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Research Projects

Ongoing Projects

Bathymetric survey of the shallow lagoons of Mauritius and Rodrigues

The primary objective of the survey is to have a detailed bathymetric profile of the lagoons of the islands of the Republic of Mauritius. This work will eventually be extended to cover Agalega and St Brandon. The data generated after processing will help to investigate the following:-in relation to sea floor morphology and depth:

  • Zonation patterns of lagoonal biotopes
  • Preparation of inundation maps
  • Modelling of coastal processes

Continued surveys will show the evolution of the bottom topography in relation to sediment movement and erosional patterns. This will help in formulation of strategies to contain erosion and will help in identification of places where refurbishment is needed. Raw data for the following areas have been acquired:

  • Flic en Flac
  • Trou Aux Biches
  • Mon Choisy
  • La Preneuse
  • Belle Mare
  • Palmar
  • Pointe Aux Cannoniers
  • Grand Bay
  • Pereybere
  • Poudre D’Or /Pointe Des Lascars
  • Albion
  • Blue Bay /Pointe D’Esny /La Cambuse
  • Baie du Tombeau
  • Rivière Noire
  • Cap Malheureux
  • Bain bœuf
  • Riviere Noire
  • Case Noyale
  • La Gaulette
  • Le Morne
  • Macondé
  • Baie du Cap
  • Tamarin
  • A few sites in Rodrigues

The bathymetric data have been used by the Ministry of Environment for the Conservation Plan of the Rep. of Mauritius.

Implementation Status

  • 2007-2012: phase 1
  • 2016-2017: phase 2
  • Completed to around 80%

Continental Shelf Project

The Mauritius Oceanography Institute has been entrusted by Government to prepare the technical submission of Mauritius for an extended continental shelf (ECS) to the United Nations Commission for the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS). The Sub-Commission presented its recommendations to the main UN Commission where it was finally adopted on 30 March 2011. This conferred upon Mauritius and Seychelles the joint jurisdiction of an Extended Continental Shelf of 396,000 km2 in the region of the Mascarene Plateau.

  • ECS of the Mascarene Plateau (recommended by CLCS)
  • ECS for Rodrigues region (defence)
  • Preliminary Information for Chagos Archipelagos (submitted)

The ECS will provide the Republic of Mauritius new avenues for marine exploration in terms of oil and gas on the seafloor bottom. It will bring job opportunities in diverse sectors of the economy.

The project has been taken over by the PMO but the technical preparation of the submission is carried out by the MOI team.

Implementation Status

  • Completed for the region of Mascarene Plateau
  • Defence by end of the year 2015 for the Rodrigues Region
  • Full submission in preparation for Chagos Archipelago. Dr. Rezah Badal (PMO)

Tsunami Preparedness Map

Within the framework of the setting of a tsunami early warning system for the Republic of Mauritius, the Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) was mandated by the Prime Minister’s Office to develop a tsunami preparedness map to identify areas of the coastal zones that would be at risk in the event of a tsunami. In this context, the MOI worked on model estimating inundation due to a tsunami and developed a tsunami inundation map for Mauritius and Rodrigues. These maps have been used by the National Disaster Risk Reduction Management in their evacuation plan and will help to preserve and safeguard the life of people and economic assets. This project is being carried out by the MOI.

Implementation Status

  • Update of the Maps is envisaged with availability of the new data
  • Come up with an inundation map for Agalega

Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa

The MOI is implementing a three-years' EU-funded project entitled Monitoring for Environment and Security in Africa (MESA) in collaboration with the African Union and the Commission de l'Ocean Indien. This project will focus on the “Marine and Coastal Management” theme and will deliver two Information Services on Marine Resources Management and Monitoring of Coastal Environment respectively.

The Earth Observation covering the area 10°N to 30°S / 30°E to 75°E and in-situ data provided by the MESA project can contribute to the sustainable development of Mauritius by providing information, measurements and quantification of natural or artificial phenomena. The synoptic view provided by satellite imagery offers technologically the most appropriate method for quick and reliable mapping and monitoring of various natural resources, both in space and time. The station installed at MOI provides regular information about the biological and physical state of the ocean. This data covers analysis of the current situation, forecasts of the situation a few days in advance and the provision of retrospective data records. The data include sea surface currents, sea surface temperature, salinity, sea level and chlorophyll-a. These support marine and maritime applications and related policies in the field of marine safety, fisheries, seasonal forecasting and the overall management of coastal zones. The data available can help Mauritian scientists better understand the ocean and regional seas.

