Hello, I am the chairman of the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles and a member of the IUCN Shark Specialist Group. I moved to Seychelles with my wife Glynis in 1985 and through our diving activities we started to see ways in which we could help conserve local marine life. We began implementing several marine conservation and awareness projects, and one of the first of these was teaching children from the National Youth Service camp how to snorkel in the marine national park where the camp was situated. For many of the youngsters this was the first time they had ever been in the sea, let alone snorkelled or seen live fish!
As one of the founders of the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, and based on a long association with the Save Our Seas Foundation (SOSF), I put forward the idea of an integrated marine education programme. This would provide facilities for local youths and adults and give them information about the marine life in Seychelles, ways in which they could protect it, and potential careers in the sphere of the marine environment.
With its white-sand beaches and clear waters teeming with marine life, Seychelles is indeed a ‘paradise island’ destination, but it still faces many of the same challenges that mainland areas face, including the effects of climate change. In fact on islands, with their extensive shorelines and limited land mass, these effects are exaggerated.
The Integrated Education Project provides secondary school pupils with a ‘summer camp’ environment in which they are introduced to the marine life of Seychelles and some of the research activities being carried out by local organisations. We provide training at a vocational level in specific areas, notably in shark identification and research and in the monitoring of marine mammals. The latter is especially important with respect to the development of offshore petroleum exploration around the islands.
The project has direct links with other SOSF programmes; this past summer, for example, the camps enabled the SOSF centre on D’Arros to showcase its research work to the youngsters. The current marine mammal training courses will similarly help provide local environment and NGO staff with better skills for monitoring these species, all of which are protected around Seychelles waters. Additionally, the project is sowing the seeds for continued marine education and awareness throughout the community here in Seychelles and thus supporting the overall goals of the Save Our Seas Foundation.