In 2018 SFA employees Clara Belmont and Stephanie Marie visited Alphonse for one week to be trained, by ICS staff and PHd student Caitlin McGarigal, on the SeyCCAT acoustic telemetry project. The trainees were briefed on how this technology can be used to examine the movement patterns of target species, how to safely tag fish with transmitters and how to design an effective array of acoustic receivers across marine habitat.
They assisted with the practical task of downloading receivers which involves scuba diving to the seabed, often in poor visibility, locating and removing the receiver so that all the data that it stores can be downloaded at the surface before it is returned and secured again to its mooring block. Thanks Clara and Stephanie for your help!
With around 50 percent of the Seychelles’ landmass created by natural reserves, the islands are the perfect loation for promoting eco-tourism. While tourists visiting the area come for the turquoise waters, white sands and natural beauty, there is evidence to suggest that the number of visitors who wish to experience its unique biodiversity is continually on the rise. Conserving the islands' environment is one of the key principles of responsible travel, whether it’s to find a solution to the plastic bottle problem or ensuring the natural habitat is protected. The question is, how to bridge the gap between growing visitors numbers and promoting responsible travel? Activities and tours The trends for embracing sustainable tours and activities has seen a huge increase in the Seychelles, as the modern traveler wants to combine their support for conservation with tourist amenities on their visit to the island. All aspects of the island’s industries, from tour companies to cruise lines, fisheries and hotels should provide sustainable options so that tourists feel like they are being offered a valued experience that contributes to authentic experiences that benefit ecotourism in the Seychelles. For example, wildlife cruises to explore the marine and bird life can benefit both the tourist and support local projects simultaneously. Parents can prioritize staying safe aboard the boat, particularly with small children, so that everyone has a rewarding experience. Local and economic community In addition to protecting the wildlife while traveling or getting involved with a Conservation Boot Camp, sustainable travel should also aim to minimize the impact travelers have on the local communities on their vacation in the Seychelles. Trying local delicacies and supporting restaurants, bars and shops is just one aspect of promoting responsible travel. Similarly, offering accommodation that is fitting with sustainability will ensure a more enriching experience that is respectful and considerate of the environmental impact. In doing this, the local economy is likely to flourish and will also benefit the island’s different cultures enormously. Teach and learn The shift from traditional modes of tourism has been replaced with the trend of people choosing sustainable options for their vacation and the environmental impact it has on a locality. Furthermore, the ongoing work of conservationists in the Seychelles helps to promote it as an eco-friendly tourist location. Education is vital to ensure the provision of context from what has been seen and experienced from partaking in snorkeling activities at Cap Ternay Marine National Park, boats tours from Mahe to Arideor or in a learning environments. Visitors are more likely to return to a ecotourism destination if they have a better understanding of it is and organizations have created positive ways of bringing responsible travel and tourist numbers together with projects such as the Sovereign Blue Bond. There are ample opportunities for the green tourist to experience the biodiversity throughout the archipelago islands that will leave a minimal footprint behind, and it is fortunate that the Seychelles communities and organizations are working together to achieve this.
There are more than 1 million plastic bottles purchased each minute in the world. Not only is this number shocking, it is unhealthy for the environment, considering the fact that more than 90% of those bottles are not recycled. The same amount of fossil fuels that can be used to power over 1 million cars in a year is currently used to produce plastic bottles. In addition, the production of plastic bottles requires more that two times the amount of water that is put into the bottles themselves. It does not take a rocket scientist to figure out that we are in a crisis. Fortunately, there are groups focused on saving our islands, oceans, airways and the like. Below, you will learn more about the problems that plastic bottles pose to the environment as well as the potential solutions that they offer.
The Problem of Plastic Bottles
Each year, over 50 billion bottles of water are used across the globe. Though many environmental efforts have been put in place to quell this number, it is projected to continue on its current trajectory for the foreseeable future. Plastic does not just dissolve overtime, it lasts forever. This presents a unique problem for our oceans and planet overall, considering that there are more than 270,000 tons of plastic floating in the waters of the world. If everyone were to use at-home water filtration systems and decline the use of plastic bottles, we would be in a more favorable position. Unfortunately, that is not likely. Most all plastic bottles are made with polyethylene terephthalate (PET). When PET plastics degrade, they absorb harmful chemicals and pass them on to the environment. Perhaps it is better to categorize this plastic bottle phenomena as an epidemic of massive proportions. However, in all of human history, we have found solutions to issues that cause massive health issues. There are viable solutions that can allow you to still use plastic while learning to recycle or upcycle them.
