torpedo ray

A big win for the oceans: Bay Ternay is saved!

It is with a very happy heart that I write this happy ocean story. As you may have read, I took a year off after graduating from Boston University in 2011, and I moved to the Seychelles Islands to work with an NGO on coral conservation. Our camp base was located in Bay Ternay, which is located on the main island of Mahe. 

The Bay is honestly my favorite place in the whole world. It was established as a marine park in 1979, and it is paradise, and a place I will hold forever dearly in my heart.  With no direct coastal road,and tricky access, this park retains its exclusivity and natural beauty. Mangroves, seagrass beds, and extensive coral reefs constitute the park… Anything you could think of, I have probably seen in this park: whale sharks, manta rays, schools of hundreds of devil rays, humphead parrotfish, hundreds of green and hawksbill turtles,squids,  dolphins, sharks, torpedo rays, moray eels, guitarfish, groupers… It’s all there. The biodiversity of the place is unreal.

(Photo by Joe Daniels)

The 1998 El Nino event was devastating for corals all around the world.  Water temperatures were up to 4C above normal seasonal maximum, and exceeded 30C over a significant period of time. Seychelles experienced about 90% coral mortality. The NGO I worked for found that coral cover increased from 10.25% in 2005 to 36.42% in 2012 on reefs across Mahe. Coral cover inside marine parks was much higher than outside them. The Bay was recovering extremely well.

(Check out that coral cover! Photo by Susanne Stigsson)

Unfortunately, the land had been sold to Emirates in 2007, which had huge plans of building yet another 5 stars resort, meaning the Bay would be completely dredged and destroyed to accommodate for the private residences, spas, and marinas. The Seychellois fought for the preservation of this unique place. They recognized the importance of biodiversity and marine ecosystem for not only the ocean but for the economy of the country. The island did not need another huge hotel, while many remain half-full most of the time. Many tourists visit Seychelles for its natural resources and diving. But it was hard for them to be heard. And I was about to explode sitting on my couch, not knowing what to do thousands of miles away to protect the place I love. 

(This was Emirates’ projected resort constructions. As you can see, the coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves would have been entirely destroyed).

Last week, the greatest news came to me. Perseverance won. The President of Seychelles put his foot down and stopped the project from going forward due to its high environmental consequences. 

“ All the scientific arguments suggest that such a project will affect the environment of the area. Naturally, as the President of this country, it is my duty and responsibility to take the best decision in the interest of the Seychellois people, and for the protection of our heritage. I have decided that there will be no such project at Cap Ternay.“

I literally cried tears of joy. The thought that I may not be able to ever go back to that place was making me sick to my stomach. But now it’s safe! The ecosystem will continue to recover, and all the marine life will continue to grow and prosper. I applaud the government of Seychelles, but mostly I applaud all the citizens that never gave up since this project came to light.

I know this may not mean a lot to you guys, but this just goes to show that anybody can be heard and can make a difference for places or causes that do matter. I hope you all get a chance to travel and explore the Bay, and fall in love with it like I did. 

(Photo by Susanne Stigsson)