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Angelique Pouponneau,

CEO of SeyCCAT

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Dear friends, 

I hope you are all keeping safe. From the SeyCCAT team to you – Happy Ocean Day!  It has been some time that we have been dealing with a global health crisis. When even the major world economies struggle to make ends meet, things might seem especially grim for small island nations. 

But it doesn’t have to be this way for Seychelles. Developing the blue sectors of the economy will help keep people employed, generate the domestic product, and support national food security. Read the full opinion piece on the possible role of blue finance in the post-COVID recovery and why we should not sacrifice these sectors. 

But despite the global uncertainty, today, SeyCCAT is happy to share some solid and positive achievements of the first half of 2020. These achievements include four of SeyCCAT projects being selected for a documentary about the life of Dr. Sylvia Earle, a world-renowned marine scientist, also known as Her Deepness. Also, SeyCCAT has launched a coastal wetlands and climate change project that will carry out important work mapping seagrass areas, evaluate their carbon sinking potential, and use this data to update the Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC) of Seychelles. Additionally, we have taken a critical look at our COVID-19 challenges.

Even with all the limitations of the global pandemic, we have been keeping up with knowledge sharing and have successfully transitioned to the online mode. Actually, if we look at the situation from a constructive point of view, it has a silver lining. It offers great learning opportunities as the materials become accessible digitally, learning events don’t require any special scheduling, and all information can be accessed from the comfort of your own home at any time, day or night.

And on this note, we would like to invite you to learn more about our work in the last 6 months and hope this newsletter offers some much-needed ocean optimism!

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Kicking off our Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change Project

After a year of planning, SeyCCAT has brought six partners (and counting!) to collaborate on the coastal wetlands and climate change project. Supported by Pew Charitable Trusts, the project will include an EEZ-wide mapping of seagrass meadows in Seychelles to understand how much atmospheric carbon dioxide these blue carbon ecosystems are absorbing and storing. These calculations will be integrated into the nationally determined contributions of Seychelles.

To kickstart the project, SeyCCAT hosted the first Workshop on the state of knowledge of seagrass in Seychelles. The workshop brought together the stakeholders to discover the existing body of research originating from Seychelles. Local and international experts joined the event and shared their expertise from years of data collection. Check out their presentations. 

Fun fact: there is no word for seagrass in the native Creole language. This, in part, can be attributed to the disconnect between these habitats and the local populations.  Therefore, the project also wants to find a suitable name in the local language. By connecting our native language to this ecosystem we hope to promote a sense of ownership of these important habitats among Seychellois.

It’s official: 30 percent of Seychelles’ EEZ is Marine Protection Areas

On the 26th of March 2020, the Government of Seychelles has officially designated 30 percent of the Exclusive Economic Zone as Marine Protection Areas. Half of these areas are of high biodiversity and designated as Marine National Parks where almost no human activity other than sustainable tourism will be permitted. These areas include the waters surrounding the Aldabra group, marine areas in the Amirantes including D’Arros to Poivre, and the South of Amirantes and Bird Island, one of the only 2 sand cays in the inner island group. The rest are ‘medium biodiversity and sustainable use’ zones where enterprises vital to Seychelles’ economy will continue to operate, managed under new sustainability regulations. Implementation of these areas will start in 2021. For more information www.seymsp.com

Commited to learning

Building capacity and sharing knowledge have been our priority since the SeyCCAT inception. These activities are vital for the successful implementation of the projects and for their longevity in the long term. This year is no exception and the Board confirmed the strategic focus on building capacity of SeyCCAT grantees.

The first training provided to the grantees was on Monitoring and Evaluation (M&E). The training encouraged project owners to think of M&E at the design stage and identify indicators to monitor whether they are indeed, meeting their outcome targets. SeyCCAT staff too will receive more than 12 hours of training on marine protected areas, fisheries, blue economy, and research methods. This training will be offered by local experts and will be adjusted to the realities of our country.

Additionally, despite the travel restrictions SeyCCAT participated in over 10 events, where we shared key findings from the projects and insights on innovative ocean financing.

Also, SeyCCAT continued supporting students and fellows by providing presentations to the School of International Training, Vermont Law School and the UN DOALOS’ Nippon Fellows. SeyCCAT hosted its own webinars too and the next one, scheduled to the 9th of June, will discuss innovation for the Blue Economy business resilience.

