Critical Coastal Ecosystem Conservation Through a Community Integrated Approach
Critical Coastal Ecosystem Conservation Through a Community Integrated Approach
The accelerating degradation of coral reefs worldwide has motivated multinational efforts to
protect biodiversity and reduce its loss. The establishment of protected areas has been
adopted as the leading tool for the effective conservation of marine resources. Setting up
conservation areas both coastal and marine will reduce human-induced pressures allowing
ecosystems to be more resilient to the effects of global warming and other natural threats.
In Mauritius, 243 km2 of lagoon enclosed by 150km of fringing reef accommodates for a
thriving marine biodiversity. Following international trends, and despite existing measures,
coral reefs in Mauritius are still on the decline due to limited enforcement by responsible
authorities and no involvement of stakeholders in conservation efforts. In an effort to
conserve coral reefs with stakeholders in the lagoons of Mauritius, Reef Conservation has
been designing and developing Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCAs) since 2009.
These are selected sites in the lagoon where communities agree that no extractive or
destructive activities will be done.
Two VMCAs have been established through previous project actions supported by the Small
Grants Programme 2012-2014; in Roches Noires, a VMCA of 8 hectares has been
established and successfully replicated in Anse la Raie with a VMCA of 50 hectares, where
no traditional stewardship for marine resources previously existed. Important to the process
was the creation of community committees; Roches Noires Eco Marine an independent
association and Anse La Raie community committee, for maintaining conservation actions.
The VMCAs created are a positive step towards community conservation. Both communities
have benefitted from sensitisation and capacity building. The Roches Noires Eco Marine,
continue to conduct ecosystem tours in their region and carry out voluntary outreach in
schools and with groups. The VMCA in Anse La Raie has benefitted private and hotel boat
operators with the implementation of the first snorkel trail as well as fixed mooring buoys in
the site to protect the coral and encourage sustainable use of the area.
These VMCAs however, are single small areas, restricting conservation measures to single
ecosystems. Changes in ocean chemistry and rising ocean temperatures due to climate
change are putting excessive pressures on coral reefs and inducing massive declines in
their diversity. The bleaching event in 2009 killed more than half the corals in the Anse la
Raie lagoon where coral cover was reduced from 60% in 2004 to less than 5% in 2009. The
VMCA created protects the viable coral patches of 30% to 60% coral cover in this lagoon
and results from the ongoing monitoring programme show that coral cover has been
maintained over the years. However, a severe bleaching event was recorded in early 2016,
with observed coral bleaching in Anse La Raie VMCA and other sites around the island. It is
predicted that sea surface temperatures will also be higher than normal in 2017 and further
coral bleaching is expected, threatening the survival of these habitats.
If the VMCAs are to survive the numerous natural and human threats they face they need to
be resilient. To increase their resilience there is need to put in place new conservation
actions that consider the ecological connectivity and dependence on other neighboring
ecosystems. To improve resilience and maintain the positive conservation results, the
VMCAs will be increased in size to protect larger areas of biodiversity and or be networked
with new marine sites and coastal ecosystems that are connected to the VMCAs through
physical and biological processes.
Wetlands, mangroves, seagrasses, coral reefs, and the ocean are connected through
multifaceted biological, physical and chemical processes. Ecological connectivity is a key
process crucial to the life history of marine organisms, to the structure and functions of
ecosystems and to the processes that support them. Marine organisms depend on multiple
habitat types for foraging and reproduction. Nutrients, pollutants, pathogens and sediments
circulate from land to sea through water movements. Due to this connectivity, what happens
in one ecosystem, positive or negative, will have an influence on all other ecosystems.
Resilience of the VMCAs also requires that the communities, VMCA committees and direct
users are committed to their survival in the long term. Integrating training and tools that
promote sustainable use practices and that support changing stakeholder needs will ensure
that the conservation goals of the VMCAs are maintained.
The primary objective of the project is to protect coastal and marine ecosystems through a
network of interlinked Voluntary Conservation Areas (coastal VCAs such as wetlands and
mangroves) and Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (marine VMCAs seagrasses and
corals) co-managed by the community and Reef Conservation and recognised by the
government as multi-use areas where sustainable activities are successfully conducted. The
project will be focused in coastal regions where relationships with local communities and
direct users of the resources have already been built and VMCAs are established. The new
project therefore aims to;
? Broaden the VMCA concept to include not only marine ecosystems but also coastal
ecosystems called Voluntary Conservation Areas (VCAs), highlighting the importance of
integrated coastal zone management.
? Encourage an additional 5 community members and direct users of the resource to be
directly involved in project actions from each region.
? Expand the existing VMCAs by at least 30 hectares by either including areas adjacent to
the sites and or by networking sites that are linked through currents and other biological
? Identify and agree with communities to protect at least 50hectares of coastal ecosystems
(wetlands, mangroves etc) VCAs in each region.
? Build capacity of Anse La Raie VMCA committee and Roches Noire Eco Marine through
further training in communication skills, development of small businesses and marine
protected area management.
? Develop and document 2 management plans for the VMCAs with community and
committees in each region.
? Encourage, include and build capacity of University of Mauritius students in voluntary
marine conservation actions through 4 scheduled talks and internships
? Develop an MQA approved VMCA eco certification, approved by relevant authorities and
recognised nationally
? Train and certify at least 8 VMCA users in the VMCA eco certification
? Promote the work and conservation efforts undertaken regionally through attendance
and presentation at the WIOMSA Conference in 2017.
The proposed action addresses community landscape/seascape conservation
objectives of Operational Phase OP6 (2015 – 2018) and SGP strategic priority issues.
Using an integrated and holistic approach, the project aims to conserve coastal and marine
biodiversity for the promotion of resilient coastal and marine landscapes that includes and
supports sustainable human activities. Building on experience gained from previous
initiatives in the targeted regions lays a robust and replicable groundwork for developing
sustainable actions and management of coastal & marine ecosystems.
This approach is in line with recommendations from international reports (Pew Oceans
Commission 2003, US Commission on Ocean Policy 2004) promoting integrated
conservation policy and planning in coastal ecosystems. The project is in line with national
policies and strategies. The current Fisheries and Marine Resources Act (Act No. 27 of
2007) includes provisions for “the management, conservation, protection of fisheries and
marine resources and protection of the marine ecosystems”. The National Climate Change
Adaptation Policy Framework identifies that “ecosystem and natural habitat of fish and
other marine species is being rapidly eroded, with some coral reefs being now extinct”.
Under the Strategy and Action Plan, action F2.4 encourages the creation of new marine
protected areas and monitoring of the socio-economic development of people depending on
these resources. The project addresses this strategy on a community level by creating and
strengthening VMCAs. The project is also consistent with the Integrated Coastal Zone
Management (ICZM) framework which addresses coastal and marine resources
management problems and their transboundary effects. The project also relates to the Aichi
(50 ha)
Marine Study area for
VMCA’s Network (1275 ha)
Coastal Study area for
VCA (90 ha)
Anse La Raie Areas
Biodiversity Targets 1 and 10 of the Convention on Biological Diversity to which
Mauritius is a signatory.

Project Snapshot

Reef Conservation (formerly Marine Conservation Management Consortium)
Area Of Work:
International Waters
Grant Amount:
US$ 50,000.00
Co-Financing Cash:
US$ 51,348.78
Co-Financing in-Kind:
US$ 15,333.71
Project Number:
Satisfactorily Completed

SGP Country office contact

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


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

Country Website

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