Minister launches first ever Coral Reef Restoration Training program in Seychelles

Minister Dogley meeting the Reef Rescuers team

The Minister of Environment, Climate Change and Energy, Mr. Didier Dogley officially launched the Nature Seychelles’ Coral Reef Restoration Training Program last week by symbolically cutting a ribbon on the Amitie beach on Praslin Island. Mr. Dogley, in the presence of Dr Nirmal Shah, the CEO of Nature Seychelles, other Nature Seychelles staff and the media waved the trainees off on their boat as they went for their first dive under the training program.

Dr. Shah said this was a very proud moment for him personally, for Nature Seychelles and for Seychelles as a whole. “For years I had been told by eminent scientists that we would not be able to restore coral reefs. I persevered, designed the project, got funding for it and put together a world class team for implementation. Now we not only have restored reefs but experienced practitioners from all over the world have come to us to undergo training, which is the first training of its kind in the world” he said.

 Sarah welcoming the Minister to Amite, Praslin

“Conservation is not enough!” Dr Sarah Frias-Torres repeated several times in her introduction of the Coral Reef Restoration Training program which has just begun on Praslin. “That is why we need to work on restoring coral reefs.” Sarah, one of the Nature Seychelles’ trainers, is a marine ecologist and biological oceanographer. She is also the coordinator of the Reef Rescuers Project.

Under the Reef Rescuers Project, Nature Seychelles has since 2010 worked on restoring degraded coral reefs using experts and specialists in marine science. The work was funded by United States Agency for International Development (USAID) with added financial support by the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

 Baseline survey of transplantation site - Dr Phanor Montoya-Maya and Tess Moriarty

“It is really motivating to see that a senior government Minister would come to launch the Training Program,” Dr Phanor Montoya-Maya said. Phanor, a marine biologist specializing in coral reef ecology and reef connectivity is the Technical & Scientific Officer in the Reef Rescuers program and one of the Trainers.

“The program is an opportunity to share Seychelles' experience restoring reefs,” Phanor added. “I hope the Minister's visit translates into more exposure of another successful conservation experience that the Seychellois must feel proud of.”

There are six trainees taking part in what is the first of its kind in the Seychelles; one from the Philippines, two from Australia, two from USA and one from France. Louise Malaise from France and Austin Laing-Herbertfrom Australia, are a couple who lived in Mauritius until 2014, and they have high hopes of returning to Mauritius and apply what they learnt there. Austin said “This week has been great! Learning new skills on reef restoration and most of all, it has been hands-on practical work!”

 Ron Kirby (trainee) carrying out a baseline survey of a donor site

The six-week training program will consist of practical and academic training based on the reef gardening concept, covering how to build underwater nurseries and transplant corals to a degraded site. The course is ideal for those working in marine conservation with basic knowledge in reef ecology and the scientific method.

“Corals are about as high maintenance as a Victoria’s Secret supermodel, but the more you learn the more amazing and mysterious corals seem to be, they just keep surprising us,” Tess Moriarty said of her first week as a trainee. “We are from all corners of the globe but we all have one drive; to do our part in saving the oceans in one way or another.”

 Coral nurseries recruit some juvenile fishes

Nature Seychelles Reef Rescuers Project uses the ‘coral gardening’ method to restore corals that have been negatively impacted by changing climatic, and therefore sea conditions. In the Seychelles, as with many countries in the region, coral bleaching and ocean warming are a threat to marine ecosystems and to the livelihoods of coastal people.

“Thrilling first week with the Reef Rescuer’s team!” says Louise. “After what felt like an eternity, I am finally in Seychelles and everything meets my expectations. The best part is that we are having fun! After all, we are a group of motivated people sharing the same crazy passion, gaining knowledge on Reef Restoration, and we get to do it in Paradise.”

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