The Seychelles Nekton Deep Ocean Expedition is a partnership between Seychelles and Nekton to undertake pioneering research, capacity development and public engagement to support the implementation of Seychelles Marine Spatial Plan (including 30% protection of the EEZ) and the sustainable development of their Blue Economy. The full list of partners in Seychelles is here.
The expedition programme encompasses a jointly designed research agenda together with opportunities for participation of local marine researchers in a joint SeyCCAT Nekton grants programme; training at sea; visiting fellowships; as regional ocean ambassadors; in a results workshop in-country; in new networks and potentially in longer-term collaboration opportunities.
As a result of the overall partnership approach the following new local research projects are being supported:
SEVEN SEYCHELLOIS RECEIVE GRANTS TO UNDERTAKE RESEARCH AS PART OF AN INTERNATIONAL DEEP WATER EXPEDITION
An innovative collaboration between Nekton Mission and the Seychelles’ Conservation and Climate Adaptation Trust (SeyCCAT) has led to the financing of seven Seychellois researchers who will venture on an underwater expedition to explore the depths (up to 500 m) of the waters of Seychelles. The Seychelles Nekton expedition is a partnership between Seychelles and Nekton to undertake pioneering research in Seychelles’ deep waters and develop national capacity to support Seychelles’ marine spatial plan and the development of a sustainable blue economy.
Each leg of the expedition will host two or three Seychellois researchers, to explore the deep waters around Farquhar, Amirantes and Aldabra.
A passionate conservationist and marine biologist, Sheena is always keen for an adventure. She has participated in research on blacktip reef shark, turtles and bonefish: all within the Indian Ocean Islands. Currently working with the Ministry of Environment Energy and Climate Challenge she has been able to participate in the on-going conservation work being conducted in the island state.
Research topic: Spatio-temporal abundance and distribution of ichthyoplankton within the Seychelles waters.
The Indian Ocean remains a region of scientific interest as little research has been conducted within its waters and only a handful have investigated zooplankton communities especially the occurrence of fish larvae and eggs throughout the water column. Knowing what types of fish larvae occur at different depths and oceanic regions gives valuable information as to the spawning dynamics of different fish species. Identifying fish larvae and eggs from observation is however very difficult and requires great expertise. Due to a host of technological advancements scientists can now identify fish larvae and eggs using genetic identification. This project aims to identify species found at different locations and depths throughout the Seychelles waters. The findings will inform the preliminary species occurrence and spatial distribution of fish larvae in the Seychelles EEZ.
CLARA BELMONT, STEPHANIE MARIE AND ANDREW SOUFFRE
Variability in trophic signatures of zooplankton and food web dynamics within Seychelles waters
Seychelles as an island state nation depends highly on fish as their main source of protein and planktons (small microorganisms in the water) happens to plays a vital role in fish diet. They are the richest sources for omega 3 fatty acids that are essential for growth in fish as well as humans. However, with the effect of climate change plankton communities are at threat. A change in the plankton community results in a decrease in fish quality, which eventually affects their economic value. So, in order to ensure good fish quality for consumption SFA needs to find ways to observe how climate change is having an effect on the marine ecosystem so we can in turn work on management plan for sustainable fisheries
DR. JEANNE MORTIMER
Jeanne Mortimer born in Chicago USA. has made her living as international conservation biologist consultant focusing sea turtles amid tropical coastal and marine ecosystems. She has worked in 20 countries and 6 continents. Having first come to Seychelles early 1981 conduct a national survey of sea turtles and recommend management strategy Seychelles Government, she has continued to work as a special consultant to the government regarding sea turtle issues and was naturalized in 2007. She is the governing Council of Island Conservation and is Chair of the Turtle Action Group of Seychelles. She lived and worked in the outer islands of Seychelles for extended periods totalling several years which enabled her to visit virtually every island in the country.
Jeanne will be researching "Marine Macrophytes — i.e. marine plants (seagrass and algae) large enough to be seen without a microscope - known as "Gomo" in Kreol. These plants have been poorly studied in Seychelles.
Her research questions include: What species of seagrass and marine algae in the outer islands of Seychelles? How are due species from island to island? What is the relationship between water depth and patterns of distribution and species composition? What is the maximum depth they can survive? She will also be collecting plant samples for the Seychelles National Herbarium.
Jennifer is the Science and Projects Coordinator at the Seychelles Island Foundation (SIF). Before this, Jennifer was the Assistant Scientific Coordinator on Aldabra for a year. Jennifer is in habitat, species and environmental monitoring and is passionate about marine biodiversity conservation.
Her research question will combine data on top marine predators from the Seychelles Islands Foundation with the data collected from the Nekton Expedition and will provide a complete picture of the marine predator community around Aldabra down to 500m.
Aldabra's near-shore marine area is divided into three management zones namely tourism zones, food security zones and conservation. This type of zonation strategy within a marine protected area is the first in Seychelles. The research will investigate the abundance. diversity and distribution of marine predators around Aldabra from the shallow to the deep sea and the effectiveness of the zoning plan on these predators. The results will provide valuable lessons for sustainable fisheries management for Aldabra and this model example can be replicated in other locations in the country through the Marine Spatial Planning process.
Damien Labiche, 23, is currently working at the Ministry of Environment as an assistant conservation officer in the biodiversity conservation section. After his studies at Seychelles Institute of Technology, he worked with the Seychelles Fishing Authority as a scientific observer for 3 years. He joined the Department of Environment because he is passionate about nature and its protection and conservation.
Research topic: Identification of deep-sea shark and rays
Sharks and rays play an important role in the ecosystem as apex predators. In the Seychelles, sharks have been revered and traditionally hunted for consumption. Although a large quantity the market catches, no deep-sea sharks have been recorded in the market catches. Through a highly collaborative process our project aims to identify deep-sea sharks that may be collected on camera footage from ROV's Drop cameras and Subs_ The occurrence of species in the area will be key to be able to compare data sets with regional and international partners. This is an important undertaking as it will allow for preliminary data to be collected and possible shark species to be identified in the Seychelles, where previous records do not exist.
In addition to the SeyCCAT Nekton grantees, Dr Jerome Harlay, Senior Lecturer at UniSey, joins the expedition for its entirety to lead the water chemistry programme.
Dr Jerome Harlay
As far as I remember, as a kid, I was passionate with the ocean. I slid into the scientific side of this passion in 1995, when I did my first oceanographic campaign in the North Sea, as an undergraduate student. I graduated in Ecology and obtained my university doctorate in Natural Sciences in 1999. Ten years later, and after more hours in classes for marine biogeochemistry and modelling, I defended my PhD in Oceanography at the University of Brussels and gave it a “climate change” dimension, a topic that has gained momentum in the last ten years and is not about to fade. Now, after several post-docs and expatriations, I am a researcher at the Blue Economy Research Institute of the University of Seychelles, where I am also teaching in the Department of Environment. I conduct my research on Ocean Acidification, Blue Carbon and coastal ecosystems metabolism but my research interests are much broader and align with the Blue Economy concept, an integrated approach to ocean-based sustainable development which brings together economy, environment and society.
With NEKTON, I will work in the Ocean Zephyr’s laboratory to obtain oceanographic data like temperature, salinity, dissolved Oxygen,pH from the many places that we will explore. I will filter liters of seawater from different depths, compile thousands of lines of data recorded by the remote vehicles and probes, and store dozens of samples that will be analysed, back in Seychelles, or sent to other laboratories. At the end, we will compile and interpret those data, and make them available to anyone in order to complete their own dataset, with the hope that many scientific publications will be released .