Friday, February 22, 2008

Message to the next volunteers

Welcome to Andavadock (sic),
You might be in for a bit of a shock.
I'm not going to talk about mozzies nor deet, Instead here's a kelikely poem all about feet.

It all begins very, very small,
Just when you think you are having a ball.
You slice a heel or stub a toe,
And then your life is full of woe.

Doc says no diving! and keep it clean!
You take no notice and think she's mean!
What does she know about diving?
She's never been!
Doesn't she know there's things to be seen?

The hole is getting bigger now,
"Please no diving", from the doc, oh she's a cow.
What does she know? the sea is blue,
I don't think she's got a clue!

It's getting sore and the hole is growing,
And from the centre the pus is flowing.
Oh my goodness, doc was right,
What a truly horrendous sight.

Cleaned and iodine-d and bandaged too,
My foot is so swollen, it won't fit into my shoe!
Now keep it clean and keep it dry,
And watch for any red lines tracking to your thigh.

Dancing in the Epi bar all night long,
I knew it was wrong;
Especially as my bandage didn't last very long.
Antibiotics prescribed by the doc,
Who would have thought all this from kicking a rock?

Red line appearing, I know it's too late, There it is again. that word. EVACUATE!!!
Let me stay. please, please, please,
But the infection is spreading up to my knees!

I leave Andavadoaka before the end,
And so please pass on this story, my friend.
As you are here, you never met the same fate, Because you guys never left it too late.
And you are the last ones here to survive , On EXPEDITION 35.

Written by Charlie (Field Scientist) and Becks (BV Medic)

Don't worry, Be happy!!

Don't Worry, Be Happy
Sung along to the tune of the Bobby McFerrin song. Words by Charlie & Becks

Don't Worry, Be Happy
Here's a little song I wrote,
You might want to sing it note for note,
Don't worry be happy

Came to Mada to learn to dive,
On expedition 35.
Don't worry be happy

Lots of rain makes us sad,
Cause that means the viz is bad.
Don't worry be happy

6 weeks has been and gone
That's why we've sat down and wrote this song
So don't worry be happy

Nik-he tangles SMB's
And does Tai Be on his knees
Don't worry be happy

Ellie's hammocks they're so fine
She's really having a swinging time
Don't worry be happy

Danielle she look so pretty,
All the men think she's a fitty.
Don't worry be happy

Hasina, she is so strong
She keeps arm wrestles all night long
Don't worry be happy

Jeremy he is fine
In his frock he looks divine
Don't worry be happy

Abi on her village stay
She was a vezo for a day.
Don't worry now be happy

Monika she's been here a while
And yet Andavadoaka, it still makes her smile
Don't worry be happy

When Igor came, he went full throttle
Made a sofa from our bottles
Don't worry be happy

Aladdin came and learnt his fish
And really he is quite a dish.
Don't worry be happy

And then of course there is the staff
We hope sometimes we made you laugh.
Don't worry be happy

Down in Da Da's your bum is shaking
Floretta's rear is record breaking
Don't worry be happy

So now it's time to end this song
Before it goes on far too long
Don't worry be happy
So raise your glass, here's to you
Don't worry be happy.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

The UK's first community Marine Protected Area

Recent news suggests that UK communities are becoming increasingly aware of the degradation to the marine environment occurring in their local area. 10 years of discussions, conflict and compromise has led to approval for a marine conservation area off the Isle of Arran; the first time statutory protection has been given to a marine area as a result of proposals being developed at grassroots level. Blue Ventures has been working towards the establishment of Madagascar's first community managed marine protected area for the past three years and recently received temporary status from the government.

In both the UK and Madagascar, lengthy discussions between environmentalists, fishermen and community members have resulted in unique collaborations. The Scottish government recently approved the idea, which will be sent out to consultation before final approval from Holyrood. The plans for the Velondriake MPA were recently approved by the Malagasy government and it has been awarded temporary status as an MPA protecting it from destructive fishing methods and other unregulated activities.

