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February Update: Mission Blue declares Inhambane a Hope Spot, Marine Debris update and Devil Rays

Happy 2022!

We are very excited to learn that our region, the Inhambane Seascape has been recognised as a Hope Spot. Benguerra Island, where our research station is located, is part of the Bazaruto Archipelago, which lies in the heart of the Inhambane province’s waters. Dr Sylvia Earle’s NGO, Mission Blue, acknowledged the work Mozambique is doing to strive to meet the UN Convention on Biological Diversity to protect 30% of its marine resources by 2030. As part of reaching this goal, the Inhambane Seascape became part of a network of marine protected areas (MPAs). Mission Blue is uniting a global coalition to inspire an upwelling of public awareness, access, and support for a worldwide network of marine protected areas – Hope Spots.

Dr. Sylvia Earle says “Mozambique as a country has already taken significant actions to safeguard the extraordinary rich, highly important life along the coastline. There’s an opportunity now to significantly scale up and embrace those areas that are already protected along the coast.”

Our team is thrilled to learn that Inhambane will become a Hope Spot. “It is fantastic to see Mozambique and its marine life richness and conservation efforts featured in Sylvia Earle’s Mission Blue. BCSS has been working in the region for the last four years, opening the first Ocean Observatory in the Indian Ocean releasing data directly towards conservation of the West Indian Ocean. We share the same goals as Mission Blue, so this is a great step forward for Mozambique”, Dr. Mario Lebrato, BCSS Chief Scientist.

Read the official statement by Mission Blue here.

Dr. Sylvia Earle introduces the Inhambane Hope Spot

Interesting Wildlife Behaviour: Devil Rays at Cleaning Station

On the 17th of January, the BCSS team saw three devil rays (Mobula mobular) at a cleaning station on the reef just off Benguerra Island. Cleaning stations are certain locations, usually big ‘bommies’ (big coral structures), which host cleaner fish, like butterfly fish and several species of wrasse. The fish remove itchy parasites and algaefrom the skin of the rays and inside their mouth, besides helping to heal wounds by removing the dead skin and bacteria, enabling a rapid recovery. Rays and sharks can spend many hours a day getting cleaned, and seeing this event on the 17th allowed the BCSS team quite some time to observe the devil rays.

Marine Debris Collections Update

In January, the BCSS team visited four sites in collaboration with African Parks. At site A, the northern beach on the eastside of Benguerra Island, the group collected a total of 44kgs, existing primarily of hard plastics, PET bottles and rubber. Site B’s debris, located south of site A, consisted of hard plastic (21kg) but also a significant amount of glass (10kg), the final amount coming to 62kg. A total of 43kg was collected at site D, a mangrove forest, the majority here being clothing (11kg) and marine gear (10kg). The least marine debris was found at site E (mudflats and beach), where mostly hard plastics and marine gear were found, accumulating no more than 9kg in total.

In total, the team has collected 158.7kg of marine debris in the last month. All marine debris is sent to our waste management facility at the BCSS field station, where the waste is being analysed and measured.

Wildlife Highlights

Last month’s dives were full of exciting wildlife sightings. On one dive, the team spotted a group of Malabar groupers (Epinephelus malabaricus) of which one was swimming oddly, with mouth agape, and it seemed like he had a pufferfish stuck in its mouth. They also spotted a green turtle (Chelonia mydas) missing a fin, which may have been bitten off by a shark. Other sightings include a grey reef shark (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos), blue-spotted ribbon-tail stingray (Taeniura lymma), big schools of fish and large parrot fish.

Wildlife Highlights

We had several dive courses running in January, so the team combined research expeditions with teaching the volunteers and interns. Various types of rays, dolphins and sharks were seen out at sea last month. See below for the details.

• 12 January: A hawksbill turtle (Eretmochelys imbricata) was spotted feeding on substrates northeast of Benguerra Island.
• 13 January: A sleeping green turtle (Chelonia mydas) was sighted northeast of Benguerra Island.
• 16 January: Six bottlenose dolphins (Tursiops truncatus) were seen from the boat as they swam around the surface on the east side of Bazaruto Island.
• 17 January: A total of three devil rays (Mobula mobular) were seen at a cleaning station northeast of Benguerra Island.
• 18 January: Three grey reef sharks (Carcharhinus amblyrhynchos) were swimming around the reef northeast of Benguerra Island.

© Daniel Escayola

Permaculture Update

After harvesting vegetables over the last few months, the BCSS gardening team is now busy with maintenance work. New fences are being installed, plots are being expanded and the pathways are being renewed to prepare for the coming year. We are expecting lots of successful crops, filling our kitchen with sustainably grown, fresh produce every week.

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