Towards a Management Plan For A Sustainable Whale and Dolphin Watching Industry in Mauritius
Towards a Management Plan For A Sustainable Whale and Dolphin Watching Industry in Mauritius
1.1. Project Summary
The South West Indian Ocean is recognized as a "hot-spot" for marine biodiversity: with more than 20 species of cetaceans, resident or migratory. However, although some studies are underway no inventory has ever been conducted around Mauritius and the population of cetaceans is poorly known. Worldwide, cetaceans are faced with a resurgence of anthropogenic threats such as acoustic pollution, degradation of habitats, by-catch associated with fishing and disturbance due to poorly managed whale and dolphin-watching activities. When this activity is poorly managed, it is a possible environmental hazard to the targeted cetacean population and social risk to the local communities who benefits from this economic development.
In Mauritius, Dolphin Watching (DW) activity has developed considerably since the early 2000s, with activity mainly concentrated on the West coast of Mauritius. In 2006, the MMCS initiated a project for “Sustainable Management of Dolphin watching through Education and Awareness” under the GEF SGP and the Total Foundation funding. Due to this close to 100 skippers and operators were sensitized.
Between 2007 and 2011, scientific studies done by the MMCS have started to characterize the dolphin populations targeted by the DW activity and measure the impacts of the daily presence of vessels and swimmers on the ecology and behavior of the dolphins. Two species of dolphins are mainly impacted by the activity, Spinner dolphins (Stenella longirostris) and Bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops aduncus). But ten species of cetaceans have been identified in the coastal strip between Le Morne and Albion after only 600 hours of field data which represents a high rate of cetacean biodiversity. Many Mauritius earn their livelihood from the marine life around the island just the monetary value from DW alone amounted to Rs 150 million in 2009. The existing DW industry proved that ecotourism regarding cetacean observation could generate a multitude of jobs and a potentially stable income for the local community in Mauritius. However the benefit of this activity can only be sustainable if the industry is properly managed, which requires a good knowledge of populations targeted by this activity as well as its impacts on the animals. With a greater understanding of the species of marine life surrounding Mauritius a whole new door of opportunities is opened to the local community. Providing a sustainable income benefitting the whole family if properly managed.
Today, the two species of dolphins studied by the MMCS are well known in the Western region of Mauritius, but information must be collected around the island to be more precise on the size of the population to measure their level of endemicity. Are these dolphins unique to Mauritius? If yes, conservation issues will be much more important than for a species which navigates between the Mascarene Islands.

Recently the tourist operators have expressed an interest to extend their activity to big cetaceans (whales and sperm whales) and develop "Whale-watching", in addition to the already saturated "Dolphin-watching" industry. The development of whale and dolphin watching in other areas of the island would alleviate the pressure on the dolphins in the region of Tamarin. But to develop this activity, operators and authorities need knowledge about the species of dolphins and whales observable: which species can be observed around Mauritius? What time of year? Where are they most likely to be observed? How to limit the impacts of human activities on these populations?

On the other hand, managers of marine protected areas (Albion Fisheries Research Centre), including the Balaclava Marine Park, seek to propose alternative to fishing activities and evoke the possibility of whale watching in the North. So there is a real demand in Mauritius for information on these populations of cetaceans, both from the operators and local authorities in charge of the management of marine resources. The proposed project is to carry out a census of whales and dolphins around Mauritius. This census would improve our knowledge on cetaceans of Mauritius, and provide a strong database to aid in the feasibility of developing a sustainable whale and dolphin watching industry that is also fair for the local community. This study will be used in the future as a state of reference for the monitoring of Mauritian cetacean populations.

This year The International Biodiversity Day’s theme is “Marine Biodiversity”, yet the marine biodiversity around Mauritius remains largely unknown. In conjunction with collecting data on marine mammals collaborations have also been suggested with Mauritian NGOs to collect data on other types of marine life: sea turtles, marine birds (Mauritian Wildlife Foundation) or other large marine species (Reef Conservation Mauritius). The data collected on these marine species will help evaluate the marine biodiversity of the region and make a comparison with the data collected by l’Université de La Rochelle during the aerial campaign in Mauritius (February-March 2010).

Additional Comments
This project is proposed in the continuity of a 5-year project managed by the MMCS. In the course of the five years of this project, the MMCS has developed different strategies and education material which could aid in setting up of a Marine Research and Education Centre. The data collected in the present project will contribute to the general knowledge of the Mauritians community, help poverty alleviation in the fisher community, and contribute directly to the concept of Mauritius Ile Durable and to conservation and implement a better management of the local marine biodiversity. A wide variety of ages and community groups will benefit from this information on how to maintain the use of ecotourism without diminishing the cetacean population. Furthermore through education at schools interest in this field may be sparked in the younger population group.

1.2. Organizational Background and Capacity to implement the Project
The MMCS is a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the marine environment in Mauritius, existing since 1979. The main objectives of the MMCS are as follows: to promote an awareness and appreciation of marine life; Encourage the need for marine conservation in Mauritius; To show the importance of creating marine parks; Encourage Mauritians and visitors to respect laws on the marine environment and important sites to Mauritius; Lastly to motivate the government to enforce existing laws controlling illegal exploitation of marine resources and marine pollution.

