This learning exchange consisted of two parts: A pre-International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) workshop with 24 participants that focused on solving problems around MPA network design and implementation and a half-day symposium with 120 attendees. This symposium included a presentation of resilience science and application of advances to management decisions.
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Improving Management of Spawning Aggregation Fisheries in the Seychelles Using Acoustic Telemetry
Marine managers in the Seychelles are collecting and using behavioral information on Shoemaker spinefoots to develop management strategies that protect spawning aggregations of these commercially important fish. Read the case study.
Reef Rescuers: Coral Gardening as an MPA Management Tool
To repair coral bleaching damage in a marine reserve in the Seychelles, a large scale reef restoration project uses “coral gardening”, a technique that involves collecting small pieces of healthy coral, growing them in underwater nurseries, and then transplanting them to degraded sites. Read the case study. Watch the webinar.
Preparing for Coral Bleaching in the Western Indian Ocean
David Obura of CORDIO East Africa presents updated guidance (in four basic steps!) for monitoring bleaching events in the Western Indian Ocean at basic, intermediate, and expert levels. Watch the webinar.
Making Use of Acoustic Telemetry to Improve Management of Spawning Aggregation Fishery in the Seychelles
Praslin Island, Seychelles
Understanding the behavior of threatened species can increase the effectiveness of conservation efforts and reduce the cost of intervention. The use of marine protected areas (MPAs) is being promoted as one of the tools for the conservation of marine species. However, the effectiveness of MPAs is dependent on their ability to protect target species. Site-attached species with small home ranges are more likely to benefit from small MPAs than more mobile species with large home ranges. Many reef fishes with small home ranges are known to migrate long distances, during specific times of the year, and form large transient spawning aggregations that can last for several days. These migrations can take them outside the boundaries of MPAs where they are unprotected. In such circumstances these species need to be managed using a range of management options which can offer them a certain degree of protection while participating in spawning aggregations.
One of the rabbit fishes, the Shoemaker spinefoot (Siganus sutor) is a coral reef-associated herbivorous species that is known to form large transient spawning aggregations. The species is endemic to the Western Indian Ocean and is a commercially important target species in much of the region, often constituting more than 40% of inshore reef fishery catch by weight. In the Seychelles islands, Shoemaker spinefoots form monthly spawning aggregations at multiple sites around the time of the full moon between September and June. The locations and timing of these aggregations are known by the local fishers and a fishery has developed that specifically targets them. During these periods, catch per unit of effort increases and large quantities of spawning fishes are caught, sometimes even before they have had a chance to reproduce. This situation raises serious concerns regarding the health of the stock and undermines the effectiveness of nearby MPAs in protecting this species.
To come up with management options to better protect spawning aggregations of Shoemaker spinefoots, a joint study was undertaken by the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) and the Praslin Fishers Association (PFA). The aim of the study was to use acoustic telemetry to collect behavioral information on fish attending spawning aggregations that could be used to guide conservation efforts and to raise awareness of the local communities on the need for sustainable exploitation of spawning aggregations.The study set out to (1) characterize the residency time of Shoemaker spinefoots at known spawning aggregation sites, (2) describe the lunar and diel pattern of arrival and departure at the sites, and (3) determine fidelity to specific spawning sites. Once the degree of site fidelity to specific spawning aggregation sites was determined, the study investigated whether the selection of spawning aggregation sites was innate or socially mediated through translocation of acoustically tagged fish between two sites. Monitoring of acoustic signals coming from the tagged fish was undertaken at the two study sites as well as at three other spawning aggregation sites in the area using an array of acoustic receivers. When a transmitter came within range of an acoustic receiver, the tag ID date and time was automatically recorded. From the logs researchers were able to reconstruct fish behavior, such as residence time, fidelity, and time of arrival and departure. A secondary aim of the study was to promote collaboration among staff of the SFA and members of PFA.
How successful has it been?
The study was highly successful as it was able to reduce conflict between marine scientists from SFA and fishers from the island of Praslin. Collaboration between researchers and fishermen allowed experiences to be shared, and built up camaraderie. The acoustic telemetry study was able to accurately determine the lunar and diel timing of arrival and departure of aggregating fish at the spawning site, as well as documented spawning site fidelity and residence time. Unexpectedly, the study showed that there was a constant turn-over of fish participating in the spawning aggregation and that the amount of fish participating was much higher than was previously believed. The translocation study found that translocated fish display a wide range of behaviors, which included: 1) homing back to their original spawning site, 2) adopting the site where they were translocated, and 3) confusion, which caused them to wander between sites. From an awareness point of view, the study focused the attention of the public, especially the fishers on Praslin, on the plight of rabbit fish spawning aggregation sites and the threat that overfishing may pose. As a result, there was strong support from the Praslin fishing community during the drafting of the demersal fisheries management plan to limit the number of fish traps used during spawning aggregation periods.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
Lessons learned and key recommendations include:
Social and governance issues:
- It is important to have jointly implemented activities between fishers and fisheries management organizations. These activities create the space for people from both sides to meet, discuss issues and share experiences.
