Wednesday, February 18, 2015


Letter to the Editor From Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles

Dear Editor,

The future survival of Baie Ternay Marine National park is under threat from extensive damage by dredging, if the Emirates Cap Ternay Resort and Spa is allowed to proceed with plans to dredge 134 260 cubic metres in this delicate marine eco-system.

The Baie Ternay Marine National Park was declared a National Park in 1979, because of “the unique biodiversity of its underwater life” as declared in a scientific paper presented by G Domingue, R Payet and N Shah at the time. Since then a number of scientific research projects and monitoring programmes have revealed that the Baie Ternay reef has become one of the most resilient carbonate reefs of the inner granitic islands of Seychelles.

A study carried out in 1996 by the Tropical Marine Research Unit of the University of York (UK) recorded 69 different species of coral in the Baie Ternay Marine Park. While many of those were affected by the mass coral bleaching events of 1998, further studies undertaken since then, mainly through the Shoals of Capricorn Programme (2000–2004), have indicated that the Baie Ternay reef has shown the fastest rate of coral recovery overall.

This was confirmed in the final World Bank (2000–2004) report of the Seychelles Ecosystem and Management Project, which found Baie Ternay to be one of three areas with the highest coral diversity in the entire Inner Islands of Seychelles, and it had the highest diversity in the western half of the group. According to the latest reports of the Marine Conservation Expedition of Global Vision International (GVI), in addition to a high diversity of types of coral, the percentage cover for the coral reef within the centre of the Baie Ternay Marine National Park has recovered to approximately 60% as of 2013. This is the highest level of recovery of any coral reef along the northwest coast of Mahé, monitored as part of the GVI /Seychelles coral reef monitoring programme.

As the reef regains its health the marine life of Baie Ternay is also flourishing. Research and acoustic tracking studies carried out by the Seychelles National Park Authority (SNPA) and the Marine Conservation Society, Seychelles (MCSS) in 2011 have shown that the bay is an extremely important habitat for a number of species of the shark and ray family. In particular it is a pupping and nursery ground for Lemon Sharks – listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. The area is also an important foraging and resting area for various species of sting ray.

Another critically endangered species (as listed on the IUCN Red List) found in increasing numbers in Baie Ternay is the hawksbill turtle. The SNPA/ MCSS research of 2011 showed that the near shore reef areas of Baie Ternay are critically important habitats for foraging juvenile Hawksbill Turtles. The GVI Seychelles РMah̩ Report Series No. 142 (2013 Р2014) also confirms the gradual increase in the number of hawksbill and green turtle sightings in the Baie Ternay Marine Park from 2005 to the present.

While approximately 18 hawksbill and 5 green turtles were sighted on average in 2005, by 2013 the number of hawksbill turtles sighted had risen to about 40 and green turtles to about 15. The report concludes that this further underscores the need to develop and maintain conservation strategies that address the impacts that threaten this region.

 It is therefore of grave concern that the Cap Ternay hotel project being proposed by Emirates Hotels Ltd is planning to dredge 134 260 cubic metres of this very same reef and bay. This is equivalent to dredging a space the size of nine football fields, at three metres deep – well over half the bay. The extensive coral destruction, silting, sedimentation and water turbidity that will result will inevitably lead to irreversible long-term damage to these healthy but fragile marine habitats and ecosystems, which for obviously very sound reasons, we have been preserving for the past 35 years.

 Citizens Engagement Platform Seychelles