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BGF#5

Type: Small

SeyCCAT strategic objective: Support new and existing marine and coastal protected areas and sustainable use zones.

Lead Project Partner: Blue Safari Seychelles.

Partners: Marine Conservation Society Seychelles and Island Conservation Society

Summary:

In order to better understand the ecological significance and therefore implement conservation measures that are appropriate, specific and effective to a certain marine ecosystem, it is crucial to have an understanding of the species present. Fish diversity and the relative abundance of different species within tropical marine ecosystems, particularly coral reefs, has often been shown to correlate closely with overall ecosystem health and resilience. Many species of fish at different trophic levels are not only keystone species, playing a critical role in the functionality of the ecosystem, but can be indicators of sub-lethal changes. The ‘holy trinity’ of interdependent tropical coastal marine habitats consisting of coral reefs, seagrasses and mangroves has some of the highest biodiversity in the world, especially in small Indo-Pacific islands like Seychelles, yet are suffering from a variety of serious anthropogenic threats. Therefore, it is critical to understand what species of fish are present throughout the lesser-explored parts of the archipelago to create a biodiversity baseline to which future data can be compared back to in order to assess the health of the ecosystems over time and implement any necessary conservation measures.

While the marine biodiversity of the Seychelles granitic islands is relatively well studied, little is known about the marine fish communities that inhabit the outer islands. The two atolls that make up the Alphonse Group (Alphonse atoll and St. François atoll) are situated over 400km to the southwest of Mahé and contain a diverse range of marine habitats. Although only 2km apart, the atolls are separated by a deepwater channel, which delivers cool upwellings and has served to protect the atolls’ reefs from significant climate-induced coral bleaching. Moreover, due to the remote nature of the atolls, they have been largely protected from sustained localised pressure (particularly since 1980), with the only current impact coming from a small catch-and-release fly-fishing and tourism operation, which follows strict codes of conduct and works closely with local conservation partners.

Through a joint collaboration led by Blue Safari Seychelles and partnered with the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles and the Island Conservation Society (ICS), there is a unique opportunity to undertake a rapid biodiversity assessment of the fish assemblages present within the different marine ecosystems of the Alphonse and St.Francois atolls. This is particularly relevant in light of the ongoing implementation of the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan as the Alphonse Group has recently received legal protection (category II). A deeper understanding of the biodiversity of the atoll habitats will be critical in developing an effective conservation management strategy that is set to become legally binding under the strategic framework.
This work will complement the annual monitoring currently conducted by ICS of coral reefs and seagrass. Their data includes the relative abundance of reef fish functional groups and overall fish biomass. A species inventory would add much-needed biodiversity data to create a holistic understanding of these fragile marine ecosystems.

SeyCCAT funds:   SCR 96,545 

Co-financing:

Blue Safari Seychelles will provide co-financing through:

  • The in-kind donation of the project lead’s time and expertise – SCR 11,280
  • Subsidised accommodation, equipment and boat hire costs
  • Use of on-site cameras, camera equipment and software- SCR 31,100 (value)
  • Use of satellite internet for the duration of the project – SCR 29,000 (approx..)
  • In-kind donation of skipper’s salary for 12days of boat use – SCR 7,249
  • Electricity for the duration of fieldwork – SCR 754

Duration: 12 months

Project Application Form: Coming soon

Environmental and social management plan: Coming soon