Ex British Copper pulls “a real blinder” – growing coral reefs on a deserted island in Seychelles

No, it’s not a new fiction or a re-write of the classic Treasure Island or Famous Five novels, but a true story of some-one’s fantasy and dream coming true…but at what cost?

A British family from London is moving to Moyenne Island in the Seychelles to save coral reefs.  Mr Barry Seath, aged 47, a former recruitment consultant and policeman, his wife Karolina and their two children Georgina 11 and Josephine 7 must have felt like winning a massive jackpot when they got the approval that prompted them to sell their house and all their worldly possessions to move to Seychelles. 

Moyenne is a small uninhabited island in the St Anne Marine Park situated about 15 minutes from the main island, Mahe.  It is beautiful with white sandy beaches.  At low tide one can even walk to some of the surrounding islands.  It is an ideallic setting straight out of the Robinson Crusoe novel.

Whilst this may be a fantastic opportunity for Mr Seath and his family, the ramifications for the Seychellois people and the marine park are not so great.  Firstly, many Seychellois dream of such amazing, once in a lifetime, life-changing op-portunities…fantasies.  Others have more basic down to earth dreams of everyday opportunities that in Seychelles is within the reach of the few privileged but out of reach of many ordinary Seychellois, and one of these precious commod-ities is simply Opportunity!!  A commodity that the government has failed to provide to many Seychellois and now we begin to understand why.  Because they are far too busy fulfilling the fantasies of foreigners by providing them with op-portunities that are not available to ordinary Seychellois.  It’s not enough that we are selling or giving away our very scarce land.  Giving all the top jobs to expatriates, some of whom have ripped off the government and taxpayer.  We could go on, but for now, suffice to say the government has a serious issue understanding their priorities and obligations to the people that they are meant to serve.  This issue highlights the lack of leadership, poor judgement, ineffective management, bad governance and above all no common sense whatsoever.

One wonders how this scheme got approved by the government, which is not a straightforward process and has to un-dergo several levels of scrutiny by various departments to obtain a GOP or residence visa etc.  “I can’t even get my expe-rienced and skilled tailor back”, said a local businesswoman, “and now this ex British policemen gets permission to live in a National Park and supposedly to grow corals. It’s not right!”

Furthermore, amazingly, none of the family members are qualified in coral reef rejuvenation, conservation or marine biology!!  They don’t even know how to dive!  So on what basis was approval given?

Mr Seath plan to build a land-based coral nursery on Moyenne island to plant the nursery grown corals in the Marine Park.  Is it really a good idea having an unqualified person with no expertise in this field tinkering around with something so scientific and sensitive?  And to let them do it in a marine park that attracts thousands of tourists every year.  The local witchdoctors (Bonhomme dibois) may have a better chance!!

It’s not as if the Seychelles lacks expertise and know-how.  That we are so desperate for knowledge and expert assis-tance that our only solution was to get an ex-bobby who knows sweet FA about corals to help us.  We have fantastic local institutions and several qualified Seychellois marine biologists that could have been given this opportunity.  One of the biggest dangers is that Mr Seath’s intervention with the sensitive marine life could seriously damage the complex ecosystem further.

Nature Seychelles was the first to start large scale coral reef restoration 10 years ago with their Reef Rescuers project, which in 2010 attracted donations of 1/2 million USD from the US government to set up a permanent field-centre for coral reef conservation that the whole world could use.  Called the Centre for Ocean Restoration, Awareness and Learn-ing (CORAL) on Praslin.  Nature Seychelles in its bid to cascade its expertise throughout the world, published a Coral Reef Restoration Toolkit and successfully initiated international training programs.  The project underwent rigorous evalua-tion over 4 years by USAID who tagged it as “the first large-scale, science-based and biodiverse coral reef restoration project in the world”.  USAID were so impressed with the work and results of the project that they kept funding it for 10 years.

The Reef Rescuers restored around 5,000 square meters of coral reef in the Cousin Island Special Reserve that had pre-viously been destroyed by climate change.  Some of their amazing work also included restoration of reefs at Lemuria Resort, Praslin and Six Senses, Felicite, through special collaboration with the hotels.

Dr. Nirmal Shah, Nature Seychelles CEO says “with coral reefs in such an endangered state we cannot afford to tinker with them as that might cause far more damage than good. Coral reefs are some of the most threatened, as well as most complex, ecosystems on earth. We absolutely do not need backyard, home taught “mechanics”, but rather quali-fied and experienced coral reef “engineers”, working in teams, to save the reef”.

We are as astounded and dumbfounded as you with the government’s decision and can only conclude that President James Michel’s blue economy policy lives on and Mr Seath saw him on international TV and it put ideas in his head.

Rumour also has it that the government feels threatened by successful NGO’s in this field fearing their success will lead to greater independence and autonomy for the NGO’s that would diminish the government’s influence and authority on them and affect their ability to manipulate the NGO’s for personal gains. (Contributed)