The Solution of Plastic Bottles
Plastic bottles are a detriment to the environment when produced and discarded. With this in mind, there are only two ways to lessen the harmful effects. The first: outlaw the production of plastic bottles or heavily tax them. The second: recycle them after they have been used.
The former option seems more feasible, considering that plastic bottles help millions of people to drink clean water everyday. There is no lack of creative ways to recycle your plastic bottles: purchase a filter and use them in perpetuity, use them as plant pots, convert them into workout equipment, use them to build artwork and building structures. In addition, plastic bottles can be used to create clothing, houses, and accessories.
No matter how you decide to recycle your plastic bottles, it is imperative to the future of our planet that you begin immediately or abstain from using them all together. Not only can it save you money and time, it will decrease your individual footprint while helping more than 700 species of animals as well as the future of mankind.
Throughout 2018 on Aride Island Special Reserve, a team of Island Conservation Society Staff were lucky to be part of a training experience focused on vegetation Management. The objective was to increase the survival of Seabirds through improved knowledge of vegetation in protected areas and simultaneously support the Seychelles Magpie Robin population by understanding more about habitat utilisation. Thanks to the GOS- UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project ten participants were part of this unique and critical training experience. Over the year, invasive species management, species classification and identification, Health and safety and native vegetation knowledge was acquired by the participants. The trainings ensured that participants learned practical skills together, which in turn will lead to improving the islands ecosystem. Overall the trainings objectives were met and all believed that the knowledge obtained from the experience would contribute to improved general management of the Special Reserve and to the skills of the Staff involved. Thanks to Nasreen Khan Aride Conservation Officer for keeping us updated!
The decision to host the event at Labriz was taken based on their track record in leading the way with sustainability actions, from reducing plastic pollution, to conserving local species and investing in the community, therefore Seychelles was chosen as the location to promote Hilton’s commitment to responsible travel and tourism. The Silhouette Foundation has supported and played an enormous part of this work.
To showcase this work Labriz hosted a number of events on the 25th of July on Silhouette Island to which 200 students from different schools on Mahé were in attendance. The morning was filled with captivating and stimulating presentations from the Minister of Tourism, Civil Aviation, Ports and Marine. Mr Didier Dogley, Chairman of the Island Conservation Society (ICS) Mr Adrian Skerrett, Conservation Officer from ICS Thomas Collier, and CEO of the Seychelles Tourism Board Mrs Sherin Francis. Other inspirational speakers included Vice President of Hilton Africa/Indian Ocean Jan Van Der Putten having a one to one fast question and answer session with a local talent and also a panel talking about their leadership roles working as women in the hotel industry.
Additionally, two agreements were signed to commemorate this occasion. The first was the Silhouette Foundation four party agreement which establishes a long-term basis for cooperation and assistance between the parties (namely the Islands Development Company, Island Conservation Society, Hilton Seychelles Labriz resort and Spa and Seychelles National Parks Authority) to conserve, restore and enhance the ecosystems of Silhouette, together with their associated marine environments.
And the second was an agreement between ICS and Hilton Seychelles Labriz Resort and Spa in order to formalise and strengthen the partnership between the two organisations in relation to coral reef health and monitoring.
The day was topped off with the invitees and Hilton staff indulging in a scrumptious lunch organised by Labriz. For those who were still energetic travelled to Hilton Seychelles Northolme Resort and Spa reef on Mahé to snorkel and visualize the results of the coral reef restoration work in action that the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) is implementing in collaboration with the hotel.
Earth Day 2018 is an urgent call to End Plastic Pollution for the survival of our Planet.
Migratory seabirds have limited choices of nesting sites. Photo Richard Jeanne
Each year over 300 million tons of fossil fuel-based plastic is sold, and over 90% of it Is thrown away almost immediately. It doesn’t break down into compost like vegetable scraps or natural materials such as wood, stone or glass. Our Earth is now literally drowning in plastics – littering our oceans, our rivers, our beaches, landscapes and landfills with rubbish, accumulating into rubbish islands and rubbish mountains. Plastics are injuring and poisoning our wildlife and our bodies, releasing toxins capable of disrupting human hormones and linked to disease and environmental degradation.
Regular cleanups always yield too much litter on our beaches. Photo ICS Silhouette
Seychelles is progressing in its efforts to reduce plastic pollution, with a ban on single-use plastic bags introduced in 2017 and highly visible campaigns emerging to ban straws and other single-use plastics. Momentum is also building to abandon non-recyclable products. Young Seychelles NGO The Ocean Project Seychelles host monthly beach clean ups on the main populated islands and concerned citizens conduct their own Pick It Up campaigns.
Pristine wildlife islands such as Farquhar also fall victim to global plastic pollution and marine debris washed ashore. Photo Aurelie Duhec
ICS Conservation Teams on Seychelles Islands contribute by conducting frequent beach clean ups, weighing and categorizing the collected debris. This remit is enabled under the GOS UNDP GEF Outer Islands Project. The results of these collections indicate that much of the plastic pollution washed in Seychelles waters comes from much further afield, from Indonesia to Africa across the Indian Ocean. Most populous on the beaches are plastic bottles and caps, buoys and flipflops, the plastic bag waste being broken down into microparticles by wave action and ingestion by marine life, much to their detriment.
This issue is truly global, and we as custodians of Planet Earth need a concerted and collaborated effort to reduce plastic pollution before it swamps our planet. We all, as individuals, need to take personal responsibility to refuse, reuse, reduce and recycle our “stuff” – for the health and survival of Earth as a whole. And we can lobby governments and corporations to make the same changes on a larger scale. For more information on what You can do right now, click here.
Reflection Time. Can you spot the Striated Heron? Photo Gen Berry
The children of The Children's House Montessori Primary School at Bel Air, aptly named the “Green Room Kids” took a fabulous field trip to Silhouette on 28 February as part of their Knowledge of the World curriculum. Our ICS Conservation Team welcomed eighteen young ecowarriors aged 5 – 9 years old and their teachers for a day of immersion in the wonders of the National Park and the ICS Conservation Centre. Activities such as hikes and turtle nesting simulations brought alive for the children the abundance and accessibility of Nature on Silhouette, and ingrained in them a feeling for loving and protecting our wild spaces.
Being in Nature is essential for children's healthy development. Photo Gen Berry
The day was filled with many new experiences. For most of the children and some teachers it was their first ever visit to Silhouette, giving the trip a mythical quality. A bumpy ferry ride on the way across from Bel Ombre heightened everyone’s senses. Once on the island in the safe hands of ICS Conservation Team of Francois, Teesha, Said and Dominique, the children became at one with their environment, curious and eager to learn and explore. They were captivated by the variety of wildlife seen and heard whilst hiking through peaceful wetlands and lush native forest. They were enthralled to tread (lightly) over volcanic lava and through “swishy” grass taller than themselves.
Child's Eye View on a hike to Ramass Tout. Photo Gen Berry
A beach turtle tagging simulation prompted many thoughtful questions and wonderings. Simply swimming and playing in the ocean and watching lemon shark pups in the shallows proved to be big experiences for little spirits. The children enjoyed their day immensely and have extended their learning back in the classroom, with journals, drawings and letters. It was also a day of farewells and the children said goodbye to their wonderful Miss Yolande, and ICS farewelled Dominique.
At Home in the Forest with the ICS Team. Photo Gen Berry
Research continues to show that an affinity to and love of nature, along with a positive environmental ethic, grow out of children’s regular contact with and play in the natural world. This contact is essential to children’s general growth, development and knowledge of the world, and indeed to the health of our environment. Children who love nature will strive to protect it in the future. Live With Nature – and Nature Lives. A big thanks to Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund for enabling these hugely enriching experiences.
Don-Petros and Teesha sharing discoveries. Photo Gen Berry
The Indian Lionfish's unusual form and leaflike fins camouflage it for ambush. Venomous spines on the fins and tail are used purely for self defence. Photo thanks Rowana Walton
Today is World Wildlife Day, the United Nations global celebration of the many beautiful and varied forms of wild animals and plants on our planet, and occasion to raise awareness of the multitude of benefits that conservation provides to both wildlife and people and the plight of many threatened or endangered species.
