South African marine conservation programme WILDOCEANS (of the WILDTRUST) recently presented ongoing research at the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund (CEPF) Madagascar and Indian Ocean Hotspot Grantees meeting in Nosy Be, Madagascar – attended by more than 80 representatives from NGO’s who are leading a variety of biodiversity conservation projects in the region.
Simone Dale, WILDOCEANS’ Projects Director joined representatives from NGO’s in the West Indian Ocean region, including from Madagascar, Seychelles, Comoros and Mauritius on a three-day workshop, hosted by the Regional Implementation Team (RIT), Tany Meva.
The Critical Ecosystems Partnerships Fund have funded 104 projects in the region over the last 5 years and will be extending their support to selected existing grantees until 2022. Some of the achievements to date include increased terrestrial protection and improved management of these areas, improved livelihoods with communities receiving tangible benefits from conservation, and increased local participation and collaboration in conservation action.
In October last year, WILDOCEANS and project partners conducted the first ever visual mesophotic surveys in the deeper habitats (depths between 40m and 200m) in the West Indian Ocean off their Research Vessel, Angra Pequena. These surveys made use of Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) and Stereo Baited Remote Underwater Video (BRUV), equipment provided by the African Coelacanth Ecosystem Programme (ACEP). The NPO is currently executing the second of a two-year grant from the CEPF to build knowledge around biodiversity in the Comoros Archipelago, and build capacity in local research institutions to continue this important research in the future.
Dale says that the NPO intends to apply for an extension of their current grant which ends in June next year and are hoping to continue research in the mesophotic ecosystems off the Comoros Island till June 2022, covering areas that have not yet been researched. “We want to be able to provide the knowledge gleaned from our research in these important habitats to local research institutions including the Department of Fisheries and the University of Comoros for use in planning and management of Marine Protected Areas and fisheries management.”
Dale says that the key component of this project is to build the capacity of local research institutions through training, site exchanges and mentorship to enable scientific, technical and institutional capacity to continue this work.
“We have already provided some initial training to enable key staff to be able to deploy the equipment and analyse the data so that it can be used in management planning. We handed over 3 sets of BRUV equipment consisting of frames, buoys, ropes, cameras, etc, to the University of Comoros team members so that ongoing BRUV surveys can be done when we’re gone. The project extension we are hoping to secure will build on this work.”
Grantees paid a visit to the Tanihely National Park, a Marine Protected Area in Madagascar. This forms part of the only 0.1% of the countries territorial waters protected at present (www.mpatlas.org). The island is home to an incredible diversity of marine life and is consistently cited as a global conservation priority.
The Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF) is a joint initiative of l’Agence Française de Développement, Conservation International, the European Union, the Global Environment Facility, the Government of Japan, the MacArthur Foundation and the World Bank. A fundamental goal is to ensure civil society is engaged in biodiversity conservation.