A list of board members and employees to date is detailed in Annex 2 of the document.

For this project we propose to employ Miss Venter (CV annex 4), a South African citizen willing to register at the University of Mauritius, which would stimulate the research team and promote whale and dolphin research at the University of Mauritius.

Since 2009, the MMCS has launched an eco-volunteer program and we accommodate between one and six at a time throughout the year. Bookings are already full for several months of 2012. The eco-volunteers will help collect data all along this project, but also help training the local communities and fishers willing to develop different skills.

History and achievements of the organization
The MMCS has successfully managed several projects on the short, medium and long term funded by institutions such as UNEP, GEF SGP UNDP, TOTAL Foundation for Biodiversity or more recently EU via the ProGeCO Project implemented by IOC. Please refer to Annex 3 for details on the several projects implemented and on going of the MMCS.

1.3. Objectives of the project
There is very little known about the diversity of the waters surrounding Mauritius as well as the impact of ecotourism. In order for the Mauritian community to carry on benefiting from the marine life a better understanding of what is happening in the waters surrounding Mauritius needs to be assessed.
This project has for principal objective: to carry out an inventory of species of cetaceans found in Mauritian waters, to estimate their abundance and characterize the populations. The results will help respond to three specific objectives:
- Reduce the pressure from Dolphin Watching in the Western region of Mauritius while accompanying the development of Whale watching in other areas of the island through gathered knowledge; accompany fishers in their conversion into another activity. This will ensure the biodiversity of Mauritius waters is upheld. Endangered marine species in Mauritius will also be under less threat from people.
- Measure the population size of the spinner dolphins and bottlenose dolphins across the country, to measure their level of endemicity and propose a plan of conservation of these species ensuring a livelihood for the Mauritian community
- Construct a reference database for the long-term tracking of populations of whales and dolphins of Mauritius resulting in an educational tool to be used by all ages of the Mauritian community.

This proposed project has for secondary objectives to increase the knowledge of Mauritians regarding the presence of marine mammals and marine life around Mauritius. The data and the information collected will be vulgarized in schools during the course of another fully funded ongoing project funded by HSBC, Fondation Nouveau Regard and MC Vision. In the context of the collaboration between this proposed project and the ongoing actions of the MMCS, it is estimated that 600 school children will be sensitized. Furthermore sensitization sessions of local inhabitants of regions where surveys will be conducted will be organized in order to vulgarize alternatives for livelihood to fishermen and their families.

1.4 Measurable and expected results.
Measurable and expected results are detailed in table below:
Measurable Expected Result Time Scale
1. Inventory of species of cetaceans and other type of marine life Cartographic representation showing the distribution of these species around the island. Measured throughout the project
2. Estimation of abundance of species Estimated Numbers of species observed
3. Knowledge of the habitat use by each species observed Cartographic representation
4. Improve the knowledge on the populations of the two species of dolphins already impacted by DW Estimated number of the national populations of spinner and bottlenose dolphins around Mauritius
5. Production of a CD of acoustic recordings for the Cetaceans of Mauritius Sales and distribution in schools for educational programs Data collected after 6 months and sensitization the rest of the time
6. Talks in Schools 600 children will be sensitized to the presence of Marine Mammals and aware of the Marine Biodiversity of the marine life around the Island. 12 months after the collect of acoustic recordings
7. Talks in three main regions 200 fishermen and their families will be sensitized in alternative livelihood and awareness of the presence of marine mammals 8 months during the collection of data
8. Final report Recommendations to the stakeholders (operators and government agencies) for a sustainable development of Dolphin Watching and Whale watching sustainable development. Final report: end of the project
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Mauritius Marine Conservation Society
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 44,507.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 27,590.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/CORE/BD/12/03
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Capacity - Building Component
1. Community-based monitoring systems demonstrated: training provided to fishermen looking into alternative source of activity 2. Local or regional policies influenced: Lobby through the diplomatic corps to the IWC that the Indian Ocean remains a sanctuary for marine mammals 3. Number of national policies influenced : induce the local government to promulgate the Dolphin and Whale watching Act 4. Number of people trained on: project development, monitoring, evaluation etc.600 school children, 200 fishermen and their families sensitised
Promoting Public Awareness of Global Environment
To ensure the participation of the local fishermen and operators of the three targeted region: sensitization sessions will be organized in these regions to ensure community knowledge in the objectives of this project and the positive prospects they may derive out of it. Should an operator be particularly interested, specific training will be provided. The local authorities will be convened at all sensitization sessions in the different regions to ensure their participation in the process of improving the knowledge of the community but also to ensure their collaboration in the management issues strongly recommended since 2006.
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Grantee Contact

Ms Jacqueline Sauzier
Phone: 2577123
Email: j.sauzier@mmcs-ngo.org
 

Address

c/o MUG, Railway Road,
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SGP Country office contact

Mrs. Pamela Bapoo-Dundoo
Phone:
(230) 213 53 84
Fax:
(230) 212 14 11
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