SeyCCAT funds: SCR 677, 730
Strategic objective: 3
Lead Project Partner: Marcus Quatre, Mervin Cedras and Dominique Thelermont
The Ocean Project
Seychelles Fishing Authority
Ministry of Education
Ministry of Environment
Seychelles National Parks Authority
Duration: 6 months
Environmental and Social Management Plan: ESMP-The Ocean Cleanup Project-21012021
Marine pollution is a pressing challenge for marine ecosystems around the world. Plastic, trash and manufactured pollutants enter the ocean and travel with currents far beyond national borders. Seychelles is no exception, and discarded fishing nets, plastic bags, and facemasks are found even on the most remote islands of the archipelago. Yet, most of Seychelles’ marine trash does not originate in the country and is carried over from Southeast Asia, including Indonesia and the Bay of Bengal.
Pollution profoundly affects fisheries and tourism, the two pillars of the Seychelles’ economy. Large quantities of non-floating marine debris sink to the ocean floor and get caught up in coral reefs – a critical ecosystem that supports the ocean’s biodiversity. Pollution diminishes the ability of corals to provide a safe breeding ground for fish, which, combined with overfishing, impacts the sustainability of the fish stock.
Tourists flock to Seychelles from around the world looking for pristine beaches and vibrant marine life. The Seychelles’ reputation as a pristine island paradise is also dependent on the health of its ecosystems and the abundance of marine life to satisfy high-income holidaymakers.
Marcus Quatre, Dominique Thelermont, and Mervin Cedras have been diving for sea cucumbers for more than 13 years and have witnessed the accumulation of marine trash over the past decade. They devised an idea to clean up three underwater areas around Mahe putting their diving skills to good use. They divided the selected regions onto 100 m2 grids and meticulously covered each of 27,400 squares, or 2.74 million m2 – an area roughly equivalent to 285 football fields.
During the dives, the trio saw all kinds of trash settled on coral reefs and the ocean floor, but especially damaging were the anchors left by fishers. Mervis Cedras explained: “These anchors are dragging through the ocean floor and through the corals, destroying whatever is on their way.” Besides the anchors, the team routinely picked up empty bottles left by tourist boats, plastic wrappers and discarded fishing nets.
All picked-up trash was sorted into reusable and recyclable, and landfills were used only as a last resort. The team also documented all garbage they collected to understand its origin and come up with a community action plan. With the evidence in hand, the Ocean Cleanup project developed a public outreach campaign to educate Seychelois about the true scope of marine pollution and what they can do as individuals and as a community whose wellbeing depends on the ocean in so many ways.
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The first dive – What did they find? Read about it here.