Community Integration in Marine Conversation, Research and Management through the establishment of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas
Community Integration in Marine Conversation, Research and Management through the establishment of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas
Project Summary

Coastal and marine habitats in Mauritius are under threat from a multitude of pressures including increasing coastal populations, coastal development, habitat destruction, greater tourism pressure and fishing pressure. These direct impacts have lead to habitat degradation and loss as well as reduced fish catches in these lagoons.

From 2009 to 2011, Reef Conservation worked with fishers and other local coastal community stakeholders to facilitate the establishment of three Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs) in two North-eastern coastal villages of Roches Noires (RN) and Trou D’Eau Douce (TDD). These voluntarily managed marine areas are the first to be agreed by coastal communities in Mauritius. These areas have no legal status but the relevant authorities such as the Ministry of Fisheries, government agencies and local government have all been part of the process through meetings and other actions.

Voluntary conservation areas are selected sites in the lagoon where communities agree that no extractive or destructive activities will be done. The primary objective is to help marine life and biodiversity richness of these areas and the surrounding lagoon restore itself.

The Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area is well established with the support of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee. This is a dynamic willing group of 12 volunteers which includes fishers, members of the village council, trained Marine Ecoguides and community. To ensure the long term existence, management and success of the voluntary conservation site in Roches Noires, there is need for further understanding of the ecosystems and biodiversity within them. Additionally and just as important is the need for capacity building and training in the areas of ecosystem monitoring, resource use surveillance and sensitisation and outreach with community members.

Reef Conservation will use the Roches Noires site as a further Pilot Study Site to develop and implement an ecosystem and resource use training and monitoring program for replication to other coastal villages in Mauritius.

Further a feasibility study of new eco-tourism initiatives will be investigated for the future development and sustainability of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area in Roches Noires. The results of this study may well lead to the creation of new income generating activities for the trained marine Ecoguides and community.

The project also aims to transfer the process to other coastal villages. The Attitude Resorts Group has invested large amounts of money and interest in setting up a Marine Resource Centre and Laboratory at Marina Hotel in Anse la Raie. The hotel has also set up a network of environmental awareness ambassadors within their staff to help promote the project with the tourists, the hotel staff, and the neighbouring community. The next logical step in the programme is the setting up of one or a series of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas in the lagoon of Anse La Raie with the experience and lessons learnt from Roches Noires.

The establishment of voluntarily protected sites will inevitably increase the area of marine resources protected in the lagoons and can ultimately lead to a network of protected areas in Mauritius. The success of these Voluntary Marine Conservation Area sites can help further promote real community co management arrangements with local government for legally designated Marine Protected Areas and Marine Reserves.

The Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Project falls into the SGP OP5 Immediate Objective 1 and the actions focus on community based biodiversity conservation, public awareness and community participation in conservation efforts whilst promoting eco-tourism initiatives.

Project Location
Roches Noires
The project activities will be conducted in the North and North-eastern Lagoons of Mauritius. The main project activities would take place in the village of Roches Noires with outreach sensitization activities undertaken in the adjacent coastal villages of Poudre d’Or and Poste La Fayette. The lagoon of Roches Noires is 5.97 km². The already identified Voluntary Marine Conservation Area in the lagoon of Roches Noires has a perimeter of 1.12 km and an area of 0.08 km² (8 hectares) as indicated below.



The Voluntary Marine Conservation Area site identified by the fishers of Roches Noires is the only area with between 70 – 80 % live coral cover. The main habitats found in the site are patch reefs and sea grass beds. A survey of the lagoon lead by Reef’s Marine Biologist also identified this area as the most suitable for setting up the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. Roches Noires is a rural village with a population of approximately 8000. Fishing is an activity practiced by most inhabitants although there are 55 registered fishers operating in the area described above. Presently there is no hotel tourism in the area but private and rental bungalows are located along the coast.

Anse La Raie
Anse La Raie lagoon is localised in the north of Mauritius between Cap Malheureux and Grand Gaube. The Lagoon of Anse La Raie is 5.22 km ². Reef Conservation conducted a quick survey of the entire lagoon in 2010 to look at the existing ecosystems. After the analysis of data collected more detailed surveys have been conducted (2011) for the survey area indicated on the map. The survey area contains various ecosystems of seagrass beds, algae, and coral patch reefs and is one of the few areas with over 50% live coral patch reefs dotted throughout it.


1.2 The Organisation

Reef Conservation (RC) is a non-profit, non-government organization registered since 2004. The organisation is dedicated to the conservation and restoration of the marine environment of Mauritius. Reef Conservation is governed by a committee, which overseas and audits all projects. We employ professionally qualified biologists and support staff for the implementation and management of conservation, research, education, training and sensitization projects.

