Tuesday, October 16, 2018

Plastic Debris and 'Microplastics' Monitoring

While doing monitoring and assessment activities in the Grand Police area, we noticed something in the beach sand that we haven’t noticed at any of the other beaches around Mahé: many small pieces of broken up plastic. Though there is no as yet global standardised size, these plastic fragments are referred to based on their size, generally; macroplastics if they are larger than 25 mm, mesoplastics if they are between 5 mm and 25 mm, and microplastics if they are smaller than 5 mm. Plastic fragments such as these represent one of the lesser understood, yet seriously concerning, impacts that marine debris has on the health of our oceans and us.

While primary microplastics enter waterways and eventually the oceans in a micro size, secondary microplastics – such as the ones that are washed up on Grand Police beach – are the result of larger plastic debris in the ocean (eg. plastic bottles) breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces due to factors such as the movement of the waves and the sun’s rays. But it doesn’t end there. As they continue to fragment into ever smaller pieces, they absorb organic pollutants and toxins in the seawater like a sponge, and are then often mistaken for food and ingested by marine life. Accumulation of this kind of marine debris in the gut of various species can cause them to die of starvation. Little yet has been confirmed about the impacts that this may have on the health of humans, but it is possible that the chemical contaminants in the gut of fish species may be released from the gut wall into other tissues, which are then consumed by humans.  

It is undeniable that the ultimate measure to stop this problem from getting any worse is to stop plastic debris from entering our oceans altogether. However, until that can be achieved, we have to monitor and measure these plastic fragments washing up on the beach in order to try understand the scale of the problem and how best to manage it – “what gets measured, gets managed”. We do this by using sieves of two different mesh sizes to sift the sand along the strand line at a certain area on the beach. We then take the collected fragments back to our offices where we carefully measure and quantify them. Meticulous work it is!

Friday, October 12, 2018

Green turtle action day!

Following from the last blog update...we are still waiting for the first Hawksbill turtle encounter..... meanwhile, we have some Green turtle actions going on!
We recorded another green turtle track but it didn't appear that she laid. We moved on to another beach and I was alerted by Harm that he had found something....ad indeed it was a great find! There was a Green turtle nest hatching, so we got our gloves out and started helping the little hatchlings to go down the beach. We set them off in front of the vegetation to prevent them from getting caught up in the tall grass and beach morning glory plant and they could then make their way easily to sea.
Harm and Kitty observing the hatchlings
out they come!

We then collected the egg clutch survival data....and it was a stinky nest as there were a few rotten eggs and unfortunately some dead hatchlings in the nest.
Nonetheless, the patrol has been an interesting one and there were smiling faces all around!

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Awaiting the first hawksbill turtle encounter!

As we patiently wait for our first turtle encounter....here is a new blog from my main patrol partner for most of the 2018-2019 nesting season...…..

Hello as this is my first blog I thought it would be good to introduce myself first, Im Harm a 22 yr old student from The Netherlands. For my bachelors in environmental science I decided to do my Internship with MCSS for the Temporal Protected Areas project dealing mostly with sea turtle conservation, which is my main interest and thats where my stay and these blogs will focus on.
measuring a green turtle track (Harm(left) and Jorge)

I arrived a little over a month ago and am still waiting for my first, so elusive, turtle sighting. When I found my first tracks on the beach I was filled with satisfaction, the same happened with my first nest yet a turtle has not been within my grasps just yet.
recording data on the Trimble
Every other workday we scout the beaches in what we call Beach Monitoring, We monitor the following beaches extensively: Grand Police, Petite Police, Intendance, Bazarca, Corail and Chachee. Most of these are well known turtle hotspots and need regular monitoring to search for any possible new nest or tracks.
Anse Capucin beach

The Seychelles host the nesting of two different types of sea turtles; The Green sea turtle, Chelonia mydas, and the Hawksbill turtle, Eretmochelys imbricata. The Green turtle nests throughout the year but the Hawksbill only in nesting season, lucky for me my internship is right at the beginning of the season. Finding the first signs of Hawksbill turtles proved harder than expected, as it took almost two weeks longer than speculated. However, with the first sight of the tracks of the hawksbill followed the first nests. Some of these dating back already a 20 days ago and with the hatching starting approximately 65 days after nesting, its only a few more weeks away before I can hopefully
see the wonders of nature as the hatchlings find their way to the water.
the patrol team

Till then, have a nice day and keep saving the planet one step at a time,

Harm v.Z.