Reef Rescuers Assemble! Refreshed coral restoration team hits the water

Nature Seychelles has entered a new exciting phase in its decade-long reef restoration project carried out in the Marine Protected Area of Cousin Island Special Reserve. The NGO has received a grant from the Adaptation Fund through UNDP and the Government of Seychelles as part of a large regional project with Mauritius and is set to leap-frog into the third and next level of its restoration program. This new project will look at novel techniques from overseas in coral genetics and reproduction.

Surveying donor sites for coral collection

Luca Saponari surveying donor sites for coral collection 

To set things in motion two international experts have recently been recruited to join the existing Reef Rescuers team based at Nature Seychelles' Centre for Ocean Restoration Awareness and Learning (CORAL) on Praslin. Luca Saponari and Roshni Yathiraj are both science and technical field officers with extensive experience in coral reef restoration in the Indian Ocean, in the Maldives, and the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, respectively.

"We see team selection as paramount to achieving the project’s objectives, as a project is as good as its team. We've always encouraged diversity, especially in scientific endeavour. These two members bring on board both academic qualifications, extensive field experience as well as skills in solving difficult problems in reef restoration. They will help us to look at things with fresh eyes," says Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles' Chief Executive.

Because every project must have a solid start, together with the Nature Seychelles team from the Mahe, the Reef Rescuers have been making preparations for the work to begin and are gathering resources and getting their tools of the trade, both equipment and corals, ready.

Coral reef nursery being stocked with fragments

Coral reef nursery being stocked with fragments

On the corals side of things, they have been looking at the existing nurseries and restoration site as well as appropriate donor sites for coral collection for the stock for new nurseries. The “reef gardening” concept will continue to be used in the restoration of reefs. During the first stage, corals will be sourced from donor coral colonies of suitable species available for propagation in underwater and land nurseries. They will be given the best conditions possible to help with growth and survival. In the second stage, corals that have grown to a required colony size will be transplanted in pre-selected degraded reef sites.

The Reef Rescuers have been making preparations for the work to begin

A new boat was delivered from Mahe

On the equipment and tools side, a new boat and diving equipment were purchased and maintenance of old gear undertaken. With help of the Cousin Island staff, the equipment was installed and the boat put on the water ready for its maiden trip. The boat and accessories were all locally made in Mahe and delivered to Praslin. The diving gear included wet suits, buoyancy control devices, pressure, and depth gauges, and inflator hoses. After the installation, staff received dive equipment and gear maintenance training and testing, to ensure that safety standards are maintained. An inventory of the centre was also undertaken, and additional items to facilitate the day-to-day running of the project were purchased.

Setting of to the coral restoration site

Roshni Yathiraj setting off to the coral restoration site

"Working with coral reef restoration is my way of fixing a little bit of the damage that has been caused," Roshni says.

"It is challenging, but rewarding," Luca concludes.

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