Category Archives: Marine life

Reef Rescuers Fishy Cleaners

Here is another video from the reef rescuers on Praslin. They say:

“During our mid-water coral nursery monitoring, we have a little help from fishy cleaners.

In this video, a school of Forktail Rabbitfish (Siganus argenteus) is busy at work eating the algae that compete with our nursery corals, providing a helping hand (or mouth) in our daily cleaning maintenance. Due to the location of the GoPro camera, you can almost feel you are a rabbitfish in the school. A parrotfish gets too close to the camera for identification, but it seems an Eclipse Parrotfish (Scarus russelii). Towards the end, the boat engine scares away the school.”

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Reef Rescuers Humphead Parrotfish Encounter

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Here is nice little video from the reef rescuers on Praslin. The reef rescuers say “During our coral nursery monitoring visits, we often encounter solitary or small groups of Humphead Parrotfish, Bolbometopon muricatum. These peaceful giants come for a free meal when we clean the nurseries from algae and barnacles. We feel fortunate to share our diving time with such charismatic megafauna.

The Humphead Parrotfish is the largest species of parrotfish in the world, with record size of up to 1.5 m long, weight over 50 kg and maximum lifespan of at least 40 years. The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) Red List of Threatened Species, classifies the Humphead Parrotfish as threatened due to overfishing.”


And here is an article about the project from Deutche Welle: Nursing Indian Ocean coral reefs back to life

Rare sighting of the pelagic sea snake at Baie Ternay

The sea snake was spotted at Baie Ternay (Photo courtesy of GVI)

The sea snake was spotted at Baie Ternay (Photo courtesy of GVI)

GVI Seychelles have reported a rare sighting in shallow coastal waters of the Pelagic Sea Snake (Pelamis platura). Members of the volunteer organisation caught sight of the snake when returning from a dive at Baie Ternay on the main island of Mahe. Found in open seas at depths of about 10m, and helpless on land, these sea snakes are not ordinarily seen. And when they are, its usually because they have drifted ashore after rough weather or when sick or injured. This was probably the case with this individual as it was found after a sustained period of strong winds and rough seas, Chris Mason Parker the GVI Seychelles Country Director told Today in Seychelles.

usually found in deep waters (Photo courtesy of GVI)

usually found in deep waters (Photo courtesy of GVI)

“The individual we saw in Baie Ternay briefly attempted to sliver up the beach, but after struggling for a few minutes, turned back to the water and was last seen heading back to see,” he said.

More info on the species can be found on the IUCN species list

Cousin island marine monitoring – over 100 surveys done

This past week the Nature Seychelles staff of Cousin Island were hard at work completing an ambitious marine monitoring project. We began the week by acknowledging that the plan we set out would take a solid team effort to achieve. Everyone based on Cousin was involved, providing boat skipping, diving, and support, as well as the Reef Rescuer team based on Praslin, who supplied necessary equipment. The team entered this week of bi-annual reef monitoring with excitement to get underwater and determination to complete the data collection in the allocated period. It proved to be a successful week as five divers jumped right into the work with enthusiasm. The island’s science officer along with two marine research assistants and two of the Cousin Island wardens completed over 100 surveys at three different sites around Cousin island in just six dives!

Everyone based on Cousin were involved

Everyone based on Cousin was involved

The survey sites were distributed around the island, and selected to provide a sampling of various benthic composition. As such, the different locations made for quite a variety of diving conditions. Some (read, a few) dives were calm and lovely with clear waters, sunshine filtering in, and schools of friendly Parrotfish flitting about.  Others (read, most) resembled what I imagine it would be like to dive in the spin cycle of a washing machine, whirling and churning and sending Parrotfish flying. However, the divers persevered, executing their work with an excitement that was matched only by the size of the swell, rocking and rolling beneath their lovely dive boat.

