Greetings, all. Hope you have each had a happy and healthy start to 2013. Things have been busy for me, but in the best ways possible. In the next week or so, we will begin planting our endemic seedlings in Plaine des Roches, and the coral farming project is moving along (forgive me for the pun-like word choice) swimmingly.
In the next several weeks, I will be heading out into the turquoise-blue waters of the Trou aux Biches lagoon, with a team of Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) scientists on a glass-bottom boat. Peering into the shallow depths from our canopied watercraft, we will survey the entire Trou aux Biches lagoon to find the best site possible to install our nurseries. To help you understand, what we are looking for is depth (the deeper the better to avoid boat engines, water skiers, and wading fishermen, but the lagoon’s depth drops down to no more than 2.5-3 meters deep), water quality (lower acidity levels, no sedimentation, and good circulation give the corals the best chance to grow), and location outside of the boat channel (recreational and fishing boats could bring pollution and potential drop damaging items onto the nurseries). Should be a very interesting couple of days, plotting out GPS coordinates and analyzing the water with some of the top marine scientists in the Indian Ocean.
But the big event for me that had kept me so busy in 2013 was the coral farming presentation I gave to major stakeholders this past Thursday, on January the 10th. In effect, I was informing all relevant government agencies and business associations of the project, and exploring opportunities for support from them over the course of the project. In attendance were Vedant Seeam, Dr. Ruby Moothien-Pillay of MOI, her team, and MOI’s Officer-in-Charge, and high and mid-level representatives from the Ministry of Fisheries, the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, the Tourism Authority, the Beach Authority, the National Coast Guard, the Commission on Maurice Ile Durable [Prime Minister’s Office], and the Association of Hoteliers and Restaurants In Mauritius.
I must say that it was possibly the most important presentation I’ve given yet in my life… and I crushed it.
After laying out the socio-economic importance of reefs to Mauritius and her residents and explaining how much degradation the reefs have rapidly experienced in the past several years, I laid out the goals and logistics of the project while Ruby discussed how MOI’s years of experience with coral farming would help form an ideal collaboration between an NGO and a government institution like MOI. Following the presentation, we engaged with the stakeholders for over an hour, answering their questions, clarifying points they raised, and brainstorming how they can help us. It is worth noting that there seemed to be a definite sense of eagerness when we discussed how the reef rehabilitation project aimed to improve the welfare of local Mauritian residents while involving them as much as possible in the project. After all the stakeholders left, Vedant came up to me with that big cheesed grin of his. He wasn’t just happy after hearing the presentation in full (it his first time seeing the PowerPoint version). Vedant has been to dozens of similar government meetings over the past several months, yet this was one of the rare occasions he experienced positive and passionate energy flowing throughout the entire meeting.
The only thing better than the feeling of leaving that meeting was getting back to the office to see that the first year’s worth of funding from the UNDP have been deposited in our account… So far so good 2013. So far so good.