Community-Based Reef Rehabilitation in Trou aux Biches
Community-Based Reef Rehabilitation in Trou aux Biches
Project Summary
ELI Africa (EA), in partnership with the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI), proposes to create an in situ coral nursery in Trou aux Biches in response to on-going environmental degradation and the direct and indirect effects this problem has on local biodiversity and community welfare. By promoting coral gardening, EA, a registered international Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and MOI, a parastatal body under the Prime Minister’s Office, can promote conservation and rehabilitation of threatened coral reefs, increase coastal resiliency and adaptability to climate change, and protect and improve socio-economic security for the local community. EA plans to assume responsibility for community outreach, construction, and securing or providing labor for implementation and monitoring of the project, and MOI plans to assume responsibility for technical and scientific guidance during implementation and monitoring of the project.
Coral reefs serve a critical role in the growth and stability of local aquatic ecosystems, providing habitats for a diverse range of biodiversity. These habitats in turn act as a key engine for socio-economic welfare. Healthy coral reefs in Mauritius significantly contribute to tourism, fisheries, and shoreline protection, all three of which are vital aspects of the country’s prosperity, and are identified by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) as critical features of GEF-SGP’s “Biodiversity” focus.
All this value is jeopardized by the loss of coral reef cover, which has significantly declined in recent decades worldwide due to a combination of pollution and acidification, coral blasting and dredging, sedimentation, overfishing, warming ocean temperatures, and mass bleaching events. A recent study by the World Resources Institute expects that, if current trends continue, 75% of global reefs are threatened with destruction, and Mauritius is no exception. In Mauritius, “the entire lagoon is considered as environmentally sensitive due to the vulnerability of coral reef, sea-grass, and algae beds.” However reefs in Mauritius have been the most seriously impacted due to recurring climate-induced bleaching. In recent years some lagoon reefs have even lost more than 50%-60% of their live coral cover. Such an unchecked loss in reef cover threatens to jeopardize the Mauritian industries and citizens that rely on their sustained health.
In recognition of these threats, EA has decided to construct a coral nursery that nurtures coral fragments to facilitate the growth and expansion of coral cover in at-risk areas in Mauritius, specifically in the deeper part of the lagoon of Trou aux Biches. Ideal sites for nursery rearing in the Trou aux Biches lagoon will be identified by MOI. It will ideally have higher shelter from storms, and situated away from the channel, so disturbance from boat traffic will be minimized. The water quality should be good, along with water exchange and presence of aquatic life and coral diversity nearby. The nursery should not be too far from the site of transplantation to minimise stress on the reared corals during the transplantation exercise. As well, it should be nearby to reefs experiencing coral loss, so transplantation to the reef will require little movement. In all, it should meet the major criteria for appropriate site selection: water quality, shelter, accessibility, tidal range, and good conditions for transplantation.
Trou aux Biches is a popular tourist destination in Mauritius, and much of its revenue is derived from coastal eco-tourism, especially scuba diving. There is a significant population of artisanal fishermen from the local community, and many restaurants or roadside food stands rely on locally caught fish to populate their menus. Establishing a coral nursery here will promote sustainable fisheries and ecosystem health, increase coral cover as carbon sink, protect local biodiversity, and sustain and improve the local economy and livelihoods. EA wants the local community, much of whom is dependent on the reefs, to have greater economic and food security for the future. As well, the project plans to involve vulnerable students from the EA education centers (see Section 1.2) in the creation of the nurseries. Ultimately, EA and MOI expect to enhance the socio-economic well-being of the Trou aux Biches community by protecting and restoring the biodiversity of the local marine ecosystem.
The creation and maintenance of a coral nursery will eventually enable the transplantation of reared coral fragments into damaged and degraded local reefs. The project aligns with the “Climate Change” and “Biodiversity” goals by the UNDP’s GEF-SGP to increase carbon sinks and mitigate ecosystem degradation that affects human well-being. Using tested methods, the project aims to nurture up to 5000 coral fragments on manufactured nurseries to maturity through asexual propagation, in situ, before transplanting them into the selected reef.




