The days flew by and before we knew it, it was Friday. Our last day in Mauritius. There was still one last thing we had not yet done and that was visit the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA). The schedule on Friday was tight but luckily we managed to fit it in. When we arrived at the IORA in Cybercity, Ebène, we were introduced to the members of the organisation in Mauritius and welcomed into a conference room already set up for a PowerPoint presentation by Mr. Firdaus Dahlan, Director at IORA Mauritius.
Basically the Indian Ocean Rim Association is one that promotes regional economic cooperation between states under the Indian Ocean Rim. An alliance set up to promote sustainable growth and balanced development of the region and member states. It consists of 21 countries, Seychelles included. Separated into different sectors, the IORA manages areas such as Maritime Safety and Security, Trade and Investment Facilitation, Fisheries Management, Danger Risk Management, Academic and Science & Technology Cooperation, Tourism Promotion and Cultural Exchanges, and Blue Economy + Women Empowerment. However, IORA believes in cooperation, mutual understanding, and constructive engagement being the key to overcoming maritime challenges. The IORA plans on getting their first summit this year.
In 2014 the Blue Economy theme was recognised as a high priority area. The sectors within this area include fisheries and aquaculture, renewable ocean energy, seaports and shipping, offshore hydrocarbons and seabed minerals, marine biotechnology, research and development, and tourism. In most member states the Blue Economy contributes significantly to the countries’ GDP therefore its preservation is considered very important. The Mauritius Declaration of the Blue Economy was adopted at the first IORA in 2015. Capacity building is made possible with the help of workshops, conferences and meetings on the different sectors of the Blue Economy. The programmes help to develop projects that can be used to tackle the problems our ocean faces. For now IORA is looking to strengthen maritime safety and security, enhance capacity building, promote private and public partnership, and strengthen cooperation on R&D and technology transfer, and strengthening engagement of dialogue partners in IORA projects. The IORA’s funding for its projects is received in the form of voluntary contribution from member states otherwise through special funds.
By the end of the talk we all had more knowledge of the IORA, what its functions are and how Seychelles benefits from being a member. We went back to the hotel for our bags and a quick lunch then drove to the airport with great memories and lots of things to tell the people back home.
Written by Nikita Rennie.
Hello everyone, it’s me Deenah who will briefly narrate about my last day with the BE interns. So, it was 06:30 am and I was already there at the Paradis des iles hotel at Quatre Bornes meeting the team for a new adventure. They proposed for me to have a yummy breakfast with them but I refused because I had a full stomach. At 07:15, the driver, Yudish, was already on the spot and we hopped in the party bus to our destination; Grand Riviere Sud Est (GRSE).
On our way, Yudish was guiding us about the different places in Mauritius and also about their legends. When we reached Flacq, he stopped and got us a treat and it was yummy street fritters. We all shared the cakes and were telling the Seychellois the name of each fritter. When we nearly reached GRSE, he stopped near a sugar cane field and got us down to go and see the waterfall from above. He knew that we were to see the waterfall later on that day in boats but, he wanted to show us the amazing view from above. The view was so beautiful and I was in awe. After that, we went to GRSE waterfront where we waited for Mr.Keshwar to come. Meanwhile, we walked around and saw a fisherman who caught two sharks. Many people were taking pictures with the sharks. The fisherman said that he caught the sharks near the reef and they sell the sharks Rs.60 per 500g. This seemed so cheap and I wonder how they make profit out of this to make a living. An hour later when Mr.Keshwar came we jumped into the boats which he booked and we went near the reef.
The reef was an artificial and manmade one which helps the local fishers to catch their prey and also protect them from waves. When we reached near the reef, the sound of the crashing of the waves was so beautiful and we all enjoyed it. After a few minutes, some fishermen came in a boat and we all changed into our swimming suits. We snorkeled with the fishermen and he showed us octopus cages and also an octopus. They then killed the octopus but it was still moving when we touched the latter. The fisherman kept the octopus to sell it and joined us on the boat. We then made a boat trip to Ile aux Cerf where we swam in the warm water. Unfortunately I was not so lucky that day and I stepped on a sea urchin. All the boys tried to help me with the cleaning of the wound and removal of the spines. We had lunch there and chatted with everyone. The Mauritian people were learning new words and local recipes from the Seychellois folks. This was indeed interesting.