- Once these working relationships between fishers and staff of fisheries management organizations have been created, it is important to keep them going through continuous involvement in new projects and initiatives.
- The project was jointly implemented by SFA and PFA, and both partners actively participated in the project from its inception in the identification of research questions, sources of funding and implementation modalities. Equal involvement of both partners ensured that the project ran smoothly.
- Involvement of fishermen in research projects is a better tool for raising awareness compared to presenting them with the results at the end of the project.
- Fishermen know a lot about the behavior of fish species but they also have some misconceptions. Collaboration between fishers and scientists is thus encouraged so that fisher knowledge can be shared with scientists and scientists can also explain scientific principles to fishers and clear any misconceptions.
- Due to the high cost of acoustic transmitters (US $350) and receivers (US $1,300) not all known spawning aggregation sites in the study area could be instrumented and the number of fish that were acoustically tagged (39 at study No. 1 and 56 at study No. 2) were limited. In such circumstances where cost limits the sample size it is good to combine acoustic tagging with conventional tagging which is much cheaper and have the capacity to provide much needed additional data.
- The range at which the acoustic transmitters can be detected by the receivers is affected by ambient noise and can skew the results. Sentinel tags placed high in the water column at specific locations should be used to allow detection patterns to be more easily interpreted alongside change in detection efficiency.
- Only the spawning aggregation sites were monitored using acoustic receivers and as a result no data could be collected when fish were outside of the receivers array.
- Shoemaker spinefoot spawning aggregations can last up to seven days with fish arriving at the site as early as three days before the full moon and departing as late as three days after the full moon. Temporal protection measures at the spawning sites should coincide with these seven days.
- Most tagged fish arrive at the spawning aggregation sites at dawn and depart at dusk. It is believed that these fish were using the rising and setting of the sun as a means of navigation.
- Spawning fish showed fidelity to groups of closely related sites, indicating that fidelity is to a particular region and not necessarily specific sites. It is thus recommended that these spawning aggregation sites are managed by area rather than as independent sites.
This work was supported through grants from the Marine and Coastal Science for Management (MASMA) Programme (Grant No. MASMA/OR/2008/06) of the Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA) and from the Global Environmental Facility (GEF) Small Grant Program (SGP) to the Praslin Fishers Association (PFA) (Grant No. SEY/SGP/OP4/Y3/RAF/2010/05). Financial and logistical support was also provided by the Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA) through the European Union (EU) from the sectoral policy support funds of the EU/Seychelles Fisheries Protocols under the Fisheries Partnership Agreement.
Seychelles Fishing Authority (SFA
Praslin Fishers Association (PFA)
Institut de Recherche pour le Développement (IRD)
GoS-UNDP-GEF Mainstreaming Biodiversity Project
Western Indian Ocean Marine Science Association (WIOMSA)
Reef Rescuers: Coral Gardening as an MPA Management Tool
Cousin Island Special Reserve, Seychelles
In 1998, the mass coral bleaching event, caused by the coupling of El Nino and the Indian Ocean Dipole, severely affected the reefs of the Seychelles Archipelago. The 1998 bleaching catastrophe decreased live coral cover by up to 97% in some areas and caused many reefs around the islands to collapse into rubble (which later became covered with algae). In the following decades, coral recovery has been extremely slow in the inner granitic islands of Seychelles. Despite the existence of numerous no-take Marine Protected Areas (MPA) – an effective tool to bolster coral reef recovery – it has taken almost 20 years to see coral cover at pre-1998 levels in most areas in the region. Due to continuous global threats, such as changes in climate and ocean chemistry, MPAs alone may not be enough to assist in the recovery of coral reefs in the Seychelles. Consequently, more active conservation strategies are needed to promote reef recovery and build reef resilience and to achieve the long-term conservation of coral reef ecosystem services.
The slow post-bleaching recovery motivated active restoration efforts in the inner islands of the Seychelles archipelago to assist in natural recovery. In 2010, Nature Seychelles launched the Reef Rescuers Project on Praslin Island. Financially supported by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF) through the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), this climate adaptation coral restoration project seeks to repair coral bleaching damage in selected sites around Praslin and Cousin Island Special Reserve, a no-take marine reserve.