The survey sites were distributed around the island

The survey sites were distributed around the island

The surveys completed throughout the week will allow the research team to compile a comprehensive report, detailing the density and diversity of target fish and invertebrate species as well as coral coverage of both adult and juvenile stages. This report can be used in comparison to a similar, more detailed report in the 2009. The results will hopefully demonstrate an improvement in the health of the marine life found in the 400-metre special reserve zone surrounding Cousin Island, which were heavily damaged in the 1998 el Nino bleaching event.  As the researchers continue to write the report, they may head back into the water to collect additional data as necessary, however this past week was a great success and a wonderful show of teamwork as the staff succeeded in their ambitious fieldwork goals.

Coral transplantation has began!

While everyone was preparing for the holidays late last year (2012), Nature Seychelles’ Reef Rescuer project entered an exciting stage. After nearly two years of preparation, of growing and nurturing of corals in nurseries, the third stage of the reef restoration project is here – planting on degraded reef sites. Jim Scarborough, a Scientific Diver with the project explained.

Here at Reef Rescuer HQ, we have moved into one of the busiest and most important parts of our project. We finally get to start waving goodbye to our corals after many months of careful nurturing and care. That’s right folks, the pilot transplantation has begun!

What this entails is a careful site analysis, of both control and transplantation sites, to give us a good idea of the benthic cover, fish and invertebrate populations. Joe M.has been working hard crunching the numbers on this, and that allowed us to know what was there before we start transplanting the corals from our nurseries to the degraded site selected on the north-east side of Cousin Island.

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Kevin and Jim attaching ropes of Pocillopora

Fuelled by heavy metal, samosas, sunscreen and coffee, we set off to move corals. 10 metre ropes of coral colonies, Pocillopora eydouxi and Acropora cytherea, are cut from the main nurseries and swum to the transplantation site by two divers, helped by a sympathetic current. Once we arrive the ropes were cut into sections for attachment. For this pilot we are trying to see the effectiveness of attachment methods, so the ropes are cut into 5 metre and 1 metre pieces as well as individual corals. These are then nailed into the bare carbonate substrate by the team using a variety of different nails, again to see which ones are the best for the job. The winner was a 2 inches concrete nail and 20cm ropes with ‘prussik’ knot were also used to stretch the 1m or 5m ropes of nursery-grown colonies and attach them as close as possible to the substrate.

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Pocillopora eydouxi successfully attached!

Our pilot transplantation site is starting to look like a fully fledged reef now, and even has its own little community of butterfly and damsel fish. This is a great start and hopefully only a small taste of things to come!

On top of this fantastic accomplishment, we were also visited by a French film crew who were shooting a documentary about small tropical islands. After a briefing about what we do by David, they were shown most of the coral growing process, from collection and fragmentation to transplantation. It looked like they had a great time, and yours truly managed to sneak into every piece of footage they shot! Watch this space folks; I feel a French BAFTA is on the horizon!

Plenty is going on, even more still to be done and everything going well. Just the way I like it!

Jim Scarborough, Scientific Diver (September-December 2012)

Seychelles – a great place to be a turtle!

while she lays, data are collected (Herve Chelle)

Turtle program on Cousin started in 1972 (Herve Chelle)

Last week I was on Cousin Island Special Reserve, with a group of visitors on a guided tour of the island. On the beach we watched as a hawksbill turtle made its short journey back to the sea from laying her eggs. Laborious on land, but effortless in the sea, the hawksbill turtle lays more than 100 eggs into a small pit dug in the sand.

The Seychelles in general and Cousin Island in particular is a great place to be a turtle. Every year around this time, hundreds of female hawksbill turtles will arrive on one of our beaches to nest. The archipelago provides key nesting and feeding areas for the critically endangered hawksbill and is home to the largest remaining population in the Western Indian Ocean. This population, sea turtle experts have said recently, is among the twelve healthiest sea turtle populations globally.

A report produced by IUCN (International Union for Conservation of Nature) Marine Turtle Specialist Group (MTSG) has revealed the most threatened and most healthiest of all sea turtles (there are 7 species) populations globally. It is the first comprehensive status assessment of all sea turtles. See this story here.

