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Up close and personal with sharks! Fish pond on Seychelles island brings the reef closer to community that depends on it

La Digue, Seychelles | October 18, 2015, Sunday @ 11:40 in Environment » CONSERVATION | By: Sharon Meriton Jean and Betymie Bonnelame | Views: 3279
Up close and personal with sharks! Fish pond on Seychelles island brings the reef closer to community that depends on it

A view of the fish pond which has become another attraction on the Seychelles island of La Digue. (Marie-Antoinette Robert, Seychelles News Agency)

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(Seychelles News Agency) - Surrounded by the ocean, the islanders of the Seychelles archipelago are no strangers to sea creatures. Yet, many of the 90,000 people of the Indian Ocean islands have not learnt to swim nor experience the pleasure of diving to discover the beautiful undersea world of Seychelles.

It was with this in mind, that seasoned diver with over twenty years of experience, Keven Jeanne created a small fish pond a few years ago, on his island home of La Digue, the third most populated island of the archipelago.

The circular pool-like pond with a height of 1 metre and 5.5 metres in length is the first of its kind in Seychelles, although a similar project, a new aquarium, opened early last month on the main inhabited island of Mahe.

“..There are many people who eat these fish but have never put on a mask to see them. So I often tell the locals, you eat these fish so why not go into the sea to see them,” Jeanne told SNA while sitting under the thatched reception of his small aquaculture business, located a few minutes’ walk from the jetty of La Digue.

Visitors are often taken aback by the different species found in the pond, especially the sharks and gigantic Honeycomb Moray eels.

After several attempts, Keven Jeanne has found the right formula for raising live sea creatures away from their natural environment. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

On an elevated wooden bridge, visitors can peer at a school of different sizes of fish; from the large and tenacious sharks, to the shy and elongated eels and in the bottom various slugs hidden among seaweeds.

“Usually we catch four to six juvenile fish in one family and we see how they do.”

 He catches the fish using nets or fish traps and they are transported quickly to the pond.

“…Here they can see it live! You don’t even need to get wet!” says a proud Jeanne, adding that his small business is also a great educational tool for school children and tourist to the Seychelles.

Jeanne says he especially loves seeing the joy on the visitors’ faces when they touch the sea snails for the first time or they see the sharks jump out of the water. He added that more often the children will ask about the fish when they see him in the streets of La Digue, which has a small population of around 3,000.

A long term project with new species planned

With its world renowned beach of Anse Source d’Argent, La Digue has a laid back ambiance and is a beacon for tourism in Seychelles, with many visitors making the island a must-see on their holiday list. Attracting a small entry fee of $6 per person, the fish pond project has given visitors something new to see on the island.

“I have made a lot of research on how to keep the pH [measure of hydrogen ion concentration] of the water, how to have the right temperature, etc., and combined with my experience and several trial and error, I have finally come up with something that is good for La Digue and for Seychelles.” 

Most visitors to the pond are often enticed to go snorkelling or diving with Jeanne on his fishing boat. He adds that once they have seen these fish, most of them want to see them on a larger scale.

Passionate by the sea, Jeanne says he wants as many people to share his dream of bringing the reef of the Indian Ocean Islands closer to the world. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

With the success of his project, Jeanne intends to improve the pond by introducing new species such as lobsters and seaweed that can be seen in the open sea in addition to his plans to increase the depth of the pond.

“I am testing out new corals and once they are big enough I will transport them into the pond and see how well they do,” says Jeanne, adding that not all corals will survive the temperature of the pond.

A seasoned diver, Keven Jeanne is no stranger to creatures of the sea. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

While many of the fish are caught in traps and transferred to the pond, there are also those such as the parrot fish that have been born and bred inside the pond and Jeanne says he always feels sad when they become too big and has no other choice but to set them free.

“I could never eat them. They are not pets but so much more to me…I’ve taken them out of the sea, fed them for months…,” he adds with regret while remembering the last time he had to release a shark back into the sea after it had grown too big for the pond.

“I jumped into the water with it and watched for a while as it swam away…”

Jeanne has a special fondness for the sharks, three of them altogether among others in the pond. When talking about them, he shakes his dreadlocks and smiles proudly before sharing how sharks can only feed on other fish when they are sick or if they seem defenceless. Jeanne sees them as ‘the lions of the pond.’

A minuscule live reef on display for all those who does not like to get their feet wet. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY

The only time there is frenzy in the otherwise calm replica of the reef is when Jeanne comes to feed the fish with chunks of fresh fish.

Jeanne says his project is his way of protecting the environment and increasing knowledge on the sea creatures that surround the archipelago many of which the locals and tourists are not familiar with.

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