In Mauritius, Reef Conservation has created underwater snorkeling trails to educate and engage tourists and residents to protect the surrounding reef ecosystems.
“Reef conservation is a local marine environmental NGO. We started up in 2004 and our projects were based around education and sensitization of the Mauritian public and school children,” explained Kathy Young, Project Manager at Reef Conservation Mauritius.
“Our projects then kept evolving with our programs and we were approached to set up a marine resource center. In 2004 when we started, there was definitely a lack of awareness of anything to do with the marine environment. This is how we started up, by trying to protect coral reefs, especially the shallow reef areas, and also then looking more at sensitization for the public in general. We had set-up a project on voluntary marine conservation areas where we are looking at working out with communities what are viable areas to protect and what are important areas for the rest of the ecosystem,” said Young.
Céline Miternique, a Marine Biologist at Reef Conservation Mauritius, revealed the condition of the coral reefs in parts of Mauritius, “On this part of the island we did mapping, ecosystem mapping at the lagoon and we see that we donʻt have a lot of living coral. So thatʻs why we need to protect it, because if we donʻt have living coral we will have less fish and other things will soon disappear. So we try to implicate all of the community with us, and not only community but hotels too.”
Project Coordinator at Reef Conservation Mauritius, Natalie Summers, said, “The hotels, they depend on the marine ecosystem for the tourism, for the economy. So the hotel staff knowing more about what is found in the lagoon, itʻs beneficial for the hotel and for the visitors.”
Young said, “We did see quite a lot of lack of, again, knowledge and awareness, from the tourism center as to what they were showing tourist and the general public. So we wanted to bridge that gap.”
Miternique explained their attempt to bridge the gap,”We put a snorkeling trail in this area, so itʻs the first snorkeling trail in Mauritius. So the snorkeling trail is about 250 meters. Itʻs a really good tool for education because people can see what kinds of fish we can find, the types of corals, and why itʻs important to protect these corals.”
Young reflected, “One of the end goals is to work with communities, not just to identify, but they actually become stewards of their environment, that they really learn how to manage it, and to be able to find solutions amongst themselves as to how to continue protecting it and ensuring that these systems are viable.”