Reaching 700 metres using a Saab Seaeye Cougar XT, Marine Solutions, based in Cape Town, South Africa makes it possible


Preliminary results of the Unesco world heritage site, the Aldabra atoll, by the Monaco Explorations were yesterday presented to scientists, environmentalists, board members of Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) and the media.

During the over two-hour presentation, scientists on board the Monaco Expedition research ship ‘S.A Agulhas 2’ linked up with those on Mahé to present findings of various research carried out late last month in the atoll.

These included a study on the genetic structure, contaminant and stress levels in marine turtles , as well as the benthic mapping of Aldabra’s channel by ‘Institut Français de recherche pour l’exploitation de la mer’ led by Dr Jerome Bourjea and Dr Sylvain Bonhommeau respectively.

‘Universite de la Reunion’ had focused their research on macro-waste stranded on Aldabra Island. The team led by Vyctoria Marillac, with the help of SIF staff, had collected 20.3 kilogrammes of waste, comprising 46 different brands including hard plastic, glass, metal, fisheries waste.

In her presentation, Ms Marillac explained the aim of the study was to understand the origin of the waste and increase their knowledge about macro-litter pollution so as to establish a dialogue and eventually put in place better waste management plan for the place.

SIF’s team, comprising science officer Corianna Julie and senior project officer Veronique Banane presented their findings following an exploration of the deep of Aldabra atoll using the Remotely-Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV).

The two officers who had boarded the research vessel in Mauritius spent 18 days on board, five of which were spent carrying out the study using the ROV at a depth of 700 metres, the lowest they had done. They said this in itself was a milestone. The last expedition on board the Nekton expedition in 2020 was at a depth of 250 metres.

According to Ms Julie, the ROV was supposed to do a six-hour dive per day footage and pictures of various species taken at different water levels as well as objects found in the area, were shown during the presentation. The team also collected water samples at different levels for analysis and results are expected at a later date.

Speaking to the local media after their presentation, both Ms Julie and Ms Banane described it as a memorable experience.

“We were exposed to different new fields of science and we were able to interact with many professors who are experts in their field. It was a great experience to engage with them and I personally have learned so much during those 18 days on board the research ship,” said Ms Julie.

This was echoed by her colleague, Ms Banane who said the experience was “immeasurable and memorable as we did so many work in our seas, our region, and of course our own Aldabra which is an exceptional place”.

According to Dr Frauke Fleischer-Dogley, those preliminary data show the state of the atoll from the amount of macro-waste to the various planktons growing on the atoll, as well as the turtle and other species living in that area.

She said the data is very important because it gives reference on the state of Aldabra at present.

“These information has huge implications because it shows the health of this remote place, which has very limited human impact. So it is always important to compare places like Aldabra to other places inhabited by humans, so that we can see the difference,” said Dr Fleischer-Dogley.

She added that following this initial research, SIF would push for follow-up studies.

“Scientists on board the vessel have proposed that we can use other types of cameras to pursue our study at various depths, since we will not have the use of the ROV. They will assist us to identify the best cameras and we will go from there because we want to observe the changes that takes place over the years,” she added.

Monaco Explorations is a platform supporting H.S.H. Prince Albert II of Monaco’s commitment to knowledge, sustainable management and protection of the Ocean.

Last month it was in the western Indian Ocean, including the Aldabra Atoll from October 19-25 , with a 100 people on board its vessel, including scientists, young researchers and students from the onboard school, filmmakers, photographers and divers.