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.