A revolutionary coral reef restoration project in Seychelles has achieved the extraordinary by raising over 40,000 corals fragments in underwater nurseries and transplanting a 5,500 square metre of degraded reef – the size of a football pitch – with these corals. The project is carried out by local NGO Nature Seychelles and is the creation of Seychellois environmentalist and the NGO’s Chief Executive, Dr Nirmal Shah.
Using the coral gardening method, teams of dedicated scientists grew corals collected from healthy sites in underwater nurseries, raised them to a satisfactory size, and transplanted them at pre-selected sites in Cousin Island Special Reserve, a 50-year old marine protected area.
Corals in Seychelles died-off after the catastrophic 1998 El Nino bleaching event in the Indian Ocean and faced further threats in subsequent events.
This project has tremendous implications for Seychelles and coastal communities everywhere as it proves it is possible to innovate and to adapt to climate change.
Like many Small Island Developing States, reefs act as the country’s first line of defense from rising ocean levels and are the most important habitats and spawning grounds for fish, the islands’ main protein and daily diet. The country’s tourism benefits from healthy coral reefs.
Now in its eighth year, the project began in 2010 with a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and later the Global Environment Facility through the Government of Seychelles and UNDP.
The project is scientifically significant as the first one to ever trial the coral gardening method for restoration on a large scale. Over 40 scientists and volunteer scientific divers from around the world have gained knowledge on this method of restoration.
A toolkit the NGO developed provides information on challenges and lessons learnt to help out others who might want to carry out similar work. Recently launched, the NGO’s Centre for Ocean Restoration Awareness and Learning (CORAL) is expected to serve as a national and regional hub for knowledge sharing on coral reef conservation and restoration.
Dr. Shah believes that much can be achieved when people work together in genuine and mutually respectful partnerships. CORAL was established to try and attract cutting edge scientists to carry out further research on corals, particularly as there is insufficient capacity in this small island state.
Although extremely challenging at the beginning, this being the first wide-scale project of its kind in the world, it is hoped that this is just the beginning of a successful journey towards the restoration of reefs in Seychelles, the region, and the world.
To learn more and to keep updated about this project visit Nature Seychelles’ website: www.natureseychelles.org
Source: Saint Ange Tourism Report