Despite the beginning of 2021 not quite meeting expectations with covid continuing to impact the lives of millions around the world, there are quite a few developments of conservation projects scheduled for 2021 around the Alphonse Group which everyone at Blue Safari Seychelles, Alphonse Fishing Company, ICS and the Alphonse Foundation are very excited about.
The successful collaboration between partners and the interesting results this project is bringing to light in combination with the battery life of the acoustic receivers allowing the continuation of the project, it made perfect sense to extend the project until December 2022.
Data collection will continue until the end of 2021 with a year given to in-depth data analysis, report preparation and stakeholder advice and consultation regarding management decisions for the fishery. There is also exciting potential to extend the project to include acoustic monitoring of spatial ecology of other catch-and-release target species or to extend the data collection and infrastructure to famous atolls such as Cosmoledo, the GT capital of the world.
Drifting Fish Aggregating Devices (FADS) are controversial contraptions used by the commercial purse-seine tropical tuna fleet worldwide to attract large schools of fish, increasing fishing efficiency and decreasing effort. The use of FADS not only contributes to increased catch and potentially overfishing but it also increases the percentage of juveniles and immature fish caught, an even bigger problem is the end-of-life of the FADS, most are not recovered and many are ‘lost’ becoming destructive snowballs that entangle marine life and get caught on coral reefs and seagrass beds of remote oceanic islands.
Since 2016 ICS has been working with the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission (IOTC) and representatives of the Spanish Purse Seiner fleet (OPAGAC) to develop and fund a way to reduce the impact of FADs in the outer islands of the Seychelles through a programme called FADWatch. February 2021 will see the renewal of the agreement between ICS and the Sustainable Indian Ocean Tuna Initiative (SIOTI) which sees more than 46 purse seiner vessels commit to providing data on FAD usage, FAD trajectories which will alert ICS if any come within 3nm of a reef/island system and funding for FAD removal, data analysis and consultation.
Following the signing of the bill officially demarcating 30% of the territorial waters of the Seychelles as protected under the Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan, 2021 will see the actual on-ground implementation of this policy. Blue Safari Seychelles will be involved, as a key private stakeholder, in enforcement training, drawing up protected area regulations specific to each site and continuing to provide funding to conservation projects essential to the success of the SMSP through the Alphonse Foundation.
Eco-tourism has long been hailed as one of the most sustainable ways for small communities to make money and, when managed correctly, a way to move away from less sustainable sources of income such as commercial fishing. When combined with conservation it can also provide consistent funding for impactful conservation and achieve one of the holy grails of conservation – long term databases- which can potentially achieve more lasting conservation results over time than many grant-funded, time-bound projects.
ICS has been collecting data on turtles, fish, birds and coral reefs on Alphonse since 2007 with a conservation levy paid by each visitor to the island going into the Alphonse Foundation which directly funds these projects.
It is a model that has proved very successful and the Alphonse Foundation has managed to build up savings to cover the costs of the on-going projects even in the event of a downturn in tourism. This rainy-day fund has ensured that there have been no gaps in data collection. Thankfully with the vaccine being rolled out around the world travel should start to increase again towards the latter half of 2021, however, tourism is not set to reach pre-covid figures until at least 2023 (IATA forecast).
Whilst the guest conservation levies provide the bulk of funding to conservation projects in addition to grants from various funding bodies, donations from guests provide a much-needed source of revenue and are becoming extremely important for the continuation of the projects now more than ever.
Please have a look at the following article by the United Nations Development Program which explains the impact of Covid-19 on eco-tourism worldwide:
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