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Nature Seychelles: First regenerative coral aquaculture facility using micro-fragmentation in Africa being built

Victoria, Seychelles | February 29, 2024, Thursday @ 15:07 in Environment » GENERAL | By: Alisa Uzice Edited by: Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 5739
Nature Seychelles: First regenerative coral aquaculture facility using micro-fragmentation in Africa being built

ARC will turbo-boost the coral restoration process. (Nature Seychelles)

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A first batch of corals will be ready to be transplanted by July this year from the first regenerative coral aquaculture facility being built on Praslin, said Dr Nirmal Shah, the chief executive of Nature Seychelles, a not-for-profit environmental organisation.

The regenerative coral aquaculture facility designed to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on coral reefs in Seychelles is a highly innovative project and the first of its kind in Africa.

It will be located at the Nature Seychelles' CORAL complex at Amitie, Praslin, the second most populated island of Seychelles.

Shah confirmed that the buildings are about 75 percent completed and that specialist equipment has already been procured. The facility will be powered by renewable energy, with solar panels mounted on the roof. The tanks are also ready.

"The construction of this facility is momentous for Seychelles and Africa as a whole. It will not only serve as a model for coral aquaculture but will also provide valuable insights into innovative approaches to combating climate change impacts for the region. We have a sustainability plan in place to produce at a large scale to supply corals to other coral reef restoration projects,"said the CEO.

Nature Seychelles said in a recent press statement that the construction of the facility known as the Assisted Recovery of Corals (ARC) began in November last year. This came after all necessary permits and rigorous requirements, including community engagement, environmental impact assessment (EIA), planning approval, road cutting for pipes, aquaculture license, and donors' social and environmental screening, were secured.

The facility is financially supported by the Adaptation Fund through UNDP and the government of Seychelles, the global shipping and logistics company CMA CGM, and the Seychelles Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCATT).

Shah confirmed that the buildings are about 75 percent completed and that specialist equipment has already been procured. (Nature Seychelles) Photo License: All Rights Reserved 

"The initial funding wasn't enough, so we went and got funding from SeyCATT about SCR 1.7 million ($126,000). We managed to get SCR 2 million ($148,000) from a private company that decided to invest in this programme - CMA CGM a global shipping company. In total, the project cost about 5.6 million rupees ($380,000)," he explained.

Shah told SNA that this ambitious project that is being spearheaded by Nature Seychelles is designed to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on coral reefs. It is an on-land regenerative coral aquaculture facility and it is expected to revolutionise coral reef conservation and restoration.

Shah emphasised the importance of building such a facility, especially with the rate at which climate change progresses every year.

"Climate change is getting so bad that our efforts to grow coral underwater are becoming more difficult. It's getting hotter, there are more currents, and there are more waves and swells which make it difficult for our divers. The idea is to grow corals on land," said the CEO.

He added that apart from propagating coral, it will also serve as a lab where researchers from all over the world can come to Seychelles to study corals and the effects of climate change.

"We will grow corals in large tanks and do various things with them. We want to train the corals to withstand heat, which is the biggest problem in the water. We've been finding colonies of corals that have survived bleaching events in the past taking small bits from them and growing them into large colonies. That has succeeded to a certain extent but climate change is getting worse. So, we want to take corals and gradually increase the temperature and see which ones survive," Shah told SNA.

He added that ARC is expected to turbo-boost the restoration process by producing thousands of corals through a revolutionary technique known as micro-fragmentation to supplement the ocean-based nurseries already in use.

The regenerative coral aquaculture facility will help mitigate the adverse effects of climate change on coral reefs  (Nature Seychelles) Photo License: All Rights Reserved

"Micro-fragmentation breaks corals into tiny pieces, which are cultivated under optimal conditions that help them grow faster than the normal rate and exponentially increase the numbers produced. This is especially significant for slow-growing corals that are often not used in reef restoration activities, such as brain coral. It also reduces coral collection in the wild," said Shah.

Nature Seychelles hired renowned coral restoration expert Dr David Vaughan, who discovered micro-fragmentation, to produce the facility's technical design.

"We'll be able to produce thousands of corals from this technique, increasing the variety of species we can propagate," said Shah.

Apart from coral micro-fragmentation, the facility will also include public education areas and will also act as a coral bank to preserve the genetic diversity of corals in Seychelles as this is especially crucial for species that are close to disappearing, for example those that can be found near Cousin Island.

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Tags: Nature Seychelles, Assisted Recovery of Corals

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