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Category: Marine Conservation

Marine Conservation Team - Solly 2
BlogMarine Conservation

Marine Conservation Team: Solly

MRCI would be nowhere without our dedicated team. We are ever so grateful for everyone from our maintenance and kitchen staff to our conservation and community team members. This week, we would like to introduce you to Solly!

Marine Conservation Team - Solly 2

Solly is our fantastic MRCI Marine Conservation and Island Outreach Officer. He has always loved the environment, having grown up in the rural areas of Madagascar next to the sea. As a young man, he saw a lot of people asking questions about the sea and noticed a lack of understanding in the local communities. This drove his desire to learn more about the marine environment and to educate people. As such, he went on to study a Masters Degree in Marine Biology at the University North Antsiranana (UNA).

Solly arrived at MRCI in 2019 to work as our Marine Conservation Intern. He progressed to work as our Island Outreach Officer where he taught communities and volunteers about environmental protection and Malagasy language and culture. Due to his amazing attitude and enthusiasm, he was quickly promoted to Marine Conservation and Island Outreach Officer, a role in which he built on his knowledge from his Masters Degree, learning more about coral reef ecosystems and fish. He really enjoyed this time, and also conducted a project on monitoring coral reefs in collaboration with the UNA.

Marine Conservation Team - Solly 1

Solly has become a truly invaluable member of our team. He is an excellent diver, having had the opportunity to complete his Emergency First Responder training, PADI Rescue Diver Course, and PADI Divemaster at MRCI. He is also trained in identifying fish, corals, algae, benthic invertebrates and seagrass. Due to his passion for educating local communities, he runs our staff environmental education programme. His favourite thing about working at MRCI is learning the identification of coral reef organisms and researching about corals.

Solly – we’re so glad to have you as part of the MRCI team!


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BlogMarine Conservation

Volunteering in Madagascar during a Pandemic

Author: Ava Graham
Date: April 2021


I arrived at MRCI’s hidden camp found on the beautiful shores of Nosy Komba, also known as Lemur Island. I was feeling excited and eager to learn and explore yet nervous to call this remote camp home for the upcoming 7 weeks. I soon realised that there was nothing to be frightened about. Everybody I met, from other volunteers to staff and locals, were kind and welcoming as well as great fun.

What surprised me most about volunteering was the endless possibilities to learn. In my first week, I found myself being familiarised with 184 species of fish, being lectured on marine conservation whilst also being taught both Malagasy and French. What may have seemed like a quiet camp, was in fact a community of like-minded ocean enthusiasts who were always willing to do and learn more.


Since childhood, the ocean and everything that it holds has always interested me. Next year, I will study marine biology at university but I was eager to travel and gain new real-life experiences in the marine world first. I began volunteering on the coast of Kenya by helping to conserve the turtle populations through community education on the hazards of overfishing, protecting turtle nest sites and rehabilitating injured turtles.

This volunteering experience highlighted the importance of both education and habitat protection. I wanted to continue my conservation efforts by protecting our seas. The MRCI Marine Conservation Volunteering Programme gave me the opportunity to learn and teach in what seems like another world, Madagascar!


Marine Conservation Volunteering Program: My Learning Journey

When volunteering in the marine conservation program, you can pick which group of marine life you want to learn and survey. The choice is between benthic (sea floor), sessile (coral reefs) and active swimmers (fish). I chose active swimmers! From the onset, it was my priority to learn and identify 184 species of fish found within MRCI’s dive site, Turtle Towers.

Every weekday, I was given the opportunity to dive and identify new active swimmers through point-out tests under the water. Back at camp, I had guided study lessons to help me memorise the (what seemed never-ending) species list. During the week, I also partook in regular beach cleans which, despite the long hot walk, always felt rewarding after coming back with 2 or 3 sacks full of litter. We would later recycle all of the pollution into our own ‘eco-bricks’.

Picking up old plastic bottles, toothbrushes, flipflops and broken sunglasses opens your eyes to scale of waste we produce in our modern world. So much of what we use in our daily lives will eventually end up in our seas. My direct experience of collecting our universal waste has inspired me to actively take part in helping to stop plastic pollution. Through education and new policies to ban and limit plastic waste as well as investing in new plastic alternatives, we can change our flawed waste disposal system and help keep our ocean clean and healthy!

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BlogCommunity DevelopmentForest ConservationIsland LifeIsland OutreachMarine ConservationSea Turtle MonitoringTeaching

Volunteers with Silver Linings

January 2020


Our volunteers and programs came to an unfortunate halt this past week. A tropical storm passed over, which made way for an unusual week. Due to poor visibility and high swells our marine volunteers were unable to dive. The turtle conservation volunteers didn’t get to do their active turtle surveys. The muddy and slippery trails meant no hiking for the forest volunteers. Teaching and community volunteers were confined to Turtle Cove Camp, as boat rides and hiking to Ampang became too risky.

Wet season is no joke, and we take all of the necessary precautions to ensure everyone’s safety. Despite everything, the positive energy displayed by our volunteers shined through and saved the week. Vibrant new volunteers gave it their all and carried out beach cleans, strengthened their species knowledge through games and lectures, countless bamboo straws and eco brick were also made!


The most significant event of the week was by far our beach clean. We had volunteers from all programs join in and take part. It is the middle of turtle nesting season, and although we have been eagerly awaiting any sign of turtle activity, we’ve received no indication of turtles nesting. So, when we came to find a beach littered with about fifty eggs, it was equally devastating and exciting. Turtle Conservation Manager, Russel, was part of the beach clean-up crew. He was able to offer valuable insights into what had occurred and what it meant for the baby turtles.

