Gerard Rocamora and Licia Calabrese of Island Conservation Society attended the 6th International Albatross & Petrel Conference (IAPC 6th) held from the 19th to the 23rd of September 2016 at the ‘Universitat de Barcelona’ in Catalonia, Spain. This is the first time an albatross and petrel conference was held in Europe. Gerard and Licia contributed a poster presentation on the Shearwater Research Project conducted by ICS on Aride Island between 2011 and 2015
For a copy of their report click here.
For a copy of the poster click here.
Photos left: Common Redstart (Peter Holden); centre: White Wagtail (Peter Holden); right: Madagascar Pond Heron (Chris Narty)
November is the time of year that unusual migrants are most likely to be seen in Seychelles. Sightings reported by ICS staff include from Alphonse a Madagascar Pond Heron (Chris Narty and Ariadna Fernandez), from Desroches a Common Redstart on 13th and a White Wagtail on 28th (Joanna Bluemel and Pete Holden) and from Poivre an Oriental Pratincole and a Sand Martin, both on 17th (Pierre-Andre Adam)
Desroches Island became home to a pair of breeding Tropical Shearwaters at the end of 2015. They laid an egg in June 2016 which hatched around the 27 July. Here is an update on how our first Tropical chick is doing since the last blog.
At the end of August after heavy rain the whole Tropical Shearwater burrow was found by the ICS team completely collapsed, leaving the parents and their small downy chick open to the elements. The ICS team quickly fashioned a new roof from coconut fibers, an old burlap sack and some sticks (see photo below). The parents seemed happy with their new temporary roof and continued about their business of feeding and fattening up their young chick.
ICS revisited the burrow early in September. The chick was still a very fluffy C1 stage chick showing only downy feathers (see photo below). The chick looked nearly twice the size that it was last month and now it’s parents have started to leave it alone in the burrow during the day to go out fishing.
The following week the chick started to show the first partial contour feathers, which we record as a C2 stage (see photo below). You can see the contour feathers mixed with downy feathers that are still present on the head, breast, back and tail giving our chick quite a funky hair style!
Our Tropical chick had almost reached C3 stage (no downy feathers) by the 28th September, meaning that it was nearly ready to leave the nest. At the start of October the trio had found the time and energy to dig a new burrow just behind where the old one was, abandoning their ICS designed accommodation. During the final monitoring session on the 6th October the team were very happy to find that the chick had left successfully to begin its life on the open sea. It will be around eight years before this juvenile reaches breeding maturity and will live to around 20 years of age. We expect to see the parents in about six months time for their next breeding attempt and hope find more Tropical Shearwaters nesting on Desroches over the years to come.
The CEPF project has lift off! Keeping the Stakeholders aware and engaged in all the activities happening on the Island is the key to the success of the project. On the 23rd of September, all the stakeholders of Silhouette Island met for a brief introduction on the CEPF project. The goals and objectives of the project were presented. The components of the project were detailed and they were invited to input their ideas on ways of improving the implementation of the activities.
We had the privilege of welcoming the General Manager from the Seychelles Hilton Labriz Resort & Spa, a five star hotel which employs 250 workers; members of the research department of the Ministry of Environment and Seychelles National Parks Authority, which is responsible for managing 7 marine and 3 terrestrial protected areas in Seychelles which includes Silhouette Island; the General Manager for La Belle Tortue, a small 9-bedroom lodge which employs 5 people and the Manager of the Eco Dive Centre on Silhouette which employs 10 people and who operate in and around the Silhouette Marine Park.
Everyone was excited and eager to kick-start the Project. In the coming months we will be hiring a consultant to develop a comprehensive Conservation Management Plan for Silhouette in which all stakeholders having an interest in Silhouette Island shall have an opportunity to participate in this process.
The Spanish Purse Seining Fishing Association (OPAGAC/AGAC) joins forces with the Island Conservation Society, Islands Development Company and Seychelles Fishing Authority to resolve issues pertaining to Fish Aggregating Devices.
A fish aggregating device (FAD) is a man-made floating platform, attached with an array of nets and ropes (which varies from vessel to vessel and type of fish being targeted) dangling from the platform down to depths of 40 or so metres, to attract oceanic fish such as tuna. The FADs also have a radio beacon attached to them to allow the fishing vessels to follow their movement and make oceanic fish easier to catch. They are widely deployed by Purse Seining fishing vessels in tropical and subtropical regions. Since the early 1990’s FADs have become an increasingly important component of the industrial purse seine fishing fleet operating throughout the Seychelles EEZ and the wider Indian Ocean basin. It is estimated that there are now 10,000 FAD deployments annually in the Indian Ocean. A third of all tuna catches by purse seiners in the Indian Ocean are around floating objects. Satellite tracking of FADs has probably been the most important technological advancement of purse seiner efficiency in the last two decades. The increased use of FADs has been responsible for a significant increase in the amount of tuna caught, particularly skipjack tuna (Indian Ocean catches of skipjack tuna around floating objects more than doubled between 1991 and 2006).