It shows that the hawksbill turtles populations in the Southwestern Indian Ocean (Seychelles, British and French Overseas Territories) and in Southeast Indian Ocean and Southwest Pacific Ocean (Australia) are the healthiest. But Hawksbill are threatened in the East Pacific Ocean, East Atlantic Ocean, Northeastern Indian Ocean, and West Pacific Ocean.

The report says that the most significant threats to sea turtles are fisheries bycatch, accidental catches of sea turtles by fishermen targeting other species, and the direct harvest of turtles or their eggs for food or turtle shell for commercial use. The healthiest populations are large and currently facing relatively low threats.

Hawksbill turtles were heavily exploited for many years in Seychelles, mainly for their shell. In 1994 a law that granted them complete protection was passed and harvesting was completely banned, although occasional poaching still occurs.

Turtle conservation is carried out on many islands. One of conservation’s success stories for the hawksbill turtle has been registered on Cousin Island, where a long-term monitoring programme started in 1972 is firmly established.

Zwazo dives into the sea

Zwazo issue 20

The latest issue of Zwazo – Nature Seychelles bi-annual conservation magazine – is out! This issue that covered the period between July – December 2009 took a looking glass to the marine realm in the Western Indian Ocean (WIO). We were seeking to find out what was going on with species, habitats, coral reefs, protected areas, and people. Several thought provoking articles with news and issues from this region are the result. See it and Download a copy at

Zwazo is Creole for “Bird”.

Photo ID anyone?

No two individuals, even identical twins, have identical sets of fingerprints. For this reason fingerprints offer a reliable means of identification. They have played a huge role in the area of forensics providing accurate identification of criminals.

As it turns out, marks and patterns on certain marine animals are akin to human fingerprints and are unique to each individual. These marks are being put to good use, not to catch the criminals of sea world, but as a means of identification to help in conservation.

On Thursday 12 November, the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, in collaboration with the Kelonia Marine Turtle Observatory in Reunion and Ministry of Environment organised a talk on how this form of identification is being utilsed for whale sharks and turtles. The talk, “using images to conserve endangered marine life” was delivered by David Rowat, MCSS, who is working with whale sharks in Seychelles  and Claire Jean from Kelonia working with turtles. As in humans where fingerprints develop at the embryonic stage and do not change, all indications in these marine animals are that marks are usually permanent with little change occurring over time.

According to Claire, Kelonia uses underwater photos of marine turtles head profiles for indetification. Their methodology consists of analyzing scale numbers and shape of both right and left profiles. Photos of these profiles are taken for each turtle. A database has been created to keep these photos. The matching of the new data with those in the database allows one to determine whether or not each marine turtle has been seen previously. Thanks to the participation of scuba divers and marine photographers, photos can be collected throughout the year in various sites.

Claire says photo ID can be used as an alternative or complimentary monitoring method. But she noted that current monitoring methods that use capture-mark-recapture techniques, require physical application of tags. Photo ID on the other hand is non-intrusive, less costly and less stressful. It is particularly useful in places where marine turtles cannot be caught and tagged and helps in situations where tags are lost. It also targets all turtles unlike the capture method, which mostly targets females and juveniles. It can be used in all habitats either at sea or one beaches. What it cannot be used for is measuring other parameters such as growth.

For whale sharks, researchers use photographs of the skin patterning behind the gills of each shark and any scars to distinguish between individual animals. Cutting-edge software supports rapid identification using pattern recognition and photo management tools. See  for more information. David Rowat said that using this method between 2001-2009, 447 individual sharks have been identified in Seychelles. Fifty percent were re-sightings.

Picture via

Both these projects rely on the contribution of pictures from people, and pictures come via tourists, scuba divers and others, allowing for public participation. They are asked to take good high resolution photos without obstruction, such as sand on turtles.  Identification however is done by trained people.The talk ended with an offer from Kelonia to conduct training for organizations involved in turtle monitoring in Seychelles.