  1. Marine Resources Management

An accurate knowledge of potential fishing zones (PFZ) off lagoon has several applications:

  • It could be used to optimise fishing effort by sending fishing vessels in the richest zones.
  • A good knowledge of potential fishing areas could be used to improve fisheries management (both at national and regional level).
  • Control fishing grounds by sending patrol to potential and/or identified PFZ to control licences of fishing vessels operating in these waters.
  • Small scale fishing companies who have the means to go off lagoon could get advantage of PFZ maps to increase capture efficiency.
  1. Monitoring of Coastal Environment

The vulnerability of coastal zones depends on the geological substratum, elevation and local sea conditions. The combination of historical images (aerial photos) with satellite imagery and elevation data, allows building up coastal hazard maps related to coastal erosion, wave surge, tropical storm associated or not with predicted sea level rise. The MOI in collaboration with the Ministry of Environment will be elaborating a Coastal Vulnerability Index Map for Mauritius. This up to date map would provide the latest information that could be used by the Ministry of Environment for the Integrated Coastal Zone Management (ICZM) Policy and most importantly to take remedial actions.

Implementation Status

  1. The Service Development Plan and Service Catalogue have been completed for the Marine Resources Management Service
  2. MOI Staff have been working on the algorithm to produce monthly primary production charts. These scripts have been adapted for the MESA eStation 2.0 application with the support of the Joint Research Centre of the European Union.
  3. MOI have made a request to EUMETSAT (European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites) with the support of the MESA Technical Assistance Team for the dissemination of specific marine data
  4. MOI has been regularly (every 2 months) monitoring the status of the AMESD (8) and PUMA (4) stations installed in 7 countries
  5. Production of monthly oceanography bulletins) published on the project website (http://moi.govmu.org/mesa)
  6. The Service Development Plan and Service Catalogue have been completed for the Monitoring of Coastal Environment Service
  7. Identification of data available in the IOC region to determine the Coastal Vulnerability Index is under way
  8. Selection of initial parameters to be used in the vulnerability assessment has been done
  9. MOI has shortlisted a list of satellite images to acquire for Mauritius while securing supply sources for the other IOC member states
  10. MOI has acquired one high resolution SPOT5 image for Mauritius for the year 2014
  11. Development of the MESA project website. Website is available on the following link http://moi.govmu.org/mesa/

Ballast Water Management Project

The objective of the project is to determine the risks caused by the discharge of ballast water in Mauritius and propose mitigative measures accordingly to minimize the introduction of alien species through shipping activities (focus on ballast water).

The baseline information provides information of likely introduced species within the port area. Furthermore, the Ballast Water Decision Support System provides developed quantitative indication of risk associated with intended discharge onboard arriving vessels (data source: ballast water reporting form). This will provide relevant information towards setting up of a ballast water management regime for Port-Louis harbour. The need to develop an action plan with respect to ballast water management has been included, as part of project recommendations.

Assessment of marine living resources in the EEZ of Mauritius using a DNA-based approach

Traditionally, identification of species has been based on morphological characters. Over the years, allozyme and various DNA-based techniques have been developed and used for species identification. A short DNA sequence of 648bp, the mtDNA cytochrome c oxidase subunit 1 (COI), has more recently been proposed as a DNA barcode for distinguishing species, identifying specimens that are incomplete, damaged or immature, and for assessing biodiversity. In this study, the COI barcode is being used to genetically characterise marine organisms in Mauritius and its outer islands. During the first phase of the project, commercial fish species, from the waters of Mauritius, have been barcoded. The main outcomes/deliverables have been (i) a list of commercial fish species with their DNA barcodes (186 species), (ii) an online marine diversity and genetic database (iii) market fish guides (to be published) and (iv) provision of services to the seafood industry for DNA-based identification of fish samples. We are currently undertaking the genetic identification of sea cucumbers and subsequently, the inventory and molecular characterisation effort will be focused on other organisms of commercial importance such as mollusks and crustaceans. The information gathered during the project will be useful in fisheries management, regulation and enforcement and for conservation of biodiversity.