In both instances, fishermen have reported declines in fish abundance and catch size and communities and conservationists have intervened to try and reduce this decline. The Isle of Arran is planning to designate 267 hectares of Lamlash bay as a no-take zone, where fishing is banned, with a further 660 hectares set aside as a fisheries management area, subject to scientific regulation. Fishermen do not support the claim that repeated dredging of the local seabed has left it bare of marine life, and are generally antagonistic towards interfering environmental NGOs. Similarly in Andavadoaka concerns are being raised over the increasing number of trawlers sighted in the lagoon, and the potential damaging effects these will have on the coral reefs.

The UK's first no-take zone was set up in 2003 at Lundy Island off the North Devon coast, after pressure by English Nature and the Devon Sea Fisheries Committee. Within 18 months, conservationists were reporting that sea life was recovering, with three times as many lobsters in the no-take area compared to areas where fishing was allowed. Fishermen may also benefit from 'spillover effects', where stock density increases within the no-take zone to the extent that species 'spillover' into areas outside the protected area where fishing is allowed, thus increasing catch size outside of the no-take zones.

Striking a balance is a key aspect of marine resource management today. Fishermen who depend on the sea for their livelihood must understand the logic behind the establishment of MPA's, and allowances must be made by local communities and conservationists to ensure self-sufficiency is maintained. Both Blue Ventures and the Community of Arran Seabed Trust have made the first steps to ensuring the long term sustainability of marine resources. Collaboration with supportive local communities and fishermen is the only way to ensure this sustainability is maintained.

For the full story check out the Guardian website

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Expedition 35 says goodbye

As expedition 35 draws to a close, the 16 volunteers that began are now down to a lucky nine. Nine for whom six weeks will never be enough. I pity those who departed before the expedition ended, to return to the world of stress and work otherwise known as reality. Alien concepts in the paradise that is Andavadoaka. Diving, manta towing, ground-truthing, baobabs, and of course the goats, to name but a few of the pleasures they have left behind. Don't be deceived by the self-deprecating pre-departure handbook. The food's aplenty and the beers are cold. The crystal clear sea is like a hot bath and the sun like a warming massage.

Days are spent sailing gently over the turquoise waters in a pirogue or rocking gently in locally made hammocks enjoying sea views to die for or reading one of the fabulously mildewed books in the on site "library". When not relaxing, involvement in the Blue Ventures community and the scientific research therein is gratifying and one cannot fail to see the positive effects BV's presence has brought to the local area and its economy. BV gives the opportunity for a diving holiday that through the volunteer's scientific involvement can help preserve the reefs and marine environments that make diving so gratifying. I cannot recommend the Andavadoaka experience highly enough. but before I sign off, I'd like to make a few suggestions to the budding volunteer: Visit the epi-bars as much as possible to support the local economy. Also, bring spices, sauces and snacks as an essential item as although good, the food may become tedious and a change in flavours is a much enjoyed break from fish. So, I urge you, sign up for the next expedition and claim your place in paradise.

Nick Bradish & Igor Ayrton

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

The Perfect morning in Andavadoaka


Loads of fun people
Plenty of high factor suncream
Bok bok

1) Begin by rising from a restful slumber at 5am. Emerge from your hut to view the full moon setting over the western horizon. Wait until the reflecting light on the surface of the water reaches the rocky cliffs of the shoreline. Breathe deeply, filling your lungs with the glorious salty air and do a few stretches to limber up for a strenuous science dive.

2) Head east toward Bat Cave at a leisurely pace and enjoy the first few pink rays of sunshine rising above the spiny forest. In just a few short hours the sun will be mercilessly beating down, making you feel like a roast in an oven turned to gas mark 5; but for now it feels good.

3) Assemble your scuba gear taking great pains to remember your slate and measuring tape. This is not a diving holiday and you will be collecting critical information about the coral reefs and resident fish.

4) Jump on the dive boat and speed along until you think you may be near a reef. If you haven’t done anything fady hope there might be a rainbow stretching across the sky. Follow this and you will definitely find the reef.

