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Saturday, February 12, 2011

MFF Artisanal Shark Fishery Project Enters Final Stages

The third week of December 2010 saw representatives of the Mangroves For the Future initiative (MFF) visit Seychelles to assess progress of the national projects under their purview. On the 17th of December GIF made a presentation on the Artisanal Shark Fishery Project to the MFF representatives and then later that day met with them to go over the project budget and disbursement to date. After that the MFF reps had the opportunity to meet with some of the Artisanal Shark Fishermen (ASF) based at Anse Etoile on Mahe. The MFF personnel expressed their satisfaction with the project implementation to date.

The 3rd of February saw another major landmark in the project namely the first Annual General Meeting of the Artisanal Shark Fishers’ Association (ASFA) - the development and registration of which was enabled by this project. GIF facilitated the meeting and representatives of the Seychelles Fishing Authority, MFF and the National Media were also in attendance. The AGM went well and succeeded in making the Association operational through its: endorsement of the Articles of Association, election of a Board of Directors, elaboration of a priority action plan and establishment of a Management Committee to oversee day-to-day activities.

The meeting also provided the opportunity for the handover of equipment purchased under the project. The equipment in question (three digital cameras and water-proof housings, measuring tapes and waterproof notebooks) is to enable the fishers to gather data on their catch. The format for data gathering has also been developed under this project. Lack of data on coastal shark populations in Seychelles is one of the key obstacles to informed management of the fishery and ASFA has identified the collection of data as one of its priority activities.

So the operationalisation of ASFA - one of the key objectives of the GIF project – has been attained and should enable the Fishers to fulfil their role under the Seychelles National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks.
A couple of other activities remain to be completed namely the production of educational posters on coastal sharks and the artisanal shark fishery in Seychelles respectively and the formulation and submission of the terminal report to MFF. Check back for further updates in the coming weeks (Contributed by John Nevill).

Friday, January 7, 2011

GIF assists in establishment of Artisanal Shark Fishers Association

GIF’s founding mandate is to mainstream sustainable development, in particular by forming partnerships with the private sector. In Seychelles the primary economic sectors with environmental impact are tourism, fisheries and production landscapes and so these have formed the focus of much of GIF’s work to date.

Previous posts on this blog (see posts of 21 & 29 June and July 18 & 31 2009) have described the GIF/MFF project with Seychelles artisanal shark fisherman to build their capacity to better manage their fishery and fulfil their roles under the National Plan of Action for the Conservation and Management of Sharks (NPOA). This project is now coming to an end and one of the key outcomes was attained at the beginning of December namely the establishment and legal registration of a new Association under the Registrar of Associations Act.

The “Artisanal Shark Fishers’ Association” (ASFA) or “Lasosyasyon Peser Reken” received its certificate of registration and hence became a legal entity on the 1st December 2010. The Articles of Association include, amongst other things, the Mission Statement and Objectives of the association and these are reproduced below:

Mission Statement:
“To secure a sustainable artisanal shark fishery and the livelihoods of its practitioners”.
Objectives:
• To promote and protect the artisanal shark fishery and the rights of the fishers therein.
• To promote sound development practices which foster a sustainable artisanal shark fishery and an improved standard of living for fishers.
• Represent shark fishers’ concerns and interests, and protect their rights in appropriate committees and fora.
• Seek to develop new markets and outlets for artisanal shark fishery produce.
• Add value to artisanal shark fishery produce and activities through innovation and capacity building.
• Promote optimal usage of sharks caught.
• To generate, raise or access funds and develop strategic partnerships to advance the objectives above.

The Association will be holding its first AGM early in the New Year where the full articles will be endorsed (and if necessary amended) by members and the Board of Directors for the first two year cycle elected. GIF will continue to supply some basic secretarial support to ASFA in its formative stages until such time as the association has sufficient capacity to operate independently.

The formation of ASFA is a fundamental step in empowering artisanal shark fishers to: protect their rights and livelihoods in a changing legislative and management environment and better manage the fishery for a sustainable future. We wish them all the best in their future endeavours (Contributed by John Nevill).

