International training to save coral reefs of the WIO region launched ahead of World Environment Day

A historic international training workshop to save the coral reefs of the Western Indian Ocean (WIO) region affected by climate change was launched on June 3, 2019 on Praslin Island in the run up to World Environment Day. 

The Leaders in Coral Reefs Restoration Training Workshop was launched at the Centre for Ocean Restoration Awareness & Learning (CORAL) on Praslin Island, by Dr Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles' Chief Executive, and Dr. Phanor H Montoya-Maya, Director and Founder of Corales de Paz.

The 10-day intensive hands-on, in-water practical programme, which began on 1st June 2019 is being attended by participants from Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Madagascar, Mauritius and Rodrigues.

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Dr. Nirmal Shah addressing paticipants at the launch

Dr Nirmal Shah said that the training was part of Nature Seychelles' commitment to share knowledge and experience from 8 years of undertaking the world's 1st large-scale coral reef restoration project called the "Reef Rescuers" in the Cousin Island Special Reserve.

"Using the coral reef gardening concept developed in Israel by Dr Baruch Rinkevich, and with support from USAID, the project has succeeded in raising over 45,000 corals fragments in underwater nurseries to date and transplanted over 26,000 onto degraded reef at Cousin Island. This is a huge effort," he said.  

Other successes included training of over 50 professionals from around the world working on the project, and publishing of a Toolkit - solely based on their experiences - in 2018.  

"The trainees are leaders in their communities and have been chosen for their abilities to take the knowledge they acquire and apply it in their countries," Shah said. "The training is also expected to build a community of coral reefs restoration practitioners that crosses borders, so that we can have important conversations and exchange experiences across the world," he added.

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Dr. Montoya-Maya (2nd right) is coordinating the training

Dr Montoya-Maya who previously worked with Nature Seychelles, said he began his NGO Corales de Paz in Colombia based on the accomplishments he witnessed on the Reef Rescuers project. He said he had seen science-based empirical successes for restoring coral reefs.

"We assessed the reef that was restored to see if it was recovering. And we showed indeed it was. When I left Seychelles to launch myself in Colombia, I carried that knowledge and experience with me," he said.

Dr Montoya-Maya is coordinating the training alongside current project technical coordinators Paul Anstey and Chloe Shute, and field assistant Athina Antoine. He said that he hopes to equip the trainees, "to replicate in an organized and structured way" what has been successfully done in the Seychelles and now in Colombia. 

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Participants visiting Nature Seychelles' coral nursery 

Commenting on the first two days of training, Dishon Murage from Kenya said that what they had seen so far "was something we can recommend as a solution to address the coral degradation along the Kenyan coast."

Dr Erwan Sola from Mozambique, said he would be setting up a pilot project back home, and the training "was a great opportunity to get hands on experience before the project started."

Anne Furr, who is in eco-tourism in Madagascar, said her goal was to take the skills learnt to help restore the reefs around the south west coast of Madagascar.

The training is a collaboration between the two NGOs, the Noble Caledonia Charitable Trust and Reef Resilience.

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