5) Listen carefully for the boat captain’s cry of “aleffa! Raiky, rua, telo!” and roll off to an undersea wonderland full of fish to be identified and counted. After no more than 45 minutes at 18 metres or less, ascend slowly and head back to shore.

6) Then off to the restaurant to fill up on Malagasy doughnuts (bok bok) and coffee exchanging tales with all the fabulous members of expedition 35.

And that is how you create a perfect start to another perfect day in paradise.

Ellie Hanlon (Volunteer)

Friday, February 01, 2008

Alarming rates of mangrove habitat loss

The current decline of vast areas of mangroves is an environmental problem that must be urgently addressed: new figures show that 20% (3.6million hectares) of the world's mangrove area has been destroyed since 1980. The loss of mangrove ecosystems causes widespread environmental and economic damage, and the recently reported loss needs to be acted upon immediately. Countries must engage in more effective conservation and sustainable management of the world's mangroves and other wetland ecosystems, ahead of World Wetlands day tomorrow.

The total mangrove area has declined from 18.8m ha (46.4m acres) in 1980 to 15.2m ha (37.5m acres) in 2005. However the report by the FAO in Rome did show that there has been a slowdown in the rate of mangrove loss: from some 187,000 ha destroyed annually in the 1980s to 102,000 ha a year between 2000 and 2005. This reflected an increased awareness of the value of mangrove ecosystems.

Mangroves are salt-tolerant evergreen forests that are found along coastlines, lagoons, rivers or deltas in 124 tropical and subtropical countries and areas around the world, providing protection against erosion, cyclones and wind. Around 50% of the world's total mangrove area is found in Indonesia, Australia, Brazil, Nigeria and Mexico and they are hugely important ecosystems providing wood, food, fodder, medicine and honey for humans, and habitats for many animals like crocodiles and snakes, tigers, deer, otters, dolphins and birds. A wide range of fish and shellfish also depend on mangroves as the swamps help to filter sediment and pollution from water upstream and stop it disturbing the delicate balance of ecosystems like coral reefs.

The main causes of the destruction of mangrove swampland include population pressure, conversion for shrimp and fish farming, agriculture, infrastructure and tourism, as well as pollution and natural disasters;

"Mangroves are important forested wetlands and most countries have now banned the conversion of mangroves for aquaculture and they assess the impact on the environment before using mangrove areas for other purposes," said Wulf Killmann, the director of the FAO's forest products and industry division.

"This has lead to better protection and management of mangroves in some countries. Overall, the loss of these coastal forests remains alarming. The rate of mangrove loss is significantly higher than the loss of any other types of forests.

Shrinking mangrove forests "can lead to severe losses of biodiversity and livelihoods, in addition to salt intrusion in coastal areas and siltation of coral reefs, ports and shipping lanes," Killmann said.

Asia suffered the largest net loss of mangroves since 1980, with more than 1.9m ha destroyed, mainly due to changes in land use. At the country level, Indonesia, Mexico, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea and Panama recorded the largest losses of mangroves during the 1980s. A total of some 1m ha were lost in these five countries - a land area equivalent to Jamaica. In the 1990s, Pakistan and Panama succeeded in reducing their rate of mangrove loss, while Vietnam, Malaysia and Madagascar suffered increased clearing and moved into the top five countries with major area losses in the 1990s and 2000-05.

"Part of the largest mangrove area in the world, the Sundarbans reserved forest in Bangladesh, is well protected and no major changes in the extent of the area have occurred during the last few decades, although some damage to the mangroves was reported after the recent cyclone in 2007. In Ecuador, the abandoning of ponds and structures for shrimp and salt production has led to a rebuilding of various mangrove sites.

The assessment of the world's mangroves from 1980-2005 was prepared in collaboration with mangrove specialists throughout the world and was co-funded by the International Tropical Timber Organisation (ITTO). The FAO and ITTO are currently working with the International Society for Mangrove Ecosystems and other partner organisations to produce a World Atlas of Mangroves to be published later this year.

For the full report visit the Guardian website