The concern and proposed solution: welcoming the Seychelles FAD WATCH Programme
ADs have a number of well documented issues. Catches around FADs are on average made up of smaller (younger) target fish. This could have long term consequences for these fish stocks managed through the Indian Ocean Tuna commission (IOTC). There is also the problem of by-catch of non-target species associated with seine netting around FADs, as well as marine creatures getting entangled in the FAD itself. A problem, that is so far relatively undocumented, is the environmental impact that FADs can have when they are either intentionally discarded or become lost and drift onto coral reefs and islands. This is a situation that is becoming increasingly common on the reefs and islets especially in the outer islands of the Seychelles. Fortunately, some concerned organisations are coming together to solve part of this problem.
FAD WATCH is a collaborative programme between several organisations with the aim of preventing and mitigating Fish Aggregating Device (FAD) beachings across islands in Seychelles where the Island Conservation Society (ICS) has a presence. A Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed on the 5th July 2016 by the Spanish Purse Seining Fishing Fleet (OPAGAC/AGAC), Island Conservation Society (ICS), Islands Development Company (IDC) and Seychelles Fishing Authority. And the whole process has gained substantial support by the Ministry of Finance, Trade and the Blue Economy over the past 9 months of negotiations.
 Organización de Productores Asociados de Grandes Atuneros Congeladores + Asociación de grandes Atuneros Congeladores (España/Spain)
How will the programme work?
Under this programme, ICS will be responsible for the implementation and overall coordination of activities. The 4 fishing companies associated under OPAGAC/AGAC will provide real time information of their FADs when drifting into the sensitive ecosystem areas determined by ICS. An automated alert system will be setup at ICS that will report whenever a FAD arrives within 5 nautical miles of any atoll where ICS has a permanent presence, and provide GPS co-ordinates, trajectory and estimated projected time of beaching. This will allow ICS staff time to plan and intercept these FADs before beaching occurs, damages reefs and/or impacts on key marine fauna. ICS teams will still need to remove FADs from reefs and beaches on all islands where teams are present which are not intercepted as they will not be detected using this system since they will belong to other fishing companies. IDC will provide logistical support to ICS in the removal and storage of the FADs awaiting collection by the fishing vessels. As much as possible the FADs that are collected will be recycled and reused by the fishing companies. This programme is made possible through the financial contribution from OPAGAC/AGAC. ICS will also be working closely with the fishing companies to provide suggestions on how to improve the design of eco-friendly FADs.
This is a world first and a ‘win-win’ for all involved. It is the first time such an arrangement has been made between a fishing association working in close relationship with an environmental NGO, and Government on such a subject. We are hoping that this will encourage other purse seining organisations and other islands that are impacted by FADs to join this effort in the future.
Jo Bluemel, Island Conservation Society Conservation Officer at Desroches reports as follows:
"In October 2015 during a site visit Dr Gerard Rocamora identified the call of the Tropical Shearwater and a burrow was located containing an adult and an egg. This was the first record of this species nesting on Desroches Island. The Tropical pair were monitored weekly by the ICS Desroches conservation team, but unfortunately this nesting attempt failed.
The pair then returned to the same burrow in May 2016, but were not seen again the following month. On the 27th July the burrow was rechecked and inside a extremely fluffy first stage chick was found. This is the first recorded Desroches Island Tropical Shearwater chick, and we hope there will be more to follow in the future. Tropical Shearwater calls have been heard during monitoring in the Wedge-tailed Shearwater colony, but so far no other burrows of this species have been found."
News of the first attempt in 2015 appeared in a national Geographic journal which can be downloaded here.
A new paper on the taxonomy of a Seychelles endemic moth, Thalassodes antithetica, has been published by ICS trustee Pat Matyot, co-authored together with his colleagues Ivan Bolotov, Maik Bippus, Vitaly Spitsyn Yulia Kolosova and Alexander Kondakov.
275 endemic species of Lepidoptera have been described from Seychelles yet information regarding endemics is very poor, because the majority are known from a single or a few specimens. This paper is a full redescription of the species with DNA barcoding data and a revision its taxonomic position.
Aurelie Duhec has reported a Black-crowned Night Heron at La Passe, Silhouette on 16 July 2016. This species was unrecorded in Seychelles until 1992, when an immature was reported by Neil McCulloch and Adrian Skerrett at Victoria mudflats on 27 October 1992. Further sightings followed on Mahe, especially in the Roche Caiman area, until birds were recorded as continuously present from November 1995 onward. The first sighting on Silhouette was on 12 April 1997 and birds have probably been continuously present on the island in very small numbers since that date.