1.2 Organizational Background and Capacity to Implement the Project

1.2.1 ELI Africa
EA is an international, not-for-profit United States based NGO founded in 2009. The Organization is duly registered with the Registrar of Association of Mauritius bearing number 11903. Certificate is attached in annex. EA specializes in locally relevant, hands-on education, and its mission is to work with local communities, stakeholders, and experts to run experiential learning projects for underprivileged youth in Africa. EA targets schoolchildren with little access to educational support, with the primary goal to create sustainable education programs that encourage community involvement.
Initial efforts revolved around the ELI Fellows program, which brings Yale undergraduates to Mauritius to teach during their summer break. Yale serves as a crucial model in EA’s philosophy. Mr. Vedant Seeam, originally from Plaines des Roches, founded EA during a gap year between his studies at Yale. As well, eight out of eleven members of EA's Advisory Board, which includes leaders in education, public health, community development, and business, are associated with Yale. Despite the tremendous success of the Fellows program, EA recognized that basing its efforts on a two-month stint every year was not a sustainable way of addressing education deficits in Mauritius. So in conjunction with the Fellows, EA developed ELI Corps. ELI Corps gives qualified Mauritian high school and university students the opportunity to volunteer to help the students prepare for the CPE exams and other schoolwork year-round. ELI Corps teachers work with students from at-risk communities in EA's centers, such as those in Pamplemousses or Roche Bois, and are achieving great success. EA plans to expand its activities by opening centers in more at-risk communities.
EA’s experiential learning mission is not simply limited to practical academic achievement. The final component is the ELI Scholar program, which essentially serves as an action-based think tank. ELI Scholars are qualified graduate students that identify critical issues that affect Mauritian communities and align with the goals of EA. This year’s Scholar is Sam Teicher, a Masters Candidate at the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies, who is leading a project promoting conservation, waste management, and environmental education. His project is based on the idea that, as with better education, environmental protection offers an effective pathway for socio-economic development, especially for vulnerable communities. Mr. Teicher will be leaving in June 2013, and EA will be brining a new ELI Scholar (and potentially ELI Fellows) to Mauritius to assume responsibility for continuing the project on behalf of EA. In addition to the coral farming project, Mr. Teicher is working on the creation of an endemic forest in Plaines des Roches, environmental curriculum in the ELI centers, and mangrove propagation along the coastlines of Mauritius. All of these projects emphasize community empowerment, stakeholder engagement, and align with GEF-SGP focal areas such as Biodiversity, Climate Change, Land Degradation and Sustainable Forest Management, and Livelihoods, Sustainable Development, and Empowerment.
EA has 36 staff members or full-time volunteers. Two staff members are compensated for their time but receive no regular salary. The ELI Scholar and Fellows receive stipends for housing, transportation, and groceries. ELI Corps members receive a transportation stipend. All other staff members or volunteers receive no salary.
EA adapts research to local conditions through community-needs assessments and engagement. As mentioned earlier, EA has experience in community-based environmental work. In spring of 2012, EA successfully implemented the 'Mangrove Action Project' in conjunction with the Ministry of Fisheries and Rodrigues (MoF), helping to propagate mangroves in Mauritius. 12,000 mangrove propagules were planted in Providence, Anse Jonchee, Bois Des Amourettes and Bamboux Virieux. The project included sensitization of the local communities, including fishermen and schoolchildren, as well as hiring local laborers to help collect and plant the propagules. Official MoF approval to continue the propagation efforts has been granted, and mangrove planting will resume in spring of 2013 in Poudre d’Or.
In terms of EA's physical qualifications for coral farming, three staff members have undergone intensive scuba diving training sufficiently preparing them to carry out this project. They have been trained in advanced specialties such as ‘Underwater Photography,’ ‘Search and Recovery,’ and ‘Deep Diving,’ among others, and have over a decade of combined diving experience. EA’s final official team member, who is not a paid staff member, is Mr. Narraina-Reddy Rissee, a Mauritian dive instructor and former member of the Groupement d’Intervention de la Police Mauricienne with over 3,000 logged dives. His presence will ensure diver safety and competancy and provide relevant insight into the coral reefs and biodiversity. As well, he is serving as a liaison between EA and the fishermen and scuba diving shops in Trou aux Biches, many of whom he has known for decades. Outside of the organization, EA is engaging about participation in the maintenance of the nursery with organizations or businesses such as the Mauritius Underwater Group (MUG) and local dive centers. Partnering with these organizations will provide additional expertise directly relevant to diving, allow for more extensive monitoring through additional labor, and potentially reduce costs by significant margins.



1.2.2 Mauritius Oceanography Institute
The Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) established in January 2000 by the proclamation of the MOI Act (Act No. 24 of 1999) is a parastatal body functioning under the aegis of the Prime Minister’s Office which advises Government on the formulation and implementation of policies and programmes in respect to oceanography. The Institute also undertakes and coordinates research and development in that field.

The objectives of the Mauritius Oceanography Institute, as spelt out in the Act, are:

• To foster interest in research and development in relation to oceanography,
• To advise Government on the formulation and implementation of policies and programs in respect to oceanography and related aspects,
• To coordinate, collaborate and co-operate with other institutions, agencies and persons on national, regional and global issues within its field of interest, and to assist any organisation, body or person in creating sustainable research and development programs in areas of interest and activity related to oceanography,
• To demonstrate and communicate to the scientific community and the public at large the results and the importance of oceanography in the conservation, maintenance, management, utilisation and development of resources based on marine and coastal ecosystems,
• To manage and optimise the use of funds and other resources for the purpose of this Act.

