Conservation meets sustainability – ‘Pye Koray’ project |22 February 2023
It is by now well known that coral reefs in Seychelles' inner islands have been particularly impacted by above average sea surface temperatures in recent decades.
In response to this, the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles (MCSS) has implemented coral reef restoration at various sites using a variety of methods since its inception in 1997.
Over time, MCSS has come to refine the coral gardening method, which entails the construction and deployment of underwater nurseries that are populated with coral fragments and which are monitored and maintained to ensure optimal growth and survival until they are large enough to be outplanted onto the reef.
Currently, the coral gardening method involves the use of synthetic – and in the case of Seychelles, imported – materials, such as PVC pipes, nylon rope, cable ties, etc. Given the global ocean plastic crisis, MCSS has aimed to reduce the use of these materials by reusing them as far as possible.
However, with the goal of improving sustainability best practice in marine conservation, it was decided that synthetic materials should be replaced with natural and sustainable ones.
Looking to local traditional knowledge and techniques employed in the marine environment, the idea to design and construct coral nurseries from locally and sustainably-harvested bamboo was conceived.
Coral reef restoration efforts in Seychelles have to date not successfully integrated various community groups, so the ‘Pye Koray – Incorporating traditional creole artisanal techniques in coral reef restoration’ project, a 12-month initiative funded by the Global Environment Facility’s Small Grants Programme, aims to address this shortfall through the collaboration with local artisans for the promotion of stewardship and social inclusion; the valorisation and integration of traditional local knowledge and conservation education.
To achieve this, MCSS has partnered with Group Artisans of Seychelles (GAS) and Seychelles Sustainable Tourism Foundation (SSTF) to harness their respective expertise and expand the project reach.
Speaking about the project, SSTF’s Victoria Alis explained the following, “The collaboration between MCSS, SSTF and GAS is a reminder that culture is at the centre of relationships between nature and people. Incorporating locally specific cultural values and knowledge has the potential to instill conservation initiatives with more relevance and ownership for local communities, and create new local economic opportunities. Such efforts sit at the centre of SSTF’s aim to help preserve both the local cultural and natural heritage. Acting as a connecting platform for sustainable tourism, SSTF will assist in facilitating engagement and communication between the different community groups involved in the project.”
Under the project, which is currently a few month’s under way, coral nursery ‘trees’ made from sustainable materials have been designed and are now being constructed. These will be installed in the Ste Anne Marine National Park, where MCSS has undertaken coral reef restoration for a number of years.
Additionally, in collaboration with the project partners, a training workshop which will be open to the public and targeting youth groups is due to take place in 2023, covering topics of coral reef restoration and traditional weaving and crafting techniques.
In order to share the lessons learned as a result of the project, a short video, a mini booklet and a technical brief will be developed and disseminated.
The ‘Pye Koray’ project aims to align conservation with the cultural context within which it exists, and to promote social inclusion while improving sustainability in coral reef restoration. Follow us on social media to stay updated on the project and for more information on the upcoming training workshop: @marineconservationsocietysey