See also:
» 28.09.2010 - Seychelles opens 1st "carbon neutral reserve"
» 17.12.2009 - Seychelles appeals for small islands' right to exist
» 25.10.2008 - New coral reef discovered in Seychelles
» 22.02.2005 - Substantial tsunami damage to Seychelles reefs
» 21.09.2004 - Seychelles, EU negotiate new fisheries deal
» 13.08.2004 - Seychelles to improve shark fish monitoring
» 07.07.2004 - Project to clean up polluted Indian Ocean
» 20.09.2003 - Reefs from Kenya to Mozambique "dead by 2015"

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Environment - Nature

Seychelles to fight invasive marine species

afrol News, 3 May - The environmentally conscious Seychelles island state is launching a new benchmark project to fight invasive marine species that may harm the local ecosystem, including pristine coral reefs. Foreign species are mostly introduced through ballast water of ships, transported from one port to another.

- Scientists from the World Conservation Union (IUCN) will be using the waters of Seychelles for a benchmark study on invasive marine species beginning this week, the Seychellois government reports.

The project is in response to growing concerns that increased shipping and movement across the world's oceans are introducing foreign species - sometimes from thousands of miles away - into different ports around the globe.

Scientists place most of the blame on ballast water - ordinary sea water used to stabilise weight loads on cargo ships - for the distribution of alien species to various ports, which can have especially dramatic consequences for small islands and their surrounding coral reefs, says Rolph Payet of the Seychellois Ministry of Environment.

Speaking at the headquarters for the Seychelles Centre for Marine Research and Technology – Marine Parks Authority in a small conference to launch the project, Mr Payet said that one recent study estimated that at least 7,000 marine species are exchanged daily around the world.

- The result is extensive damage to coastal and marine bio-diversity, which eventually translates into tourism and fisheries decline, and in some cases human health impacts, Mr Payet says.

A recent cholera outbreak in South America that affected more than 10,000 people, as well as the collapse of fisheries in the Baltic Sea, are both believed to have been a result of invasions related to ballast water, according to Mr Payet.

Carl Lundin, the director of IUCN's marine programme, said that while most people believe the oil inside tanker ships poses the biggest threat to marine and coastal organisms, invasions resulting from ballast water dating as far back as 30-40 years ago are just now cropping up, meaning that damage caused by alien species can far outweigh that of an oil spill.

Mr Lundin said that while technical solutions to some of the causes of marine invasions are already available, protocols and practices to establish them globally still need to be developed, which will be among the primary aims of the study.

- But getting the shipping industry and other parties worldwide to commit to tighter practices regarding ballast water might be a hurdle, he said, especially given the financial impact new regulations could have on operations. An encouraging sign, however, was that oil and gas conglomerate Total would actually be funding the IUCN project with an initial sum of US$ 180,000.

The IUCN has long identified Seychelles as a partner in its conservation efforts, Mr Lundin added, and the country was chosen to pilot the programme partly due to its successes in dealing with land-based invasive species. The archipelago's coral reefs also drew researchers' attention, as one phase of the project will study the effect of invasive marine species on both pristine and disturbed reef environments.

The project, spanning across nearly two years, is to be taken up locally by the Seychelles Centre for Marine Research and the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resources. In addition to the IUCN, scientists representing the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network and the Coral Reef Degradation in the Indian Ocean (Cordio) programme also are to participate in the study.

Earlier this week, Cordio, the Marine Research Centre and the Ministry launched the third phase of a separate study to investigate the ongoing impact of the 1998 bleaching event that wiped out more than 90 percent of corals in Seychelles, the Seychellois government reports.

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