Tuesday, 19 December 2017 07:17

Western Indian Ocean Region coral reef health stable

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Ron Kirby (a trainee in Nature Seychelles' Reef Rescuers Training program) carrying out a baseline survey of a donor site Ron Kirby (a trainee in Nature Seychelles' Reef Rescuers Training program) carrying out a baseline survey of a donor site

TODAY Newspaper; 16 December 2017: by Kate Carolus. The first report on the state of coral reefs of all countries of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) is out. It was officially presented on Saturday 9 December in Nairobi, Kenya, during the ICRI General Assembly of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). The purpose of the publication is to provide updated information on the state of coral reefs in the region, including impacts of one of the largest coral bleaching events in 2016.

This report explains, among other things, the regional drivers of change and how they are evolving to help countries in coral reef impact planning and regeneration. WIO countries (South Africa, Comoros, France/La Réunion, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Mozambique, Seychelles, Somalia and Tanzania), who recognise the important socio-economic and ecological values of coral reefs and their associated ecosystems, have
aligned themselves with the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) in an attempt to provide solutions to help manage and maintain these systems.

This includes a regional framework for monitoring and reporting the coral reef status through the Global Coral Monitoring Network (GCRMN) and is being done through regional co-operation frameworks (Indian
Ocean Commission (IOC), Nairobi Convention). 

Commenting on the report Dr. Judith Nyunja, senior research scientist at Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) said, “This is both a good scientific analysis of coral reef health status trends and an excellent proposal of recommendations for the management of associated reefs and ecosystems.” She added that “the situation is relatively stable after the bleaching of 1998 with losses of 25%, compared with only 10% after the bleaching of 2016, this gives hope for reef preservation if very active management measures are taken

Seychelles reefs the most affected

Produced through the Biodiversity Programme, the report presents the latest compilation and quantitative assessment of coral reef health data by regional monitoring networks in WIO, building on previous GCRMN reports published from 1999 to 2008. 

“It is a source of pride for the IOC to publish this report, which has been produced with the valuable contributions of national and regional institutions and NGOs as well as individuals who are passionate about reef conservation” underlined Said Ahamada, marine biodiversity expert. “I encourage the partners to continue supporting the regional reef network, whose dynamism and motivation is well recognised despite the challenges,” he added.

The results indicate that more than one third of the sites were severely affected by bleaching with a peak between April and May 2016. In the region, Seychelles was most affected by this phenomenon, followed by Tanzania and Mauritius. 

Dr. Nirmal Shah, CEO of Nature Seychelles and the originator of Reef Rescuers explained that “Seychelles coral reefs have been severely harmed by almost back-to-back bleaching events. This severely affects
many services that coral reefs provide to us such as sand production for beaches, storm barriers, areas for tourism and leisure and fish for food.”

The way forward

The Biodiversity Programme, implemented by the IOC and funded by the European Union, supports several regional initiatives in the management of our reefs. These focus on strengthening national and regional capacities to monitor coral bleaching, identifying coral diseases, and assessing post-bleaching impacts in Comoros, Kenya, Madagascar, Mauritius, Seychelles and Tanzania / Zanzibar. 

Dr. Shah shared with TODAY the efforts being made in the management of our reefs locally, “The good news is that Seychelles also hosts the world’s largest coral reef restoration programme using what is known as the coral gardening method.” He went on to explain, “This is Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuers programme which for the last seven years has grown about 50,000 corals in underwater nurseries and have restored an area covering about 6,000 sq. metres which was degraded by climate change in the Cousin island Special Reserve. We also restored a smaller reef area opposite the Lémuria resort on Praslin and now are engaged in saving reefs of Felicite island.”

By looking after their reefs for almost 20 years, the countries of the WIO region are contributing towards the achievement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) No. 14 and the Aichi Target 11 of the World Heritage Convention Biodiversity (CBD). The former promotes the conservation and sustainable use of oceans and seas for sustainable development, while the latter states that 10% of marine protected areas worldwide are managed effectively by 2020.

Read 1540 times Last modified on Thursday, 18 January 2018 07:20