Friday, November 19, 2010

Turtle nesting season 2010

The hawksbill turtles (kare) and the Green Turtles (torti ver) are the most common marine turtles known by most Seychellois. On rare occasions the loggerhead (torti nanmkoyo) and the leather turtles (torti karanbol) can be seen as passers-by in our waters.

Is it true that time is running out for our turtles?

For us to understand this question, let us ask ourselves few simple questions: When was the last time you saw a turtle nesting on beach? When was the last time you saw turtle hatchlings rushing down the beach to the sea? What has been done to ensure that time is not running out for these charismatic creatures which wander our underwater world?

The turtle nesting season this year started quietly for many important nesting beaches in the Seychelles. The friends of the turtles all over our islands have been actively gearing up for this year’s nesting season and have been on the lookout to monitor the turtles coming ashore with the egg clutches. In some areas, sightings have been few; some beaches have been graced by the presence of the tracks while some have sheltered the eggs freshly laid by the females. Some females can come up several times to lay up to eight clutches during one nesting season.On Denis Island, turtles have been sighted numerous times; green turtles have been seen once late afternoon nesting and other times only the tracks and huge pits have been observed all around the island. Amazingly, over 10 pits were seen on a narrow stretch of the beach close to the lighthouse. Since early October, active monitoring for the hawksbill turtles have started; some walks have been spectacular as the turtles were found up the beach front. Other times, only the tracks could be seen. For the avid nature lovers who happened to be on the beach early Tuesday 2nd November, they were able to experience first hand a hawksbill turtle coming up on the beach, searching for the ideal spot, nest and returned back to the sea.

There were lots of “WOW”, “C’est merveilleux” as well as interesting questions about the biology and ecology of this charismatic organism. Early that same day, a nice couple happened to have their own private show of another turtle nesting and they videoed it as souvenir to take home.
Active monitoring is still ongoing and we are all patiently waiting for the first batch of hatchlings to emerge hopefully within the next month or so. Whether you are just a picnicker, a beach bum or just happen to wander around on a beach, keep an eye for any tracks and your ears open for any sand throwing all over the place, especially among the Scaevola sp. Inform a local who will take note of this organism’s status, as such information is valuable to further enhance its protection as well as provide additional knowledge of its ecology.
The Green Islands Foundation is a Seychelles registered NGO dedicated to the mainstreaming of sustainable development. Established on 11th April 2006, GIF aims to establish equilibrium and potential synergies of development and environment at the core of its operations and seeks, as its main activity, to bridge the gap between the private sector and national environmental programmes. It also functions as coordinator for environmental initiatives on and relating to Denis Island as well as initiating coastal zone management projects on Grand-Anse Praslin and North Island.

The logo designed by Mr. Aubrey Adeline depicts GIF’s modus operandi: mainstreaming sustainable development, which can be in all aspects, from life itself in the form of a green leaf captured in the logo, to island management as well as to the marine (blue colour) and terrestrial ecosystems (green colour).

For more information on the projects and activities of GIF, feel free to check out its blogs on the following addresses: www.greenislandsfoundation.blogspot.com or www.denisisland.blogspot.com

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

It’s been a while since you’ve last read a post on our blog- rest assured that we have been putting ideas together while finalizing various contracts and project documents. Now, we can spare few minutes to provide a brief of our adventures!

GIF have now finalized and signed contracts for two projects- the large project under the MFF initiative entitled “Coastal development and ecosystem Modelling as a tool to enable improved local and national policy decision-making processes” is a joint submission by both GIF and Marine Conservation Society of Seychelles (MCSS) and a small grant as part of the GEF SGP programme for a project entitled “Increasing public awareness and educating the local communities in understanding the behavioural ecology of sharks in order to reduce conflicts between fishermen and dive operators in Seychelles.”(See photos in side bar)

MFF Large project: This project was ranked the highest among all regional submissions and is the only one for the Seychelles. Dr. David Rowat from MCSS signed the contract on behalf of both organizations. This is a 24month project, involving various partners (government and private) and will develop a baseline, parameters and technical tools to provide a platform for enhanced coastal zone management. Four sites (Denis and North Islands, Beau Vallon and Intendance) representative of the diversity of coastal development scenarios in Seychelles have been selected for the implementation of pilot projects. Each site will be surveyed and assessed for the environmental services they provide and the biodiversity assemblages and economic activities they support. These baselines will be used to develop environmental parameters and technical tools to inform planning and development decision-making processes in particular the scoping, undertaking and assessment of EIAs. The projects will also be used to develop public information packs on coastal development and management to promote and empower the involvement of local communities in the decision-making process. The project’s objective is to strengthen the technical and scientific basis of, and empower local community involvement in, coastal management decision making-processes.

SGP: Working with local communities forms an integral part of GIF’s list of activities and these communities are of various age groups and field of expertise. GIF’s project will assist in the successful implementation of some of the work programmes of the national plan of action for the conservation and management of sharks (Shark NPOA).

This proposal which will be targeting the conservation of biodiversity will tie in well with GIF’s main goal of mainstreaming sustainable development. Shark meat is a major food and income sources for various local and global communities. On the local scale, sharks as an apex predator have crucial roles in the food web as well as on the ecosystem. It is also an excellent protein source for locals since the first human settlement. However, sharks have been fished for decades and with increased long-line fisheries and improved technology, have led to its declining population. There is the crucial need to sustainably manage the existing stock and educate the local communities with high reliance on this resource, not only for conservation purposes but also to ensure that the sharks’ ecological roles are maintained. Nevertheless, there are a lot of unknowns about the sharks, especially in terms of the population structure and phylogeny. There is also increased conflicts between the fishers and the diving industry due to the high shark fishing activity occurring on sites with large numbers of sharks This proposal aims to increase the local ecological knowledge of the local communities from all walks of life (researchers, fishermen, and other biodiversity users) on the importance of understanding the biological aspects of key species that are crucial to their livelihoods, on the socio-economic and ecological levels. Once this has been identified, with increased public awareness, local communities can better manage this resource which is vital to their livelihood and at the same time, further enhance biodiversity conservation for future generations.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Eradication of Common Mynas from Denis Island, Seychelles, 2010 (Courtesy Prof. Chris Feare)

An attempt to eradicate Common Mynas Acridotheres tristis from Denis Island, Seychelles, began in late May 2010. The justification for the present control is evidence that mynas are directly and indirectly impacting negatively on the populations of some of the introduced endemic birds. An earlier attempt had been made, mainly using Starlicide (a toxicant that demonstrates some specificity to certain bird families, including mynas) in the early 2000s but this attempt was abandoned after a contemporaneous rat eradication attempt had failed; a subsequent rat eradication was successful. Now that four species of Seychelles endemic bird have been introduced to Denis, this toxicant is considered too dangerous for the endemics to be used as a primary control measure and the current attempt to remove mynas is centred on trapping.
In the initial stages two kinds of trap were built and tested: funnel traps, which rely on attractive food to entice mynas into the traps, and decoy traps, which use a live decoy myna in a central compartment to attract nearby mynas. Mist nets were also used in initial trials where flocks of mynas concentrated, as were fine nylon nooses placed on the ground among bait. In trials, only decoy trapping proved effective and the eradication attempt now relies almost entirely on decoy traps, although other techniques may be used later in the project.
Achievements to date

1. Demonstration of the effectiveness of decoy traps in Denis Island’s habitats (and of the poorer performance of funnel traps, mist nets and ground nooses).
2. In the first two and a half months of the project over 500 mynas have been caught, out of a population estimated at about 1000 birds before trapping began (Jildou van der Woude).
3. Discovery that when groups of traps are placed together, catch rate among traps is variable. Experimental manipulation showed this not due to trap location or possible variation in trap structure or operation, but was due to presence of a specific decoy myna. Elucidation of what constitutes a “super-attractive” myna could improve trapping success.
4. Discovery that iris colour changes as juveniles mature, and that it is variable in adult mynas. Whether this variation represents continuing maturity, and is therefore related to age, or whether it is part of an annual cycle, or reflects mood of an individual, is unknown. Data are being recorded routinely among other features of all mynas caught. If a relation is found between iris colour and attractiveness as defined in section 3 above, this could be a pointer towards selecting attractive decoys.
Throughout May, at the beginning of the eradication, adult mynas were in wing moult, indicating that they were not breeding. In June wing moult was completed and breeding began. This was accompanied by a reduction in the rate at which birds were caught in decoy traps. A number of possibilities could explain this: requirement for different foods by nesting birds, reduced attraction to decoys and traps due to over-use of the decoys and lack of trap maintenance and cleaning, and reduced motivation of the trapper. Decoys were replaced with new birds and traps were overhauled, leading to a recovery in trapping rate. It appears that food choice of the birds did not change and that reduced motivation of the trapper led to lack of attention to the detail of trapping.
6. Comparative failure of funnel traps due largely to occupation of these by turtle doves (especially where food concentrations occur – see below) and crabs, mainly hermit crabs, when traps placed near the beach crest. Denis Island’s populations of Madagascar turtle doves, and also moorhens and mynas, are very high, indicating that the island provides abundant sources of food for them. The main food source concentrations identified are the pig farm, the food store on the northern coast, and the food offered to birds in the garden at the restaurant. Limitation of these food sources to birds would help to reduce the bird populations and would also help to reduce food wastage and its costs.
Lessons learned
We have within two and a half months removed almost half of Denis Island’s population of mynas and have additionally learned much new information about mynas and their behaviour in relation to trapping, including some insights into improvements that may be made. This success suggests that a major reduction in myna numbers on the island is feasible and that eradication should not be ruled out as a possibility and should remain the long-term goal. Decoy trapping is likely to remain the main tool but other techniques may need to be employed as numbers decline, with shooting at the nest being particularly important in the later stages.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Sooty tern project

Previously, sooty terns Onychoprion fuscatus(formerly Sterna fuscata) nested on several island in the Seychelles group but on most islands, especially the smaller ones, colonies became extinct as a result of excessive egg and adult harvesting by people, introduction of exotic predators, and alteration of the habitat Following the successful eradication of rodents and felines early in 2000, Denis island proved to be an ideal site for such re-introduction as these characteristics coupled with food availability and proximity to the supplies proved key aspects that will cater for possible settlement. In addition, an area of ~2ha of open ground with attractant stimuli is available to encourage sooty terns to nest.

As part of Denis Island’s conservation effort, a sooty tern re-colonization programme was initiated in 2008, under the supervision of Professor Chris Feare. Sooties started to arrive on Denis early in June. The ‘wide-awake’ calls could be heard from the lighthouse area, all the way to the dive centre and the sooty tern area. For the month of June, every day was exciting as the situation with the sooty terns was unpredictable. There were days when hundreds of sooties flew over the island, to and fro in search of the ideal landing site and times when several birds landed for minutes and even hours. In the week of June, the island was a marvel to look at; high above in the sky as the colony moved from one end of the island to the next. There was one occasion where hundreds of sooties landed for hours, while some flew around trying to locate the perfect spot on the ground (see photo in side bar).


Friday 2nd July was particularly special to a lot of us who were present on the island. Though it was a rainy morning, there was excitement on the beach in front of the dive centre. More than 300 sooty terns landed on that beach, from the tip in front of the restaurant, right to the high water mark in front of the dive centre. It was unbelievable; having volunteers constantly monitoring their behaviour and movement at the designated area when the birds chose a different spot was quite disheartening for them. Helena and I were very lucky to be at the right place at the right time (See videos below and photos in side bar). It was amazing just to stand and admire those birds which not much is known of their migratory routes and behaviour post nesting season. Since then, the numbers have reduced considerably, with a handful being observed flying around every now and then.

Click on links below for footage of the sooty terns on the beach:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gDJ90OLw1HI

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yrm0yepNK6U

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R1TH6Gy8En4