At about 12 o’clock we again hopped into the boat but this time we went to see the waterfall. Mr.Christian, the skipper, chatted with us and told us about an accident that took place in the river there where a drunk man lost his life. This was sad but this is also a lesson to us that we should not drink alcohol and come on the boat as it is dangerous. The view of the waterfall from the boat was also amazing and we enjoyed watching it. Mr.Chrisitian also showed us bats in trees and told us that due to the scorching sun, the monkeys are hiding. We were so excited to see monkeys but unfortunately we didn’t. We reached the GRSE waterfront at about 13:30 and then Yudish made a road trip and showed us an ancient colonial house which is haunted. We also went to the view point of Peter Both mountain were we had a very large view of Mauritius. Our final destination for that day was a Tamil temple called Kovil, where Yudish and I told my Seychellois friends about the Gods and Goddesses and why we pray to them. My fantastic day ended at the bus station and I was so sad to leave the group. It was an amazing experience to be with them and I hope to meet them soon.
Hey! Alvania here. So, day 7 was the second day for 9 of the ambassadors’ two day blue economy training. On the first day we had seen the negative part of the underwater Mauritius. However on the second day we saw and experienced the beautiful part of Mauritius.
We jumped off of the boat on the south western part of Mauritius, into 10-15 meters of dark blue ocean. At first it was scary to be honest, as although we had all snorkeled in Seychelles waters before, we had no idea what was present in that of Mauritius. However, after a few seconds, we felt comfortable, as if in Seychelles waters. After a few minutes of observing the underwater life, the instructor (Vassen Kauppaymuthoo) would call us up above water and explain how the different parts help the economy of Mauritius but also why the reef doesn’t look as healthy as Seychelles’.
The corals of Mauritius aren’t as colorful as Seychelles’. The corals that are alive are mostly brown with a few rare red or blue ones. He explained that this is a natural occurrence and that depending on the different country’s sea, the colour of corals varies. He also said that apparently the Red sea has one of the most colorful reefs in the world.
After snorkeling in another area, learning and retaining more about the blue economy, we docked near what resembled one of Aldabra’s ‘champignon’ and were told to walk there. We were all surprised as the water didn’t look ‘walk-able’. It was only after jumping in that we realised that the water was only chin-high.
We stood closer to the champignon than the boat. Well most of us did. I, was on Marianna Naya’s (another amazing ambassador) back as I was afraid of the many razor clams that were quite abundant in the area. Then he began to ask us examinable questions orally about what we had learned along the course of the two days.
At the end of the ‘exam’, he promptly stated that he had taught people of many nationalities including French, but we (Seychellois) have been by far his best and well informed class ever. This for me was a very emotional moment as I felt as if we were representing the whole of Seychelles and right then and there I could see a sustainable, healthy, eco-friendly world and in the heat of the moment the clear future came rolling down my cheeks.
Mauritius is a developing country owning an Exclusive Economic Zone of 2.3 million km2. This makes the island the 20th country worldwide having the largest EEZ. However, out of this total area, about only 1% is exploited. The blue economy represents development in the maritime sector whereby the youth of this generation will be the future employee in this sector.
The development in the maritime sector will be one of the most important pillar of the country, but for how long will it be? Ideas and money alone are not enough to make things happen, people should have the skills to make it a reality. It is true that the development in the ocean will create employment, but again will they be able to do it sustainably? Most of the lagoon corals have been bleached mainly because of warm waters, water pollution and also water activities. This has caused a disturbance in the sea water ecosystem. Before the youth of this generation may be employed, there is much education to be done. To add to this, a common saying in Mauritius is that the parents are the role model of the younger generation and the younger ones learn from the elder ones, but then if the parents and grandparents themselves do not set the good example about sustainability and protecting the environment and also cause pollution in front of them, then the child will only learn this bad act and repeat it.
The advancement in the Blue Economy of Mauritius will not be much if the sensitisation and protection do not start as from now. Much of the public beaches are polluted with plastic and smell bad. During my December holidays, I have been to a small rocky beach in the southern region of Mauritius called Kenya. Upon sunrise, I was so surprised to see how polluted this unvisited place was! The pollution was mainly because of wash up and accumulation of plastic debris that came from one place to another. The view was so hurtful to the eyes. But then, one thought came to my mind, why does the government employ people to clean mostly public beaches which are frequently visited by tourists and not beaches like Kenya?
The first step to progress in the Blue Economy is to tackle the problem of pollution which is mainly caused by non-biodegradable plastic. In fact when plastic debris are washed in the sea, marine animals confuse them as their food and eat them but unfortunately many of them suffocate and die. Some are trapped in the debris and grow deformed while others are hurt from it. The problem of pollution may be resolved by educating the older generation about its major impacts and environmental degradation. The banning of plastic bags have solved only a very small percentage of the pollution problem. However, some retailers continue to use the non-biodegradable plastic bags while on the other hand, plastic bottles, baskets, bags and other plastic products which are also non-biodegradable are the main composition of the plastic debris. In fact, an external cost should have been applied to these products which could be the funding of Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) or even societies which usually organize beach clean ups.
