In the context of World Seagrass Day observed on 01 March, an official ceremony was held, this morning, in the presence of the Minister of Blue Economy, Marine Resources, Fisheries and Shipping, Mr Sudheer Maudhoo, at the Jalsa Beach Hotel in Poste Lafayette. An Information Board on the importance of seagrass was unveiled at the public beach on this occasion.
The Minister of Information Technology, Communication and Innovation, Mr Deepak Balgobin, the Parliamentary Private Secretary, Mr Rajanah Dhaliah, and other eminent personalities, were also present.
The United Nations declared 01 March as the World Seagrass Day last year in a bid to raise awareness of the threats these essential marine habitats currently face. It is a day to take recognisance of the global drive to protect and restore our precious seagrass meadows which are vital for our marine ecosystem. The theme retained by the Ministry is “Saving seagrass means saving mankind”.
In his address, Minister Maudhoo indicated that Mauritius is among the first countries in the world to celebrate the Day at a national level while highlighting the importance of this sensitive ecosystem to our oceans as well as to mankind. He stated that seagrass meadows provide food and habitat for a number of species such as shellfish, seahorses, and sea turtles and form the basis of the world’s primary fishing grounds, supplying 20% of the world’s fisheries.
He further dwelt on other benefits of seagrass such as improving water quality, absorbing around 18% of the world’s oceanic carbon, and protecting the coastal ecosystem. “There are currently 72 recorded types of seagrasses in the world, covering an area of around 300,000 square kilometers in 159 countries and in Mauritius, we have six species of seagrass covering approximately 500 hectares,” he indicated.
The Fisheries Minister pointed out that seagrasses are among the least protected coastal ecosystems and it is estimated that 7 % of this key marine habitat is being lost worldwide per year. He underlined that in order to bridge this gap, the Albion Fisheries Research Centre of his Ministry has, since January 2019, kicked off the project “Assessment of Blue Carbon Ecosystem (Seagrass) around the island of Mauritius: Relevance for Marine Spatial Planning”.
This project, he added, is funded to a tune of USD $ 190, 000 by the United Nations Environment Programme Nairobi Convention under their scheme “Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme for the protection of the Western Indian Ocean from land-based sources and activities”. The project consists of investigating the current status of seagrass in Mauritius and determining their carbon sink potential to enable management strategies of seagrass in Mauritius; and formulate policies towards conservation and rehabilitation of seagrass ecosystems.
In addition, Minister Maudhoo stated that the Ministry is starting a series of sensitisation and educational programmes on the importance of seagrass. He added that information boards on the importance of seagrass will be placed at other identified sites to create awareness among the public.
For his part, Minister Balgobin underlined that Government is striving hard to protect our marine and coastal diversity. The ocean, he observed, is threatened by several factors such as pollution and climate change due to which significant amount of seagrass are being wiped out every year.
He pointed out that seagrass is of paramount importance like coral reefs and mangroves and that they can be highly beneficial in mitigating the impacts of climate change.