More protection for Aldabra's rich marine life with impending extension of the Seychelles atoll's outer reef boundary
The incredible outer reef of Aldabra, soon to be a completely protected area (SIF)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The remote Indian Ocean atoll of Aldabra, one of the world’s largest, is the most south westerly group of the Seychelles islands, located some 1,100 kilometres from the main island of Mahé.
The Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF), a Public Trust established in 1979, which manages the unique atoll, has just announced plans to extend the outer reef boundaries of the atoll.
This follows recently completed research that has concluded that part of the outer reef was not being protected by the existing one-kilometre Special Reserve boundary around the atoll.
SIF was one of several non-governmental organisations, parastatal and private companies which received funding as part of a four-year project funded by the Global Environment Fund, GEF, which is administered by the United Nations Development Program, UNDP, to assist in the establishment of new protected areas, and also to improve the management of existing terrestrial and marine protected areas in Seychelles.
For SIF, the focus was on renewing Aldabra’s Management Plan by evaluating the effectiveness of the protection program already in place and assessing whether the area designated for protection back in 1979 was still relevant today.
Aldabra is home to a population of endemic giant Aldabra tortoises that is far greater than the 90,000-strong human population of the Seychelles. A wide variety of birdlife, marine life and exotic species also call the islands their home. (Rassin Vannier, Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
The outcome of the research was presented last month during a symposium which gave details of two major projects funded and coordinated by GEF and UNDP in Seychelles.
Among the interesting findings was the fact that the total outer reef of Aldabra covers an area of 76.64 square kilometres, nearly twice the size of Praslin, which is the second largest of the Seychelles group of granitic islands.
It was further revealed that 3.5 square kilometres of this very important reef ecosystem fell outside the legal boundary of the Special Reserve.
Following this discovery, the Chief Executive Officer of the SIF, Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, has announced that the Seychelles government has given its approval for the boundaries of the UNESCO heritage site, to be extended.
''Even if we already had a map which shows where Aldabra is located and what existed in the lagoon, until now we had very sparse information on the outer reef structure and no understanding of the extent of the 11 habitat classes and finally the amazingly rich marine life of Aldabra is being monitored,” Dr Dogley told SNA, describing the project as a huge achievement.
In its latest newsletter published earlier this week, SIF said the extended legal boundary will come into force next year.
|The raised coral atoll of Aldabra is comprised mainly of the larger islands of Ile Picard (West Island), Polymnie, Malabar Island (Middle Island) and Grand Terre (South Island), all surrounding the shallow lagoon. (SIF) Photo License: All Rights Reserved|
Some of the other achievements of the project include the development of a programme to monitor the diversity and abundance of the different marine species living on the reefs.
This programme, SIF says, also provides a better understanding of an intact marine ecosystem in the Seychelles, and how the reef changes in response to human or natural causes.
The project has also allowed the public trust to re-design its 16-year-old management plan, that takes into account international best practices to ensure “an outcome-based instead of a processes-driven management plan.”
A protected nature reserve declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1982, Aldabra is home to a population of endemic giant Aldabra tortoises that is far greater than the 90,000-strong human population of the Seychelles.
A wide variety of birdlife, marine life and exotic species also call the islands their home.
The raised coral atoll is comprised mainly of the larger islands of Ile Picard (West Island), Polymnie, Malabar Island (Middle Island) and Grand Terre (South Island) all surrounding the shallow lagoon teeming with black-tipped sharks, sea turtles and manta rays in the centre of the atoll.