlan, Anse Georgette, Curieuse and St Pierre is still in force.  In other areas swimmers and divers are being asked to take all necessary precautions.  Once the exclusion nets are in placed at Anse Lazio new announcements will be made.

In the meantime anyone who catches a shark are being asked to report to Rodney Quatre, the Research manager of the National Parks Authority who is collecting data on sharks.  His phone number is 2726104.

A new body has been formed to research sharks in the Seychelles.

This non-governmental organisation which has been named Shark Research Foundation Seychelles (SRFS) is made up of marine experts from the Environment Department, Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS), Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA), the Artisanal Shark Fishers Association (ASFA) and l’Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD).

Sharks are vitally important for healthy marine ecosystems and research from across the globe has shown that when shark numbers are depleted by factors such as overfishing and habitat destruction, the whole ecosystem suffers, often resulting in the loss of other commercially important species.

 They also often act as a great attraction to divers and as such various types of sharks encounter dives have formed highly lucrative businesses in many countries.

  In Seychelles in particular, sharks have a strong cultural base and are included in favourite traditional dishes such as satini reken and lapo latet reken.

Unfortunately, the valuable services that sharks provide us with are often overshadowed by the fear of being attacked.

 The tragic events of August last year in which two people lost their lives shocked the nation and answers were immediately called for.

 The protection of Seychellois and those visiting the country is of utmost importance and is one of the priorities of the SRFS. To be able to attain this goal, much research on the types, numbers and behaviour of sharks in Seychelles is required.

 This research also fulfils many of the requirements of the national plan of action for sharks which guides shark management in the Seychelles and falls under the global plan of action for sharks which was

formulated in response to dramatic declines in their numbers around the world, largely due to the shark fin soup trade.

The SRFS has already begun ground breaking work in Seychelles by attaching satellite tags to two large tiger sharks (Galeocerdo cuvier). The tags are designed to communicate with satellites and give the position of the shark among other information, allowing researchers to track its movements day and night. This information is currently under analysis.

 The tigers were also surgically implanted with acoustic tags that emit signals picked up by receiver stations that have been strategically placed around the coast of Mahé. This acoustic tagging follows on from two ongoing projects carried out cooperatively by the SFA, MCSS and SNPA: SEYSHA that was designed to track movements and elucidate habitat usage by reef sharks around Mahé, and the Global Environment Fund Small Grants Programme multi-species tracking project at Bay Ternay.

Catching, handling and tagging of large sharks is obviously a highly skilled endeavour and as such, local shark fishermen have been helping researchers in this area. Their knowledge of where to find the sharks and how to catch and handle them has been vital to the success of the last two tagging events.
Fishermen and scientists were brought together again on February 7 for a shark tagging workshop organised and run for the SRFS through experts at IRD and SFA. The workshop taught participants how to surgically implant acoustic tags and how to attach the exterior satellite tags. Representatives from the Artisanal Shark Fishermen’s Association, Environment Department, MCSS, SFA and IRD all felt that the event was a great success with much information and skills shared and learned.

The SRFS is currently developing new proposals and applying for funding to continue research that aims to protect humans while preserving healthy, functional ecosystems.