SeyCCAT Strategic Objective: Support new and existing marine and coastal protected areas and sustainable use zones.
Lead Project Partner: Seychelles Islands Foundation
Partners: Queen’s College, University of Oxford (UK)
Inappropriately disposed waste washed out from landfills, items discarded into rivers and at sea, along with fishing equipment can become marine debris which travel long distances and eventually wash onshore. This marine debris accumulates on the beaches of even the most remote and pristine places, like Aldabra Atoll, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Vast quantities of marine debris have been accumulating for years on Aldabra’s shoreline and in recent times this has dramatically accelerated. It is cataclysmically ironic that such an incredible place, inaccessible to most of humanity can be touched by marine debris, which harms this sanctuary’s endemic and endangered wildlife. This ever-growing problem can no longer be left unchecked and appropriate action must be taken to cause meaningful change. As such, the removal of accumulated marine debris is a top priority for SIF. Although Aldarba’s remoteness (1200km away from Mahé) and harsh conditions poses a major logistical challenge and one that exceeds SIF’s conventional financing means, the removal of marine debris from its shores is Aldabra Clean Up Project (ACUP)’s primary action. It is envisioned that Aldabra’s fauna, human visitors, Seychellois community and world population will benefit from the ACUP’s success. Ultimately, ACUP’s overarching outcome will be the cleaning of Aldabra’s shore through an expedition to take place in February – March 2019. The expedition will focus on the southern nest beaches and coastline which are the most affected by marine debris due to their exposure to the South East monsoon winds and inaccessibility. This extraordinary action carried out by a multi-national team will feed currents of change and create waves of actions for improved waste management and reduced plastic pollution throughout the country, unlocking local capacity to think differently of waste by transforming it into a resource. To achieve this outcome the project has five main objectives: (1) fundraising, (2) awareness & education (3) waste removal, (4) research and (5) waste management and processing (these objectives will be expanded upon in section D and E).
Site Description: At 35 km by 15 km, Aldabra is one of the world’s largest coral atolls, having a land area of around 155 km2. It has a total protected area of 2559km2. It was designated as a Special Nature Reserve by the National Parks and Nature Conservancy Act of Seychelles (1969), a UNESCO World Heritage site (1982), a RAMSAR wetland site of international importance (2010) and is now part of the IOSEA Marine Turtle Site Network in recognition of Aldabra’s importance to marine turtles (2014). Aldabra has approximately 55 beaches where plastic pollution has accumulated, although the pollution is not limited to these beaches. The coast is comprised of limestone karst which shelves out over the sea and at high tide the waves crash up onto the shelf depositing waste onto the karst and also beyond into the vegetation. While the most intensive work will take place on Aldabra, there will be education and outreach activities, as well as waste management and processing initiatives taking place on Mahé.
Summary of timeline: Early 2019 the ACUP team will collect, remove and research marine debris on Aldabra. In the following months, and until the project’s end, data collected will be analysed and results published and disseminated. In this same time period several other actions will take place; recommendations for waste management on Aldabra will be integrated into Aldabra Atoll Management Plan (2016-2026) with a long term plan for regular clean-ups to take place, Standard monitoring procedures will be developed and innovative artwork, created from the collected marine debris will be commissioned to be exhibited in Aldabra House (the Aldabra exhibition centre to be built on Mahé). Throughout its duration ACUP will work with local and international initiatives to explore how Aldabra’s waste management can be improved and apply these solutions. The ACUP will also host and support awareness activities on the issue of marine debris to change consumer and corporate behaviour (for more details please consult section E).
Alignment with global and national priorities: Sustainable Development Goals: 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, 12: Responsible Production and Consumption, 14: Life Below Water, 15: Life On Land and 17: Partnerships for the Goals. Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD) Aichi Targets 1, 8, 9 and 11. Seychelles Sustainable Development Stratergy (2012-2020) goals: Chapter 2: Social & Human Development (Goal 1 & 2), Chapter 4: Biodiversity & Forestry (Goal 1), Chapter 7: Water, Sanitation & Waste Management (Goal 3), Chapter 9: The Economics Of Sustainability (Goal 2), Chapter 10 Sustainable Consumption & Production (Goal 1), Chapter 13 Education For Sustainability Practices (Goal 1). Seychelles’ National Biodiversity and Action Plan: (1) Address the underlying causes of biodiversity loss by mainstreaming biodiversity across government and society. (2) Reduce the direct pressures on biodiversity and promote sustainable use, (3) Improve the status of biodiversity by safeguarding ecosystems, species and genetic diversity and (5) Enhance implementation through participatory planning, knowledge management and capacity building.
SeyCCAT Funds: SCR 1M
Co-finance: SCR 2, 497, 700
Duration: January 2019 to June 2020
Download the ACUP Project Application
- 25 metric tonnes of marine plastic pollution removed from a UNESCO world heritage site;
- SIF’s largest education and outreach project, which saw 10 youths, who would otherwise never have experienced Aldabra, join current and former SIF staff to become environmental activists;
- ACUP organised or took part in over 50 education and outreach activities in Seychelles and abroad;
- We estimate that 514 metric tonnes of marine plastic pollution remain on Aldabra;
- We estimate that 52% (by weight) of the marine plastic pollution on Aldabra is fishing /ghost gear (discarded and lost rope, nets and buoys) and the next heaviest categories are flip flops (22%);
- We estimate it would take a team of 12, would take 172 days and funds worth SCR 60.8million to completely clear the atoll of marine plastic pollution (a useful reference to calculate the impact of the global plastic pollution issue);
- By recording labels on consumer items, we were able to identify some of their region and possibly state of origin: South East Asia region (i.e. Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Philippines), the Indian subcontinent region (i.e. Sri-Lanka, India and the Maldives) and East Africa (i.e. Comoros and Mauritius). Furthermore, consumer items with labels from states outside of the Indian Ocean (i.e. Japan) were also recorded;
- By photographing and recording the serial numbers of washed ashore Fish Aggregating Devices that Industrial Fishing fleets operating in Seychelles’ economic exclusive zone are in some part responsible for the issue of marine plastic pollution;
- Beach transects conducted before and during the expedition indicate that 6.5 tonnes of marine plastic pollution arrive on Aldabra’s shores annually;
- Beach surveys found that 75% of all trash arriving had attached biota.
Oxford students and Seychellois team up to clean up debris from remote island – Seychelles News Agency
Flip flops among the tonnes of trash cleaned up on Seychelles Aldabra Atoll – Seychelles News Agency
Addressing plastic pollution in Aldabra – Wings World Quest
Aldabra Clean Up Project in Panorama
Eden Projects marks massive clean up – Exeter University