Through this project we are piloting the first-ever large scale active reef restoration project in the region using ‘coral gardening,’ a technique that involves collecting small pieces of healthy coral, raising them in underwater nurseries and then transplanting them to degraded sites that have been affected by coral bleaching. Forty thousand fragments of coral from 10 different branching/tabular species (Acropora hyacinthus, A. cytherea, A. abrotanoides, A. appressa, Pocillopora damicornis, P. grandis – senior synonym of P. eydouxi, P. meandrina, P. verrucosa, Stylophora pistillata, S. subseriata; species identification after Veron 2000 and nomenclature after the World Register of Marine Species) have been raised in 13 underwater nurseries located inside the Cousin Island Special Reserve. Between November 2011 and June 2014, a total of 24,431 nursery-grown coral colonies were transplanted to 5,225 m2 (0.52 ha) of degraded reef within the Cousin Island Special Reserve.
With the onset of a weak-to-moderately strong El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) event starting late summer to early fall 2014 and continuing through 2016, we had a unique opportunity to determine the effectiveness of the choice of coral reef species (initially chosen based on survival rates during the last seawater warming anomaly) and the restoration process itself in alleviating the impact of warmer ocean temperatures. We are using standardized protocols to monitor the survival, reproduction, recruitment and bleaching response of donor and transplanted colonies. We continue monitoring at the transplantation site and two control sites, representing a healthy and degraded coral reef. Such monitoring allows us to evaluate the effectiveness of the restoration effort. Additionally, we are assessing the costs of large-scale reef restoration via coral gardening and the life cycle of coral reef restoration technology.
How successful has it been?
The long-term “success” of this mass transplantation is still being monitored but the project has already had positive outcomes. Forty-one practitioners from 11 countries have been exposed to reef restoration techniques by “on the job” work as volunteers up to three months on site, and eight experts have to date been formally trained through a full-time six-week classroom and field based training program. Before-and-after comparisons in coral cover at the transplanted site showed that the restoration project resulted in a 700% increase in coral cover, from about 2% in 2012 to 16% by the end of 2014. Similarly, we have documented a five-fold increase in fish species richness, a three-fold increase in fish density, and a two-fold increase in coral settlement and recruitment at the transplanted site. We also found that our coral transplants responded better to stressful conditions resulting from increased sea temperatures and a harmful algal bloom. The transplanted corals appear to recover faster and better than corals at other sites. The response of the transplanted reef to thermal stress bleaching is still being monitored. The preliminary analysis of the costs of reef restoration via coral gardening and the life cycle of coral reef restoration technology together with the ecological results so far support the application of large-scale, science-based coral reef restoration projects with long timescales to assist the recovery of damaged reefs. A proposal to scale up the coral farms to a mariculture venture so as to reduce costs through economies of scale has been accepted by the Seychelles government and funding is currently being sought.
Lessons Learned and Recommendations
A tool kit is currently being put together to highlight the lessons learned from the project. In summary, we have learned that:
- Survival of coral donor colonies is high.
- Survival of nursery colonies is high for the selected species listed above.
- There is a natural supply of corals (corals of opportunity) to be grown in the nurseries and that eliminate the need to re-fragment nursery-grown or donor colonies.
- Nurseries become floating reef ecosystems.
- Natural cleaning of coral nurseries and coral ropes reduces nursery maintenance and increases transplantation success.
- There is a positive transplantation effect on settlement and recruitment of new corals, fish diversity and density.
- The response of transplanted corals to bleaching causative events needs close monitoring to assess the effects of coral gardening on building bleaching resistance.
- There is citizen science interest internationally in receiving training on coral reef restoration.
- Partnerships with the tourism sector can be developed to establish coral gardens (seascaping) as a guest attraction and as a key part of the industry’s environmental management programs and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR).
- Large-scale coral reef restoration needs to be considered as a cost-effective tool to include in the MPA manager’s toolbox.
Until 2015, funds to support the Reef Rescuers Project have been sourced and provided by USAID. Further financial support was received under the Government of Seychelles-Global Environment Facility (GEF)-United Nations Development Project (UNDP) Protected Area Project in 2011.
About the Reef Rescuers project
Transplanted corals attach themselves in pioneering reef restoration project in the Seychelles
Reef Rescuers on CNN Inside Africa
US Oceans Envoy praises Nature Seychelles’ work
Saving the giant clams