Keeping an eye on the health of coral reefs

Nature Seychelles’ Reserve Coordinator, Eric Blais recently returned from a three-day training on coral reef monitoring organised by the Indian Ocean Commission (IOC). The training was held in Albion Fisheries Research Centre in Mauritius from 24th to the 26th of February.

“We were trained on coral reef monitoring and how to use a newly launched database for collecting relevant data about coral reefs,” Eric explains. “The aim is to have an information resource on the health of coral reefs in each country and in the region.”

In order to acquaint participants with the new Coral Reef Information System (CRIS), the workshop coordinators organised scuba dives and snorkelling for the practical session. This was done on the coral site at Club Med Diving Centre in Albion. They then input information on coral cover as well as invertebrate and fish populations in CRIS.

  Opening ceremony addres by Cathleen Cybele, Communication assistant, IOC-Biodiversity programm

The forty participants in the workshop ranged from technicians, managers and scientists working for conservation organisations in Seychelles, Mauritius, Comores, Madagascar, Rodrigues, Kenya, Tanzania and Zanzibar. Seychelles was represented in the group by Sylvanna Antha and Gilbert Gendron from the Seychelles National Parks Authority (SNPA), Dr. Jude Bijoux from the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) and Eric Blais form Nature Seychelles.

It is hoped that each country will use the knowledge gained at the Albion training and input their findings of corals health in their countries into CRIS, which will then be collated to give a comprehensive record for the region. As another important outcome of the workshop, the 2015-2017 Roadmap will guide the activities of the Indian Ocean coral reef network.

 Participants arriving at the club med dive centre for practical sessions

“I will now train Nature Seychelles staff on Cousin Island to collect relevant data when doing coral reef monitoring,” Eric says. Nature Seychelles manages Cousin Island Special Reserve, a Marine Protected Area (MPA). Coral monitoring is done annually around April by the Conservation Manager and wardens on the island.

Healthy coral reefs play a vital role in the underwater ecosystem as well as in the socio-economic livelihoods of the people who live by the sea. In the Indian Ocean coral reef network member charter, the preamble states that “Globally coral reefs face a major crisis with 30% of them now severely degraded. And if nothing is done to stop the erosion of their biodiversity and vitality, another 30% are threatened by 2020.”

  Reef Rescuers Project underwater coral nurseries

Nature Seychelles has worked in coral reef restoration in the Seychelles since 2010 after widespread coral bleaching caused by the adverse effects of climate change. With coral bleaching, the health and resilience capacity are impeded thereby harming the coral’s ability to regenerate. Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuers Project involves growing different species of coral reefs in underwater nurseries and then transplanting them on to degraded sites.

“I think the training was important for us as an organisation to build our capacity in the coral reef restoration work we are doing and the ongoing coral monitoring on Cousin,” Eric says.

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