Various research projects are being implemented by the MOI, one of which is coral farming and reef rehabilitation. The coral farming project was initiated in Mauritius by the MOI in 2006 and the experimental phase was implemented from 2007 to 2010. During this period, the MOI established coral nurseries at sea and on land for the culture of various species of corals, including bleaching resistant and threatened species. Various techniques were also developed to optimise growth of corals ex situ (See Moothien Pillay et al, 2012-Adapting coral culture to climate change: The Mauritian experience). As from 2010, the MOI has been mass producing corals for reef rehabilitation and for creation of coral gardens. Techniques such as rope (Levy 2012) and net techniques have been modified for use locally. Using these techniques, coral nurseries have been set up in the lagoons of Albion and Flic en Flac with more than 8,000 cultured corals to date. In addition, various techniques have been developed for rehabilitating degraded areas and for creation of coral gardens. Such small scale rehabilitation work has been undertaken at Albion and is presently being implemented at Flic en Flac with the assistance of all concerned stakeholders. The coral team at the MOI is led by Dr. R.Moothien Pillay (MSc Tropical Marine ecology and Fisheries Biology), Ph.D. Fisheries Science) and four associate research scientists namely S.Bacha Gian, V.Bhoyroo, S.Curpen and A.Nicolas. All four have a Master degree in biology or related subjects.
 
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Project Snapshot

Grantee:
ELI Africa
Country:
Mauritius
Area Of Work:
Biodiversity
Climate Change Mitigation
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 11,661.00
Project Number:
MAR/SGP/OP5/Yr2/CORE/CC/12/05
Status:
Satisfactorily Completed
Project Characteristics and Results
Notable Community Participation
For their participation in implementation, the goal is to familiarize the fishermen, and potentially any of their friends or family, with the physical nature of the nurseries. It is a great teaching opportunity to make local community members aware of corals themselves and the need for reef rehabilitation, as many average Mauritians know little to nothing about the value and structure of the reefs. For monitoring and evaluation, the primary role EA needs the fishermen to play is that of watchdogs. This does not mean continual patrolling of the nursery areas (which is both unnecessary and unfeasible), but ensuring through communication that, for the duration of the project, their colleagues don't disturb the nurseries. As the site location is outside of the boat channel, EA is heading off a greater risk for these problems. Since the site location is at shallow depth, it is possible that monitoring may be able to be conducted without significant amount or any diving. If this turns out to be the case, EA may be able to train local residents how to clean and care for the coral fragments, in addition to saving costs from reduced diving time. It should be emphasized that the onus for installation, monitoring, transplantation, and evaluation in the lagoon will be on EA, along with partnering organizations. But it is worth noting that EA holding training sessions, which it plans to do, at the shallow nurseries will increase community capacity to work on any future coral farming projects, act as teaching tools to raise local awareness of reefs and marine ecosystem degradation, and may enhance community interest in the project, as it will be possible for any local resident to view the nurseries for themselves at their pleasure. Atlantis International Diving Services, which is a registered environmental NGO, may possibly agree to help EA install and monitor the nurseries, among other dive centers. This is ideal, since they are a highly qualified dive center and is located in close proximity to the identified nursery sites. For implementation, monitoring, and evaluation, the coral nurseries offer opportunities for these local businesses to increase their revenue streams and potentially employ more instructors. In the short-term, the nurseries present a new dive site for the centers to bring their clients to. In the long-term, increased coral cover helps ensure that the dive centers will still be able to operate despite continued degradation. During the months leading up to the implementation, EA hopes to arrange partnerships with the local dive centers that involve reduced diving costs and/or volunteered diving time from their employees. It should be noted though, that EA expects smaller costs for diving than with many coral farming projects, since the site location is at shallow depth. As well, EA plans to reach out to hotel owners and restaurants, as this project may help attract greater clientele.
Gender Focus
This project will benefit both men and women of the Trou aux Biches community and EA students, and rather aims for the project to benefit the entire community rather than targeting one gender in particular. In considering the major groups within the community, EA has discovered that roadside food stand operators are predominantly women with a population of men, fishermen are predominantly if not exclusively men, restaurateurs are mixed, scuba diving centers are mixed, and the EA students are mixed.
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Indicators
Biophysical
Number of globally significant species protected by project 13

Partnership

Mauritius Oceanography Institute

Grantee Contact

Mr Vedant Seeam
 

Address

Block C, Office 133, The Junction Business Hub
Calebasses ,

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