Written by Deenah Mungur.
Hello everybody Frances here. This short video is briefly about our 2 days training in Mauritius with the Oceanographer Mr Vassen. As you will see in the video he was quiet impressed with our little group of 9 intelligent Blue Economy Ambassadors. During the 2 days training we learnt a lot about how Mauritius is using the ocean and we found both cons and pros. The reef itself was not so impressive compared to the reef back home. We went on a snorkeling and I was really surprised to see that there were a very small variety of fishes. The reef itself was super beautiful with so many new recruits of healthy corals. It was very sad to see that the reef was very deserted. The problem here was over fishing so the fishes don’t get to reproduce and so the population keeps declining. Mauritius does have beautiful reefs, its just that people don’t know how to balance and make development in a sustainable way. Its not late to act they still have time but I believe they should definitely start soon or else there will be very very few fishes on their reef.’
Okay. So hello once more to the readers. It’s Alvania again. This blog is about day 5 of the internship whereby we visited the Mauritius University. There were many fascinating presentations, however, there was one in particular that caught my ears. Although many of us had a pretty good idea of what climate change and Blue economy was, we hadn’t really linked them together.
You see the earth is surrounded by the atmosphere to protect it from the harsh rays of the sun. However, over the years, we humans have produced too much greenhouse gases, carbon dioxide in particular. These greenhouse gases causes the atmosphere to be damaged and thus allowing some amount of the intensity of the sun’s rays to reach the earth causing the earth to heat up and what is known as global warming. As the deep ocean is dark, it absorbs heat like any other dark object and causes higher sea temperatures.
Now as you may know, corals are both animals and plants. The hard part that we can see is the plant part. The thing that gives the coral its colour however, is the animal part. This is called zooxanthella. It gives corals its color as well as the protein it needs. These zooxanthella are very sensitive to heat, as this causes them to move out of the corals, leaving them white and thus causing what is known as bleached corals.
This all links as when the corals become bleached and die out because lack of energy that the zooxanthella provides, the fish lose their habitat and also move out to find a new home and at times some even die trying. When such an incident happens, there is a decline in the fish’s biomass. This decline also means a decrease in a country’s ocean economy as there tourist would not want to visit an empty marine park, no fish in the sea for the fishermen to fish and so on.
To prevent this there are only so much you can do to reduce your carbon footprints in the future of our kids and grandkids. Turn off the lights when not in use. Turn off appliances when not in use. Export and import less. Save water. Use less energy. Why all these you ask? Well, all this contributes to the already too much greenhouse gases. One more thing you can do is raising awareness and sharing tips, with your friends and family. Tell them about the detrimental effects of a few ‘innocent’ mistakes and what they can do to make it better. Furthermore, to have sustainability we must stick to our (Seychelles’) blue economy concept which values both taking and giving back to the ocean. As without the giving part, the ocean would only increase the country’s income on a short term basis. However, with the giving part, the ocean becomes sustainable. Meaning that we benefit from the ocean in every aspect for a number of generations. We gain food security, its beauty, jobs, tourism, income, to sum it up… the ocean’s all with it still being healthy.
Greetings! Anna here (with an imaginary microphone in her hand), reporting on Day 8 of the Mauritius trip. After a ride in the “party bus” we’ve arrived at Reef Conservation, a NGO whose focus is on education & awareness, research & monitoring, and community outreach & conservation. Sounds daunting, but they handle it with success, with their team of 9. Though we only met 4 of them at their Nauticaz center, situated within a hotel in Anse La Raie. The centre has an aquarium (that grabbed all our attention), a lab and was decorated with various models of the ecosystems like mangroves. We learnt about their various projects like the innovative “Bis La Mer” project where they created a movable learning centre on a bus that would visit schools and public places to raise awareness and educate people. They also had summer camps and sessions with the clients at the hotel to educate as well.
In terms of community outreach and conservation, they created Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VMCA). What’s that? Those are areas where various stakeholders in the community like fishermen agree to protect for sustainability. The awesome thing is that there is no law enforcement from the government thus the term “voluntary.” At the moment there are two such sites – Anse La Raie and Roches Noire. They also implemented fixed mooring buoys to minimize the damage to coral reefs and protect snorkelers; so far there haves been 89 buoys since 2004, and also sensitized skippers and fishermen on how to use such buoys. In their lab, they also conduct testing on water quality like checking the pH level, visibility and temperature. They have monitor coral growth by placing tiles on racks in the water and checking them for growth for various periods of time.
