Local Monaco Explorations participants recognised and applauded |03 February 2023
Young Seychellois researchers who participated in the Monaco Explorations expedition in October and November 2022 were yesterday recognised and applauded, in a ceremony organised by the Ministry of Fisheries and the Blue Economy.
The six-strong female scientists who partook in the first leg from Reunion Island to Aldabra, Seychelles, along with eleven other participants who experienced the second leg from Seychelles to Mauritius, the Saya de Malha bank and St Brandon, were presented with certificates of participation by chief executive of the Oceanographic Institute Foundation Albert I, Prince of Monaco and managing director of the expedition, Robert Calcagno, and Minister Jean-Francois Ferrari.
Involving partners from Monaco, France, Mauritius and Seychelles, the Indian Ocean expedition was organised with three main objectives, to understand the economic status and functioning of the area so as to be able to share the issues and knowledge through an outreach programme, and to mobilise governments to support the sustainable management of maritime areas through diplomatic action, using the information and analysis gained.
The expedition was guided by an international advisory committee comprising 40 experts, and was conducted aboard the S.A Agulhas II. The scientists were joined by researchers and students, photographers and divers, among others.
“This Indian Ocean mission was a success, because more than 60 organisations worked together through 20 different nationalities, and during the entire mission, we had over 170 actors,” Dr Calcagno stated.
Having participated in the first leg of the mission for three weeks, Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) employees Corianna Julie and Veronique Banane were involved mainly in phytoplankton and zooplankton sampling and micro plastics sampling.
Within the Aldabra atoll where the team spent six days from October 19 to 25, they collaborated with the scientists from Mauritius and experienced researchers for the milestone deep-sea dive using a remotely-operated underwater vehicle (ROV) to a depth of 700 metres. The furthest depth explored prior to that was 250 metres.
The team collected a number of samples including two glass water bottles, and found different species at different depths, including a bio-luminescent specimen found at 700 metres. They are hoping to publish the results of the experiments conducted onboard the vessel for other researchers and scientists to access.
“One of the great things is that we had collaborative research with regional scientists, as well as international scientists. We were also exposed to state-of-the-art oceanographic equipment and this was especially amazing as these are equipment that we would otherwise not have been exposed to, if not for the Monaco Expedition,” Ms Julie said.
“Our journey does not end here. At the moment, we are working on the footage obtained from the ROV. We are also working on the environmental DNA samples to try and identify species of interest that we can find at the great depths around Aldabra,” she added.
Asides from Ms Julie and Ms Banane, Ella Nancy, Saratha Naiken, Magali Rocamora and Shemilla Jeremie took part in the first leg of the mission.
The second leg, where the scientific programme focused on the Joint Management Area (JMA), the Saya de Malha bank, saw the participation of Abel Sorry, Rodney Bonne, Joshua Marie, Rosabella Mangroo, Annie Vidot, Bianca Mazzorchi, Estelle Barreau, Patsy Theresine, Camilla Labonte, Nuette Gendron and Mariette Dine.
Eight projects were conducted during this phase, under the leadership of senior marine researcher with the French Research Institute for Sustainable Development and chief scientist for the second part of the mission, Dr Francis Marsac.
In concluding the ceremony, Dr Calcagno said he is looking forward to the extension and reinforcement of cooperation through new projects in future.
He also extended an invitation to the Seychelles government for the 14th edition of the Monaco Blue Initiative to be held on March 20.
For his part, Minister Ferrari thanked the government of Monaco for the close collaboration, which he said is essential and forms the basis to scientific, political and economic collaboration.
“I believe the whole world will benefit, the first being the region, and the whole scientific world. There is still an enormous amount of research to be done in these domains, and we are sure that the partnership and trust between our countries will permit these researches, information exchange and the treasures which lie in this information,” Minister Ferrari added.
Present for the ceremony were representatives of different schools, institutions, the University of Seychelles (UniSey), the Ministry of Agriculture, Climate Change and Environment (MACCE), The Blue Economy Research Institute (BERI) Seychelles, and SIF among others.
Also present was French ambassador to Seychelles, Olivia Berkely-Christmann.
The Monaco Explorations is an initiative launched in 2017 by Prince Albert II of Monaco, reviving the tradition of his great-great-grandfather’s work, with the aim of establishing strong partnerships and international scientific expeditions.
Photos by Joena Meme