Residents taking ownership of conservation on Seychelles’ Cerf Island
Since October 2015, a not-for-profit organisation bringing together residents of Cerf Island in Seychelles have been actively raising awareness and implementing programmes aimed at ensuring the conservation of the island's marine and terrestrial biodiversity. (Savinien Leblond/Cerf Island Conservation Program)
(Seychelles News Agency) - The residents on Seychelles' Cerf Island have teamed up to create awareness of their natural environment and to find ways to protect the island’s marine and terrestrial biodiversity.
Founded barely a year ago, Cerf Island Conservation Program, a not-for-profit organisation, has come up with initiatives including guided snorkel and hiking trails, coral restoration and volunteer programmes to achieve their objectives.
The program is receiving the support of several private sector companies on the island. The Seychelles National parks Authority is also involved.
According to the project leader of the Cerf Island Conservation Program, their concern derives from the effects of human activities on the island – home to a few tourism establishments and frequently visited by the locals, due to its proximity to the main island, Mahé.
“We get a lot of tourists and locals who visit. This leads to anchorage in coral reefs, not applying safe snorkel practices and heavy littering,” Savinien Leblond said to SNA.
According to Leblond, a French national, run-offs from artificial beaches and reclaimed islands, as well as pollutants from the small Port of Victoria, are also inevitably washed up to Cerf island.
|A message that can be seen by visitors while on snorkel trail on Cerf Island. (Savinien Leblond/Cerf Island Conservation Program) Photo License: CC-BY
Located at a 15-minute boat ride away from the jam-packed Seychelles’ capital, Victoria, Cerf can be considered a refuge for those seeking solitude.
Cerf is one of five islands found in the St Anne Marine Park. It is home to at least three tourism establishments and around 100 people who call the island their home. They commute to Mahé, located some 1.3km away, for their daily business,
The island provides visitors with spectacular snorkeling experiences and an encounter with several species of reef fishes and sea turtles.
In a bid to maintain healthy reefs around the island, one of the ongoing projects Cerf Island Conservation Program is implementing is to restore the reefs using over 400 coral fragments rescued from the sea bed following past and current bleaching events.
“We have created coral nurseries out of ropes and pipes where they will be reared for a year,” explained Leblond, adding that they are also in the process of creating metal frames which will be placed along the shallow reefs and filled with resilient corals.
|Three frame styled nurseries installed at the 9metre sandy bottom at Cerf Island. (Savinien Leblond/Cerf Island Conservation Program) Photo License: CC-BY
The conservation programme is also attracting volunteers from all over the world and students from the Seychelles Maritime Training Centre.
The volunteers have been maintaining the only hiking trail on the island, which links the east to the west side of the island and provides a view of Mahé and the surrounding reef-surrounded of the Ste Anne Marine National Park.
The team has also started introducing endemic trees along the trail, daily beach cleaning and guided snorkel tours.
On top of its own efforts, the Cerf Island Conservation Programme is seeking the help of the environment ministry to further protect the biodiversity of the island especially to enforce marine park rules and regulations on the island.
Speeding and unsafe practices of private vessels which harm the reef and endanger the lives of guests to the island, as well as illegal fishing practices were only some of the issues they raised in a recent meeting with officials from the Environment, Climate change and Energy Ministry.
“Though these are constant issues that Cerf Island residents face, this meeting brings a sliver of hope since the issues raised were now voiced as a community, pleading for action to be taken,” says Leblond.
|Cerf island is only a 15-minute boat ride away from the main Seychelles island, Mahe. (Seychelles News Agency) Photo License: CC-BY
Cerf island, measuring over 1.5km long, was named after the French navy frigate “Le Cerf” [the deer] which arrived in Seychelles in 1756 under the command of Captain Corneille Nicholas Morphey, who had the important task of taking possession of the 115-island archipelago in the western Indian Ocean on behalf of the French government.
The island was also home to South African novelist Wilbur Smith, whose novel ‘Wild Justice’ was partially set in the Seychelles.