Cerf Island Conservation Programme
Coral reefs are in severe decline around the Seychelles and Cerf Island because of climate change, land reclamation, boat anchors, illegal fishing, and careless visitors. Our aim is to support the active rehabilitation of coral through the Cerf Island Conservation Programme (CICP).
How can you support this project?
There are three different ways that you can support Cerf Island Project and allow for the expansion of reef recovery activities, the purchasing of required materials, and fuel costs for visiting school groups as the CICP increases local community outreach. Your support will help the MCSS and the SSTF in the long-term, allowing them to carry out coral restoration on Cerf Island through the CICP.
What is happening?
After tragic bleaching events in 1998 and 2016, as well as the tsunami of 2004, the coral reefs around the Seychelles and Cerf Island have been severely damaged. The already-slow process of coral recovery is further hindered by illegal fishing, harbour pollution, destruction of the reef through boat anchors, inexperienced snorkellers, and land reclamation projects.
Although coral reef rehabilitation is listed as a required activity in the Seychelles Sustainable Development Strategy for 2012-2020 (http://www.egov.sc/edoc/pubs/frmpubdetail.aspx?pubId=26), so far no funds have been allocated to carry out this project on Cerf Island. Nevertheless, the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS - http://www.mcss.sc) is using successful nursery techniques on a small scale to rehabilitate the reefs closest to Cerf Island Conservation Programme partners.
How does the project work?
The Cerf Island Conservation Programme is a community-based organisation which hosts the project leader, Savi Leblond, and up to three volunteers on the island. The CICP is funded solely by the private sector and the local community on Cerf Island. Each working day, the CICP team cleans the beaches of the island and provides guided snorkelling tours to clients staying in any of the CICP’s partner establishments (Cerf Island Resort, L’Habitation Hotel, Tropical Sanctuary, and Fairy Tern Chalets).
The CICP has adopted a coral-gardening concept in coral reef restoration. Rope nurseries for coral and artificial metal reef frames have both been built, maintained, and monitored. The CICP has also created media pamphlets, hosted various groups (school and recreational), and attended various events, workshops, and conferences. Since October 2015, 887 guests have already participated in guided snorkelling tours provided by the CICP. In October 2016, five artificial reef frames and two coral nurseries were added to the project. Lectures are given to all snorkelling clients before the guided tours at 10:30 (Monday - Friday) regarding the various threats to which corals have been subjected, as well as the various mitigation measures taken to rehabilitate the coral reefs. Clients are also provided with an understanding of what kinds of habitats and marine life they are likely to encounter, as well as proper encounter behaviour methods (no touching/standing on coral, no harassing of wildlife etc.). Customers cannot transplant corals themselves, the transplantation process must be carried out by trained individuals, as the success of the project depends on meticulous placement.
Goals of the Project
What does the organisation do?
The Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) has been supporting conservation projects since 1997. They are a non-governmental organisation, registered in the Seychelles, as well as an approved corporate social responsibility tax benefactor, which enables the private sector to make CSR tax payments to the MCSS in order to support some of their restoration efforts in the Cerf Island Conservation Programme (CICP). The MCSS counts has seen numerous successes, including their Environmental Mooring Project to implement over 40 mooring systems to avoid anchoring on reefs; the Seychelles Marine Ecosystem Management Programme (SEYMEMP), which develops strategies to cope with the impact of coral bleaching on key marine ecosystems; the strategic management of turtle populations, where a strategic approach to management of turtle populations was developed, as well as rookery monitoring and the formation of the Turtle Action Group of Seychelles; the Marine Mammal Conservation and Depredation Project which, in collaboration with local fishermen and the Island Conservation Society (ICS), trained individuals in the methods of monitoring marine mammals and defined the incidences of long-line depredation; the Wildlife Conservation Centre at Banyan Tree, which monitors the critically-endangered Hawksbill Turtle and freshwater Terrapins. With assistance from the Wildlife Vets International and local vets, the centre serves as an education centre, and many local schools visit the area. The team has also implement wetland rehabilitation projects and a bird census, and monitor the Endangered Whale Shark around Mahé with aerial surveys and photo identification.
More information on the history of the MCSS can be found here: http://www.mcss.sc/projects.html
The project in detail
The implant will take place on Cerf Island’s reefs. This is the only coral restoration project in the Sainte Anne Marine National Park. Restoration is planned for three sites, all of which are snorkelling areas accessible directly from the beach without the need for a boat. These are also reefs which have suffered negative impacts from the land reclamation of Eden Island, the bleaching events of 1998 and 2016, and the 2004 tsunami. These sites also benefit the establishments and residents of Cerf Island directly, with regards to coastal protection and livelihoods provided by tourism.
To rehabilitate 600 m² of seabed, the CICP will require a minimum of 2400 coral fragments. At the moment, they have 200 in their nurseries, and a further 300 on artificial frames. Rope nursery fragments require 8 - 12 months before they can be planted onto the denuded reefs. At the current small-scale rate of restoration efforts, it would take a minimum of five years to cover the planned area, assuming a 100% success rate with no devastating event taking place (e.g. bleaching event, tsunami, coral predator outbreak etc.).
Coral transplantation works by acquiring coral fragments, placing them in a monitored, controlled structure (nursery) so that they can grow to a larger size, and then planting them back into negatively-affected areas in order to try to increase live coral cover and structure.
Coral fragments are collected in two ways:
1) Corals of opportunity are coral fragments which have broken off from a coral colony, through wave action, boat anchors, snorkellers, or other factors. Although this is a natural form of reproduction for corals, these fragments can land in substrates which are unsuitable for growth, such as rubble or sand beds. Here, they are more vulnerable to movements which damage or smother them, eventually causing their death.
2) Deliberate fragmentation of coral can be carried out carefully on healthy colonies; these are then designated “donor colonies”. Using a hammer and chisel, a small portion of the donor colony is removed to be used in coral restoration.
Once coral fragments are collected, they are placed in floating, rope-style nurseries where they are then reared. They are monitored and cleaned on a weekly basis to remove competing organisms, providing the fragment with the highest chance of survival. Upon reaching transplantation size, the coral colonies are transplanted onto artificial reef structures or directly onto damaged reef systems that have been suitably prepared. Attaching the colonies to artificial structures is simply carried out using cable ties, which the corals soon grow over. An underwater epoxy is used to cement colonies to prepared reef substrate. This underwater coral farming process of collecting, rearing, and transplanting will expedite the natural recovery of the reef system, as resilient colonies which survived the bleaching events are used in order to increase live coral cover and regenerate complex reef structures, providing conditions for a myriad of reef life.
You can follow the activities of CICP on their Facebook page: