On the 10th, Day 6, seven interns including me boarded the speedboat Oceanyka for our first session of the Blue Economy Training. Our trainer was Vassen Kauppaymuthoo, who has the longest resume I’ve ever heard, from environment engineer to pilot, and currently studying environment law. We learnt about the development aspect of the Blue/Ocean Economy. Now, you’re probably wondering what the difference between the two types is – Blue Economy (Seychelles’ economic plan) is more sustainable than Ocean Economy (Mauritius’ current economic plan) in simple terms. Development includes activities like port development, tourism and new uses of the oceanic resources.
Our first stop, was to watch the dolphin watchers, it was a profitable tourist activity, with the average price of 40 Euros and commonly four trips per day. It was a saddening sight; there were about ten boats surrounding and cornering the pod of dolphins, with tourists jumping in the water nearly on to the dolphins! The horror and rage were reflected on our faces; needless to say we bombarded Mr. Vassen with questions on why nothing has been done. It turns out there are regulations in place which were written by him, but they are not enforced. We also saw plenty of diving boats, and we asked if the operators teach their clients not to touch, damage and bring back anything they see down there, like we do in Seychelles. Sadly, he replied they do tell them though they do not enforce it. So, tourism is a major part of the blue economy, but if these regulations that protect their selling points are not enforced; this business will slowly collapse – dolphins may no longer frequent the waters and coral reefs may slowly disappear.
After a “rollercoaster ride” on the speedboat, we neared the shore where we saw the unique land forms like the lava tunnels and giant caves (the geo students were excited) of Mauritius and the Mauritius Oceanography Institute and a waste management plant. We also saw where the waste water was passed into the ocean by a pipeline, 200m away from the coast and 30m deep. There was a visible patch of murkiness staining the blue of the ocean in the region he pointed out, after questioning the process of waste treatment we learnt that they do not chlorinate the water as the ocean “dilutes” the waste. We also learnt that Deep Ocean Water Application (DORA) aspect of the ocean economy, one plan was to bottle cold current that is 4000m deep around Mauritius for purposes like air conditioning, when we heard about it several jaws dropped. The huge and busy port was the next stop; several types of towering vessels we passed by – reefers, container ships, dry bulk carriers (shout out to Mr. Prosper at SEYPEC for teaching me this). It was clear that shipping was another important part of the ocean economy with various storage sites visible on the shore. We also learnt that some parts of the lagoon were back-filled for the expansion of ports, so it was clear that development economically meant sacrifices from the environment (hopefully, Seychelles’ blue economy will make these sacrifices minimal).
The last stop was the Balaclava Marine Park, which we were excited to see … until we realised that this marine park was vastly different from ours; it was situated near several hotels and it was a small strip of the bay with the majority reserved for water sports. We were told that the beach in front of the marine park was a popular place for nesting turtles until the hotel was built, and sadly, that before the hotels nearby cleared the reef in order to give the clear sea and white sandy beaches, their clients wanted, thankfully this is now banned. There was so much activity happening in one place – skiing, paddle boarding, canoeing, boats mooring; we feared we would get hit when snorkeling. It was clear that the corals were recovering from the bleaching event that Seychelles also suffered, there was an abundance of corals and sea urchins but little diversity and quantity of fish. Most we saw were juvenile especially the parrotfish, which emphasises Mauritius’ over-fishing problems.
I know this blog post seems depressing and negative towards the ocean economy, but that was the point of the first day to show us the negative impacts of the development and for Seychelles, it highlighted areas that we need to beware of. Don’t worry, the next day we learnt about the positive impacts and projects under the ocean economy of Mauritius, I’m sure you’ll read about it from other interns.
Written by Anna Yang