The next part of our visit was a glass-bottom boat ride to see their VCMA. After staring intently on the bottom of the boat we were rewarded by the sight of large and diverse corals, from towering lettuce corals to waving galaxea, with sudden waves of fish. We also noticed that there was little diversity of species and most of them were juvenile, compared to that of Seychelles. A member of the Reef Conservation explained that over-fishing was a big problem in Mauritius, she also highlighted that the lack of coastguard enforcement contributes to various problems. We also saw a snorkelling trail they created for the hotel guests, and we learnt that they try to help the coral reef by clearing algae as well.
I’ll end this blog with a few advice I learnt from the Reef Conservation team. If those who are thinking about a job with a NGO know that you will be “constantly learning” and that you may not be “rich in wealth but you’ll be rich inside” as in experiences and knowing that you are creating a positive impact. Also, for those like me who don’t know how to start helping the environment, I was advised “to reduce our impact, nature will help itself.” For example, we could start by not using toiletries with micro-beads, reducing our energy and plastic consumption … start on reducing our little impact and teaching others, slowly by slowly we can save it.
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
Reef conservation is an accredited NGO (non-governmental organization) dedicated to the conservation and the restoration of the marine Environment of Mauritius. Their role is to protect Mauritius’ 250km2 lagoon and its 150km reef and to educate the public. “Reef’s” goals include Education & awareness, community outreach and conservation, research & monitoring.
Fixed Mooring Buoys (FMB)
FMBs are devices that have been set up in Mauritius’ waters. They are drilled in dead coral reefs. The “fixed mooring buoys” being one of their successful projects have influenced various fishermen in tying their boats to the FMB. Reef’s intention while placing FMBs was to prevent the damages and reduce the impacts caused by anchors and other inappropriate moorings. Reef conducted various workshops and trainings with fishermen on how to use FMBs. This voluntary project is not law enforced and reef feels that voluntary acts work better than law enforced regulations. It took Reef two years to get approval from the government to place FMBs but once it was in place people respected and still is respecting the FMBS.
Voluntary Marine Conservation Areas (VCMA)
VCMA is another voluntary project REEF has put in place. This idea is similar to Seychelles’ Marine Parks except it is not enforced law. Their main objective is to help protect the marine environment by involving coastal communities and those who depend on it for subsidence on a voluntary basis, to determine best practices for the maintenance and improvement of the Marine environment as well as ensuring the sustainable use of marine resources. Reef describes this project as successful.
The session was exceptionally informative mainly because of my love for marine protection. Chapeau to REEF and their awesome work. Society needs proactive people like them.
Thank you for reading!
Written by Nathalia Lawen.
The University of Mauritius which is located in Le Reduit offers various ocean related courses including Geomatics, Marine and Environmental Sciences, Coastal and Ocean Resources, Marine Technology, Climate Change adaptation and Risk Reduction amongst many others. Created in August 2014, this Faculty supports ocean economy.
So what is the difference between Mauritius’ Ocean economy and Seychelles’ Blue Economy?
Ocean Economy: The economic activities that directly and indirectly take place in the ocean, use outputs from the ocean and put the goods and services into ocean’s activities.
Blue Economy: Sustainable Economic activity that acknowledges our dependency on the oceans.
Some might say that the two definitions mean the same thing. But I would disagree, not because of the words but because of what I have seen. Actions do speak louder than words after all.
Being at the University we attended numerous presentations on the impacts of climate change, the contents of the university and how this one professor carried out a dive with a student for a research he was doing on the parrot fish.
But what I preferred the most about that day was when they announced that we would be presenting a video! Yes we brought with us the very renowned National Geographic documentary of Seychelles! This documentary features many islands of the Seychelles, especially the outer islands (in 2015)
No words could describe how proud I was to be sitting there watching the Mauritians “aw” in astonishment when they saw the elegance of the islands, of Seychelles, of my country!
“We are surrounded by ocean how can one not know about it” was one of the many comments that was shared from a Young Mauritian when we (interns) said that awareness is key. Yes, we (Small Island Developing States) are surrounded by the ocean, but I believe in equality and acknowledge that not everyone knows the value of our oceans. But this is why internships like these are organised to spread awareness to the public. I believe one should not condescend someone because he/she ignores our oceans.
With this I would like to thank the University of Mauritius for hosting us and everyone else who organised the itinerary.
Written by Nathalia Lawen.