New Discoveries in the Western Indian Ocean

Sharks at 300 m deep

Jennifer Appoo’s research on predators at depths in the Aldabra area, the first one of the area, recorded the sighting of a sixgill shark (Hexanchus griseus) at 300 m.  This is the first spotting of this species on the atoll. The deep-sea predator is unique and bears six-gill slits, which is different from other shark species that have five-gill slits.

How deep can seagrass go?

Dr Jeanne A. Mortimer’s research on seagrass and algae at depth and across the outer islands of Seychelles confirmed that seagrass does not generally grow below 30 meters. The only genus recorded at that depth was Halophila sp. Furthermore, the research discovered dead seagrass leaves primarily from the genus Thalassodendron at the depths below 30m. This sighting is new to the Western Indian Ocean. 

The implications are two-fold:  a) it shows that seagrass debris are important as a source of nutrients for deep-water ecosystems that are presumably nutrient-poor; and b) it provides evidence that seagrass functions as a blue-carbon sink, where carbon once trapped by a plant is not released back even when the plant dies.

Meet Annike – the new member of the SeyCCAT team

Ms Annike Faure, hailed from the University of Seychelles with a BSc Geography and Environment, followed by a MSc Environmental Management for Business from Cranfield University, has joined the SeyCCAT secretariat to manage the Coastal Wetlands and Climate Change project. She has previously worked with UNDP on the Biodiversity Finance Initiative and Access and Benefit Sharing under the Nagoya Protocol and brings more than 5 years of experience of project management to the SeyCCAT team.

Her organizational skills, her bubbly personality and excellent baking already makes her a valuable member of the team.

Where are they now?

The voluntary fishery closure piloted in the bay of Baie Ste Anne, Praslin, has now ended. Unfortunately, during the six-month closure, there were three sightings of fishers who were violating the protocols and still placing traps within the bay. However, they faced a strong push back from the consumers who constantly asked about the origins of the rabbitfish before buying the catch. Despite not having 100% compliance, the fishers were pleasantly surprised that their first attempt at a fishery closure had such a high rate of adherence. The data collected during the experiment will indicate whether the fish have indeed increased in size and number.

With the co-financing from SeyCCAT and Echebastar, SYAH-Seychelles has successfully launched the fourth edition of the Blue Economy Internship Programme. The internship started in 2017 provided a merit-based mechanism to obtain work experience and revolutionize the career guidance provided in educational establishments. Since its inception, a total of 110 youth has benefited from this internship programme. 90 of the 110 youth were women.

They have benefited from work experience in the blue economic sectors, which offered a valuble insight on realities of choosing a blue career.

GIF’s ongoing marine survey of marine biodiversity around Fregate Island continues, although temporarily paused during the closure of the Fregate Island Private. Following marine surveys in both 2019 and 2020, the GIF team:

  • Undertook 24 fish surveys covering a total of 6000m2 and recorded 15 families of fish out of the 17 they were targeting.
  • Recorded 30 coral genera.
  • Undertook 28 benthic surveys, surveyed a total length of 280 m
  • Undertook 44 coral recruit surveys, surveyed a total area of 44m2.
  • Undertook 11 surveys for invertebrates covering a total area of 2750 m2

View the latest 3-D underwater maps and discover the findings of the marine surveys.

Is the Curieuse National Marine Park effectively protecting the lemon shark population? Having strategically placed acoustic transmitters and receivers, and tagged 20 sickle fin lemon sharks, the data has been downloaded and the preliminary findings are:

1.  A total of 329,208 detections has been recorded for analysis from transmitters implanted in 20 sharks, between the 24th of October and the 22nd of May.
2. Of the total detections, only 1,203 detections were recorded on receivers placed in deeper water, suggesting a very strong preference for shallow water habitats.
3. At least four individuals appear to remain active within range of the receivers, which broadly correlates with observed capture rate patterns during PIT tagging surveys.

What’s next?

The fourth Blue Grants Fund is capitalised with more than US$ 700, 000! We have developed new tools to guide the application process, so plan ahead. For more on how to apply.