Project beginnings: how to build a Reef Restoration Project

lindsay Blog

By Lindsay Sullivan

This is very first blog post for the Reef Restoration Project at Four Seasons Resort Seychelles and the only one from me. Going forward you’ll be hearing regularly from Tania, our Reef Restoration Project Officer, as she gets this exciting, ground-breaking project truly under way. But now, for the first post, it’s only right that we tell you about how the project came to fruition and so, as the person responsible for the project design and set up,  I’m here to give you a run down! (Yes, that’s me pictured!). MarineE1

This is a brand new WiseOceans project for Four Seasons Resort Seychelles. We have been working in partnership with the Resort for almost three years now, educating and inspiring guests and staff to help them to enjoy the marine environment, and conducting research on various aspects of the health of Petite Anse bay on behalf of the Ministry of Environment here in Seychelles. I have personally been here for more than two years and I know the reef very well; I know the beautiful, healthy, thriving parts (below left), and I know the areas that, despite the passage of more than 15 years, have still not recovered from the impacts of the 1998 coral bleaching associated with an El Niño event (below right). And so, when the decision was made to begin a project to help to restore the reef, I couldn’t wait to get started!

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We call it a restoration project because that really is exactly what we are doing; we are restoring Petite Anse. We know that the reef was once in a substantially healthier condition and can see in patches the diversity it supports. There is plenty of substrate available, but the coral cover is low in areas and this is what we want to address. We are not building an artificial reef in a sandy lagoon, we are restoring a natural one that was once, not so long ago, a thriving reef. So there we have it, the Petite Anse Reef Restoration Project.

A pillar of the WiseOceans ethos is that education is the key to long term conservation. People have to understand the reef before they will care about it. So any reef restoration project designed by us would naturally have a heavy emphasis on education; this is perfect for Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, who are keen to support the conservation of their marine environment and to provide their guests with all the information they require to do the same.

So a project which restores a patch of degraded limestone reef to former glory while reaching out and engaging as many people as possible… how to achieve this?

Well, for starters, we’d need a coral nursery in the bay for all the small fragments of coral to grow before transplanting them out to the reef, and to act as a sustainable source of donor fragments in order to achieve a long-term project which doesn’t rely on the surrounding reef for donated fragments of coral. And the nursery should be located in an area that is easily reached by guests so they can see the coral-growing process in action. Check and check! IMG_4309-1024x683

We’d need a space on land where the fragments can be carefully prepared ready for the coral nursery, a hut of sorts, where guests can get up close to the coral and really learn what it’s all about (always starting with the fact that it is an animal of course!). So a hut, or cabana, especially for coral… we’d need a Coral Cabana then! Check.

IMG_4312We’d need a method for transplanting the fragments of coral from the nursery area out to the bare areas of the reef, a method which attaches them extremely securely to reef rock (although glass-like much of the time, Seychelles beaches can be subject to some pretty heavy wave action). So a method of sustainably, environmentally-sensitively and very securely fastening coral fragments to bare reef…. After some serious thought, planning, trial and luckily no error…. check! (Although we’ll tell you about this super method another day, save to say it is extremely fun and rather pioneering!).

We’d need a dedicated Reef Restoration Project Officer who is not only passionate about coral and experienced in its handling and propagation, but also passionate about education, about sharing this knowledge and spreading this enthusiasm. A project officer who is happy to make their office a hut on the beach and spend hours at a time tending to a garden of coral babies? Check!IMG_4353

And finally we’d need the unending support of Four Seasons Resort Seychelles, and the dedicated expertise of the WiseOceans management team. Check and check!

So there you have it, all the ingredients for a successful, fun, engaging and trail-blazing Reef Restoration Project! All of these elements are now in place and we are ready to go. So very proud to see the realisation of this project and so very excited to see the results over the next few weeks, months and years. You must must must stay tuned, follow the blogs from Tania and the latest news, as we get this Project started!

If you have any questions about the Reef Restoration Project, its design, objectives, methodology or results, please do email me at lindsay@wiseoceans.com.

Best fishes!

Lindsay