This year's World Wildlife Day theme is “Big cats: predators under threat". Whilst not home to big cats, Seychelles' expansive marine reserves support an incredible diversity of amazing species. The Indian Lionfish is a majestic and highly effective predator native to Seychelles' reefs. Graceful and slow swimming, it uses its featherlike fins to simultaneously attract and camouflage from prey. Lionfish are ambush predators, swallowing whole anything that fits in their mouth, and able to expand their stomach to 30 times its size. They are territorial, solitary hunters which can live up to 15 years and in their native habitat are an essential element of healthy reef ecosystems.
The first Greater Crested Tern Thalasseus bergii nest observed on Bancs du Sable in 17 years has a chick! After a month-long incubation, GCT chicks hatch with eyes open and a protective, temperature-regulating coating of down. This chick will remain dependent on its parents for food and protection from predators for 38 - 40 days before fledging. Our ICS Farquhar Conservation Team are thrilled to share this news, and report that a second nest has been spotted close by. Greater Crested Terns are known to use individual and group breeding sites, so perhaps this could signal the start of a new larger colony.
A Greater Crested Tern attends its sole chick at nest. Bancs du Sable, Farquhar Atoll. Photo Tom Collier
Chicks are well camouflaged and attentively guarded in their vulnerable pre-flight stage. Photo Tom Collier
A new Seabird Monitoring Protocol recently introduced under the GOS-UNDP-GEF Outer Islands Project is standardising data collection methods for important species across the islands of Farquhar, Desroches, Alphonse and Poivre. Building systematically on the work of conservationists over the past 10+ years, these data sets will be used to inform marine spatial planning and species management for biodiversity conservation and sustainable use in the Outer Islands at Seychelles, regional and international levels.
Monitoring for seabirds, turtles, whales, fishes and incidental wildlife is a daily routine for the ICS Conservation Team on Farquhar. Photo Licia Calabrese
A drifting Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) poses threats to wildlife, reef and beach systems and boats. Photo Annabelle Cupidon
Living in a remote location on a tiny island in the middle of the Indian Ocean sounds idyllic, and it is. Yet it can prove challenging in some respects - for instance in having regular access to supplies and equipment that some of us take for granted. Our "Can Do" Conservation Team struggled a bit when their research boat's covering began disintegrating after many years' loyal service. A replacement was some months in the offing. What To Do? Make one! By upcycling remnants of FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) which had come adrift, the team were able to fashion a hardy boat cover AND reduce environmental impacts to the reef and nearshore habitats.
ICS Team Jean-Claude and Matt wrangling a FAD away from the nearshore zone on Desroches. Photo Annabelle Cupidon
,FADs wash up on Seychelles Outer Islands year round. Typically they have a floating frame which suspends curtain nets, sausage nets and rope (along with anything else which could attract fish). Most of the materials are non-biodegradable. They are a major threat to wildlife and boats. ICS staff intercept FADs to reduce the entanglement of marine megafauna; sharks, turtles, mammals etc. and to reduce coral, seagrass and beach damage.
Greens Abound. Photo Gen Berry
After a FAD is collected, the teams try and recycle the materials, instead of their going to landfill. Bamboo frames and nets are used for climbing plants in the vegetable garden. Some frames however, are made of galvanised steel. These, like boat anchors, are destructive to reefs and seagrasses, breaking corals and uprooting plants as they wash ashore.
Installing the DIY Boat Cover. Photo Annabelle Cupidon
Matthew Morgan, Conservation Ranger on Desroches, explains: “After saving one frame and parts of another we had enough material to make our DIY boat cover. Two poles were welded onto an intact frame which was then mounted over our small boat. Luckily the frame was the exact dimension for the boat which made this a relatively quick job! We used shade cloth and an old boat cover salvaged by ICS in 2015 (and sitting beside our office ever since). This was mounted over the FAD frame and secured to the boat with rope. The cover has helped with marine mammal surveys, collecting sea surface temperature and coral reef surveys. If something is useful we never throw it away, when you live on an outer island you never know what you may need or where you will get it from! Awesome.
Salvage Success - the recycled FAD frame and cover work a treat! Photo Annabelle Cupidon