The organisation is also dedicated to sharing knowledge with all individuals’ especially coastal communities on the importance of the Marine Environment not only for the survival of marine ecosystems but for; poverty alleviation and the welfare of coastal communities and those who depend on these natural resources for their livelihood. Thus, we have developed, over the years, and with a number of partners (government institutions, funding agencies and private sector), projects and initiatives that have allowed us to help protect the marine ecosystem, and sensitise and educate persons of all ages about the Marine Environment.

Past and ongoing projects include:
• The Fixed Mooring Buoy Project (FMB Project) funded under the GEF SGP commenced in 2004, which consisted in the construction and deployment of Fixed Mooring Buoys around the island.

• The Marine Environmental Education Project funded under the GEF SGP. Established in 2006 it ran for five successful years. Since its inception 85 primary schools in Mauritius have benefited from this project.

• The development and management of a Beach Resource Centre located at Péreybère Public Beach funded under the GEF SGP and the Beach Authority. This Centre has been operational since 2007 and was set up to introduce marine conservation and sensitisation to the general public visiting the beach. It is used as a focal point for school visits to learn firsthand about the local marine environment.

• Supporting and sensitizing stakeholders in the Balaclava Marine Protected Area for the development of stakeholder participation in the management planning and process for the Marine Park. This was a two year project funded under ReCoMaP which commenced in July 2009.

• The development of ‘Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas’ (VMCAs) funded under the ReCoMaP. This is the creation of voluntary conservation area/zone in the lagoon where no extractive or destructive activities will be done. The primary objective is to help marine life and biodiversity richness of these Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas and the surrounding lagoon restore itself. The ultimate objective is to use the Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas as tools for poverty alleviation through alternative employment opportunities of fisher communities by providing MQA certified Marine Ecoguide Training for the fishermen, their family members and other community members, and the use of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas as areas of interest for tourists and locals.

The Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area has been set up with about 80% of the local fisher and village community having signed an agreement and accepted the project. A Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee represented by all stakeholder groups has also been established for the continued sustainability of the action after project life.

• The Certified Marine Eco Guide Training Course. Level 1 of the course has already been developed and has received MQA approval. Training of the first group of CSR sponsored trainees was completed in 2011 and was given at the premises of Reef Conservation located in Pereybere in the recently established Reef Conservation Training Centre. 26 persons in 2011 were trained as Marine Ecoguides at Level 1. This training will later be extended to Levels II and III. These modules remain to be developed.

• The Reef Conservation Marine Resource Centre and Laboratory is a new resource centre based at the Marina Hotel in Anse la Raie, resulting from a partnership with Attitude Resorts. The centre houses a live marine aquarium and other displays as well as a Marine Laboratory. It is permanently staffed by personnel from Reef Conservation.

The laboratory will be the base for marine research and conservation. Through this laboratory Reef Conservation aims to establish a monitoring programme for coral reefs and associated ecosystems in the Northern Lagoons. Long term monitoring is an essential component of coral reef and marine ecosystem conservation.

The aim of this new and innovative Marine Resource Centre and Laboratory is to enrich the experience and knowledge of local and foreign visitors about the marine environment through a participatory approach to education, research, training and ultimately conservation of the marine environment. The Centre complements the field trips and activities that Reef Conservation already carries out with schools and youth clubs.

Attitude Resorts, through their partnership with Reef Conservation, aim to:
• Help further the stated objectives of Reef Conservation.
• Help create, in addition to the resource centre, focal points of activity such as snorkelling trails for their tourists and community by the improvement of the lagoon ecosystems through future projects such as coral reef rehabilitation through coral farming and if necessary artificial reefs.
• Finally, with the concept, help develop new economic avenues and employment opportunities for the local community.

The projects outlined above target all age groups and persons living and working in coastal communities. They are interlinked and have been developed to complement each other in order to achieve our holistic aim of research, training, education and sensitisation of coastal communities, job creation and poverty alleviation.

1.3 Project Objectives and Expected Results

Reef Conservation has for the past three years worked with local coastal communities and tourism stakeholders to establish Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs) in the lagoons; to protect the marine environment through sustainable management of marine resources and to sensitise communities in marine biodiversity conservation.


The initial project established three Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas in the two coastal villages of Trou D’Eau Douce and Roches Noires. These are the first voluntary conservation sites in Mauritius. The process to establish these initial Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas was lengthy as voluntary conservation of marine waters is a new concept to local communities. The initial Project focused on; sharing information and sensitising the communities; determining where the Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas should be located; setting up the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committees, determining the best practices for how the areas will be used and placing information panels which include this information in the villages ensure visibility of the site.
Roches Noires has been the most successfully established site with a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee established and active well after project funding through ReCoMaP ended in June 2011. This Voluntary Marine Conservation Area is well on its way to being an example for successful implementation of the Project to other coastal areas. However, without further capacity building of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee members, the establishment of an ecosystem and resource use monitoring program and a communication and management strategy, the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area will fail and the lessons learnt and commitment of the community would be lost.

