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» 29 Jul 2013

Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, divers observed and reported a marked deterioration in the quality and quantity of life on the reefs of Mauritius. Principal causes of this decline included the use of explosives and spear guns for fishing, uncontrolled removal of corals and shells for trade, and pollution from agriculture, industry and domestic sources. The Mauri-tius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS) helped to mobilize public opinion and finally laws were passed
which strictly controlled several of these practices.
However, many practices continue to adversely affect the marine life of Mauritius, including lagoon sand removal, the heavy use of fertilizers in agriculture, and high levels of inshore fishing, to name but a few.
MMCS continues to identify and combat these issues through diverse methods. For example, we are working extensively with school children, skippers and other sea users, presenting talks and educational videos about marine conservation. MMCS researchers continue to
organize surveys relating to particular conservation issues, including marine turtles, whale and dolphin populations, and the health and diversity of coral reefs.  We also oversee an on-going artificial reef project, which has to date successfully installed 16 wrecks in inshore
waters. Another project has been the installation of  permanent mooring buoys. Worldwide these buoys have been proven to reduce damage to corals caused by anchors at dive and snorkel sites.
Since the mid-2000s, MMCS has been lobbying for the introduction of measures to control the behaviour of the dolphin watching boats, skippers and participants. In 2010, MMCS completed a 3-year project entitled Sustain-able Management of Marine Resources, Cetaceans, and Reefs of Mauritius, concerning the state of the reefs along the west coast, and the issues surrounding the dolphin watching activity in this area. These actions have finally
resulted in the implementation of a law regulating this activity (enforced since 1 March 2013).
MMCS has several current projects, including a biodiversity study around the island and the possibility of creating a Marine Protected Area (MPA) on the west coast.
The biodiversity study consists of an inventory of species of dolphins, whales, sea turtles, marine birds and other large marine species found in Mauritian waters. The marine biodiversity around Mauritius remains largely unknown and this kind of study has not been conducted previously.
The existing dolphin watching activity, performed mainly on the west coast of the island, proves that ecotourism regarding cetacean observation could gener-ate a multitude of jobs and a potentially stable income for the local community in Mauritius. However the bene-fit of this activity can only be sustainable if the industry is properly managed, which requires a good knowledge of populations targeted by this activity as well as its impacts on the animals.
With a greater understanding of the species of marine life surrounding Mauritius a whole new door of opportunities is opened to the local community, providing a sustainable income benefitting the whole family if properly managed. By collecting data for a benchmark, we will contribute to a better knowledge of the cetacean populations and provide knowledge to the
Mauritian community.
The MPA project is a continuation of a feasibility study that gave very positive results and was supported by the local communities. Creating an MPA on the west coast of Mauritius would enhance the protection and sustainable use of this area for all different activities
(dolphin watching, fishing, water sports, etc.).
As an NGO we rely on external sponsorship to fund these projects. We also operate an eco-volunteer pro-gram where students and other interested people pay to come and learn and participate in all aspects of our work
For sponsorship and more information about MMCS,  our projects and eco-volunteer program:
visit www.mmcs-ngo.org or contact us at info@mmcs-ngo.org

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