[17th January 2017]. Our scientists teamed up with the dive staff from the Manta Resort and did a series of exploratory dives around the islands of Njao and Fundo. We videoed the reef at around 15 m with a wide angle so that we recorded as much of the reef as we could. Some of our dives lasted almost 2 hours! We wanted to know things like, where are the areas with the highest coral cover? Where are the areas of highest coral diversity? Are there any fish breeding or nursery areas? Our idea was that we should look at the whole of the Pemba Channel Conservation Area [PeCCA] so that the most important areas can be protected or managed effectively and efficiently.
We made some amazing and important discoveries! We found one reef with almost 100% live coral cover in places, beautiful seascapes of intact reefs extending to 40 metres below the surface. We found other reefs with lots of different species, including some fine examples of branching Acropora colonies – a species particularly susceptible to coral bleaching. There were reefs with lots of fish, reefs with very few fish and reefs with important food species. Quite unexpectedly, we came across areas where the reefs were not in such good shape but there were literally billions of tiny fish fry cascading down the reef faces from the surface to depths of 20 metres, like clouds pouring down a mountain side. Even the lagoon behind the islands holds some unusual features with massive coral colonies – estimated to be over 500 years old – in excellent condition nestled amongst the seagrass beds!
What does it all mean? We have to go back and do more work to put all the pieces together and look at whether some of the observations are seasonal phenomena. But we are confident that we could identify between 3 and 5 critical areas worthy of protected status for either corals conservation or fisheries preservation.
We will post further information on the website as we continue to explore this fascinating coastal environment.