The proposed project aims to consolidate the lessons learnt from Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area and take the concept and physical establishment of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area to the next step of a working Voluntary Marine Conservation Area. It is expected to;
• Establish and undertake a replicable ecosystem and resource use monitoring program, to demonstrate the potential benefits of the « no take » concept
• Ensure sustainability of the Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area by strengthening 35 persons from the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee and community through;
o the establishment of the Committee as an Association,
o capacity building and development of a communication strategy.
Thus demonstrating the ability of communities to participate in the management of their marine resources
• Undertake a feasibility study of new eco-tourism initiatives in the village of Roches Noires for future development, in support of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area and trained Marine Ecoguides.

Further the project aims to;
• Replicate the process and establish a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area in the lagoon of Anse La Raie with the knowledge and experience gained from the Pilot study.
• Sensitise the wider community about marine biodiversity conservation and Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas as a tool through which communities and individuals can be actively involved.
• Train 10 community members including fishermen as Certified Marine Ecoguides at Level 1 in the areas of Cap Malheureux, Bain Boeuf, Pavillon, Saint Francois and Anse La Raie.

Primary Objective: The overall objective of the action is to conserve the marine environment of Mauritius through Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas, build the capacity of communities in marine biodiversity conservation to enable them to become active participants in sustainable management of marine resources and to mainstream the VMC program into a restoration and rehabilitation program for all the lagoons in Mauritius.
Specific Objective Achievement Hypotheses
1. To demonstrate biodiversity conservation, ecosystem protection and ecosystem regeneration potential through the development of a comprehensive and replicable marine ecosystem and resource use monitoring program which will be used as a tool for the continued implementation and sustainable management of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas Baseline ecosystem data and continuous monitoring would provide valuable information about the health of the ecosystems and the resources which would allow communities to make informed decisions on use and management and should ensure positive conservation results for the sites and benefits to the whole ecosystem.
2. To ensure sustainability of community based voluntary marine conservation by strengthening the role and authority of the Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee through capacity building and development of a communication strategy for outreach to the local community and surrounding villages. Registration of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee will legalise the body to ensure its recognition by government and community. Capacity building, community and committee participation in all monitoring and communication actions will ensure sustainability of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area and the and long term existence of the association.
3. To replicate the pilot project by establishing a Voluntary Marine Conservation Area in the lagoon of Anse La Raie to demonstrate that the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Program is viable The lessons learnt and success of the Pilot site would encourage other coastal communities to establish Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas in their lagoons
4. To investigate the feasibility of creating new eco-tourism initiatives for future development, in support of the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area and trained Marine Ecoguides. New economically viable opportunities in eco tourism can serve a dual purpose of providing jobs for the resource users as well as creating a real willingness to ensuring marine conservation.


 

Project Snapshot

Grantee:
Reef Conservation (formerly Marine Conservation Management Consortium)
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 125,683.00
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 25,636.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/CORE/BD/12/02
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Notable Community Participation
It is expected in Roches Noires that the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area committee, Ecoguides and wider community will continue to be active participants in this project. Wider participation of the community will be nurtured though regular meetings, community events and sensitisation sessions. Members from the Voluntary Marine Conservation Area Committee and wider community will be invited to form part of a monitoring and evaluation team that will meet monthly to review project progress and ensure implementation of actions and objectives are met.
Replication of project activities
The lessons learnt from the Roches Noires Voluntary Marine Conservation Area will facilitate the replication of Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas in other coastal communities thereby promoting voluntary marine community based conservation nationwide. The new pilot site being proposed in Anse La Raie is supported by Attitude Resorts as part of their “Green Attitude Policy”. The Ministry of Fisheries the managing body for all marine resources is fully aware and has given verbal support of this initiative. Government support has also been received from the Beach Authority who became formal partners on the project and helped place information panels on the beach to inform visitors of the location and best practices for the Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas. Successful replication of this process will increase the total area of marine resources protected in Mauritius and can lead to more formal arrangements for management of marine areas between communities and local government.
+ View more
Indicators
Biophysical
Number of globally significant species protected by project 38
Biophysical
Hectares of globally significant biodiversity area protected or sustainably managed by project 2

Grantee Contact

Mrs Kathy Young
Phone: 262 6775
Email: admin.reef@intnet.mu
 

Address

Morcellement Pereyscape, Les Flammants Branch Road
Péreybère ,

SGP Country office contact

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

Address

2nd Floor, Sugar Industry Pension Fund Building, 1 Remy Ollier Street
Port Louis, Mauritius

Country Website