Unfortunately, due to the fragility of turtle nests (or clutches), the beached turtle embryos had no chance of survival. Two important and sensitive factors when turtle eggs are laid in their nest would be their orientation within and temperature. These factors ultimately affecting their survival. The harsh storm and exposure on the beach meant that there was no chance of survival for the turtle eggs that we had found. Russel opened a turtle egg and talked everyone through turtle development.


Although a sad experience, our volunteers found it very informative and left with a greater understanding of the many challenges that these animals face. We left our beach as clean as possible and continued our clean ups as much as we could throughout the rest of the week. The energy of our volunteers is unparalleled and we wouldn’t be anything close to what we are without them.


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BlogMarine Conservation

The Parking Lot is Growing

Margot Lootens

The Parking Lot in our MPA

About a year ago we started the construction of our sixth artificial reef named “the Parking Lot”. We bought three broken-down cars on Nosy Be and sunk them in the sea a few hundred meters in front of our beach. The metal frame of an old car forms a perfect base to create an interesting artificial reef which provides shelter and food for a variety of marine species, from corals and sea urchins to endemic fish and enormous jellyfish.


Already after a few months the metal frames were covered in algae, providing a base for coral to attach to the cars as well, in turn attracting a bigger variety of species to the reef. The Parking Lot has become an interesting site for our mariners to survey and, even more importantly, it contributes to the reconstruction and expansion of the reef out here in front of our beach.


Because of the success of this initiative, we recently decided to extend the Parking Lot. We managed to purchase three more broken-down cars in Hell-Ville. Placing the cars into the water was an entire operation, demanding some helping hands from both volunteers and staff members. Fortunately, this time we could use our boat, the Spirit of Malala, to transport the cars to the reef which made the operation a lot easier in comparison to a year ago when we had to keep them afloat with makeshift buoys.


The first car arrived on Friday afternoon. About ten volunteers got on board the Malala to lift and drop the car into the ocean while three of our marine staff members were in the water to guarantee the proper placement of the car on the bottom of the sea. Saturday morning two more cars arrived and were placed alongside the other cars to complete the Parking Lot. For now, we have to let nature do its work. Hopefully in a few months’ time we can start to attach coral to the frames and the reef can continue to expand.


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BlogMarine Conservation

The Importance Of Seashells


Why Are Seashells Important?

Seashells are crucial components in coastal and marine ecosystems as they have multiple functions. Perhaps the most obvious, natural uses for shell are the homes they make for hermit crabs, whose bodies curl comfortably around the interior of spiral shaped seashells. However as more trash makes its way to the ocean and surrounding coastlines and as fewer shells are available for these animals, hermit crabs are forced to find alternative housing. It is becoming increasingly common to find hermit crabs living in toxic plastic ware such as bottle and toothpaste caps which do not fit their body shape and make for a very uncomfortable and dangerous living.

Hermit crabs are not the only ones who benefit an abundance of shells; seashells provide home or attachment for algae, seagrass, sponges and many other microorganisms and microorganisms. Animals such as decorator crabs and octopus use shells as camouflage and many fish use shells as hiding places to avoid predators.

Seashells also aid in beach stabilisation and create important sediment. Understanding where shells come from adds more meaning their vital role in the ecosystem. Shells are the discarded exoskeletons of molluscs, mostly made form calcium carbonate, which in many coastal habitats dissolved slowly and is recycled back into the ocean.


In comparison to the billions of years that marine ecosystems have existed, the removal of seashells from coastlines and the ocean is a relatively new practice. Despite humans (Homo genus) having existed for 2.5 million years, the earliest evidence we have of shelling was found by archeologists excavating 30,000-year-old Homo sapiens sites in the European Mainland. There they found seashells from the Mediterranean and Atlantic coasts which probably made their way to the continental interior by long distance trade between human bands. Furthermore, for around 4000 years cowry shells were used as money in many parts of Africa, South Asia, East Asia and Oceana. In fact, up until the early 20th century taxes could still be paid in cowry shells in British Uganda.

Despite humans having used shells for so long, it has only been since international tourism gained popularity (roughly in the 1970s) that the collection of shells has been such a widespread and impactful issue. For example, along the Mediterranean coast of Spain a mass increase in tourism during July and August has correlated with a 70% decrease in mollusk shells compared to numbers from the 1970s. Other months also saw a 60% decrease in shell abundance.

Some areas which have noticed similar correlations have begun regulating shelling. For instance, the Bahamas now limit the quantity of seashells that’s tourists can export without special permits so that tourism doesn’t have such a negative impact on the health of the ecosystem.

Entire counties putting rules in place, restricting the collection of shells is a huge step to solving the problem, however it is the actions of individuals around the world that has the most potential.


The best way to be environmentally friendly and help conserve the marine environment is to simply not take shells (or any other natural material for that matter) from coastlines or the ocean. However, if a person really cannot resist the urge to collect seashells, there are guidelines as to how to be more responsible:

1. Only take small, simple shells such as flat and cowry shells.

2. Only take a few- although a handful of shells may not seem like much, most people in the world have that same mindset so the total numbers of shells being removed from shorelines is huge.

3. Leave big and more complex (swirly) shells- remember that in order for a shell to be big an animal had to grow that big which is a rare occurrence. Also, swirly shells provide perfect homes for hermit crabs.

If you do choose to collect seashells, avoid sharing it on social media because others may not know how to do it responsibly/ethically. Educating others on the impacts of shelling and how to collect shells in a responsible way is another great way to play a part in conserving the marine environment.

Always remember: ‘Take only pictures, leave only footprints.’


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