Friday, 1 August 2014

Snorkel at Anse Royale

Seeing as we are currently revitalizing the GIF blog, we thought we’d start with describing an activity of a while back. This one describes an educational snorkel trip as part of a shark education campaign.
GIF is currently running a Global Environment Fund – Small Grants Programme (GEF SGP) funded shark project to create awareness and educate the community on the importance of sharks in the Seychellois ecosystem.
In April 2014 our GIF research officer, Cathrina Freminot, took a group of school pupils on a snorkel trip at Anse Royale.  This trip was done as part of our GEF Small Grants Project designed to increase public awareness and educate local communities in understanding the behavioral ecology of sharks in order to reduce conflicts between fishermen and dive operators in Seychelles.  
According to Arjan de Groene, the General Manager for GIF:
“This project aims to increase the knowledge of local communities, from all walks of life, on the importance of sharks. Not necessarily as a source of food and fins or as a diving attraction, but more importantly, the role sharks play in the ecosystem they inhabit and partly share with us humans.”

“It is vital for people to understand why sharks are important apex predators that keep the marine environment balanced and healthy. Only when people really understand this they are able to grasp the consequences of their actions. Only then will the community as a whole be able to develop and implement a practice of sustainable exploitation of sharks as a resource, be it for food, fun or learning. This all begins with teaching our children,”

During the trip, Cathrina (or the children themselves) pointed out fish, invertebrates and anything else of interest found under water. Ms Freminot then explained the relationship and interaction between these observed creatures and different types of sharks.
Children Snorkeling out to find as many creatures as they can
Looking in an old abandoned fish trap
As sharks are rarely spotted at Anse Royale by snorkelers, the focus of the trip was to use anything the children found to explain if and how it relates to sharks, while at the same time answering any questions that came up. The children observed many different species of fish, sea stars, sea urchins and sea cucumbers in the different sand, rock, seaweed- and sea grass habitats characteristic of Anse Royale.

An unexpected educational opportunity arose as the group were taking a break on Isle Chauve-Souris, the small island at the north end of Anse Royale. Here they found a turtle shell and bones, which created a solemn atmosphere after a discussion and explanation of about how it got into a place where it could not have been able to get by itself.
Back on the beach drinks and snacks were happily enjoyed followed by an educational shark movie detailing the role of sharks in the food chain, the difference between sharks and other fish and other topics. This was followed by a quiz to establish and reinforce what the children had gained from this experience.

The day concluded with the certification ceremony where each child was awarded a commemorative certificate of participation, as well as the opportunity to choose from a range of prizes sponsored by GIF and the Save Our Seas Foundation.               

The youngest child in the group receives
his certificate of participation from Cathrina Freminot,
the project researcher
Souvenir shot of the children on Anse Royale beach

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