Assessing the Submarine Groundwater Discharge Flux to Meet Potable Water Demand and Improve Domestic Water Supply in Coastal Regions

Mauritius relies heavily on groundwater as a source of freshwater for domestic usage. With a situation of increasing coastal population and activities coupled with the recently experienced episodes of drought there is an urgent need to find and exploit new sources of potable water. Since a considerable part of ground water is lost at sea through submarine groundwater discharge (SGD), the main goal of this project is to investigate the locations of SGD around the island and also quantify the flux of SGD in specific regions of high freshwater demand.

This project which is co-funded by the International Atomic Energy Agency, has identified 28 locations whereby fresh water is lost at sea. These regions are ideal for coastal development as there is a potential to recover the groundwater inland. Furthermore we are investigating the quality of the groundwater discharge at sea so as to assess its impact on the marine ecosystem.

Beach and Lagoon Erosion

The erosion of the beaches is caused by natural factors such as high tidal waves (raz-de-marée), cyclones, sea-level rise, increasing dynamicity of the currents and waves, and it is in addition accentuated by many anthropogenic factors constantly increasing the stress on the beach (e.g. vehicles driving on the beaches, bad beach practices, excess of beach and lagoon activities,...). This continuing degradation of our beaches is leading to a rapid change of the coastline, and this has a significant impact on the coastal associated economic activities. To address the phenomena of beach erosion we need to monitor the beach evolution and determine its interaction with the lagoon. How is the beach being eroded? What is the effect of the lagoon currents and waves on the sand input and retreat on the beaches? Where is the sand being washed away (in the lagoon or outside the lagoon)?

MOI has set up an efficient way of monitoring the coastal areas (beaches and lagoons) of the Republic of Mauritius so as to address the problems related to coastal erosion in order to keep, rehabilitate, sustain and/or develop these critical areas in accordance with the economic development of the Republic of Mauritius.

Implementation Status

  • Regular report of the evolution of the beach topography (every 6 months)
  • Recommendations to the relevant/involved institutions on the evolution of the state of the beach and lagoon for actions to take regarding the erosion of the beach
  • Sites under study: Flic en Flac; Belle Mare; Mon Choisy; Saint Felix

Bioprospecting Mauritius Waters

The rich diversity of the Oceans offers important economic opportunities through the sustainable exploitation of our marine resources to develop drug leads for the pharmaceutical sector. In that respect, the objective of this project is to investigate the biological activities of marine organisms to find natural products potent against human diseases. This research has identified various species of marine sponges, whose extracts have shown active properties against diseases such as Cancer, Alzheimer and Diabetes Mellitus. Currently, these active extracts are being purified to find bioactive substances, which can eventually be commercialized.

This endeavour is in line with the mission statement of the Ministry to harness the potential of the EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and to develop the Ocean Economy.

Study of Local Seismicity around Rodrigues–CIR Region Using Array Techniques (collaborative project with Frankfurt University)

Seismic activity around Rodrigues region has been a matter of concern for local population since long. Being at the distance of approximately 250km to the highly active Central Indian Ridge (CIR) it is always in danger of experiencing some ground shaking. Between 2009 and 2012 more than 40 events with magnitudes larger than 4.2 have been registered along Rodrigues–CIR region by the global seismographic networks. The largest magnitudes being 6.3 and 6.7 in August 2010 and July 2012, respectively. Since, earthquakes cannot be located reliably by one single seismic station. We intend to deploy a dense array of seismic stations on the island of Rodrigues and will employ array techniques for the detection and analysis of the seismicity of the region.

Implementation Status

  • Deployment of seismometers – Completed in September 2014
  • Data collection every 4/5 months – Completed
  • Demobilization – Completed
  • Data analysis – Ongoing

New Projects

Oceanographic Applications and Services to SMEs for Coastal and Marine Sustainable Development

The overall goal of the project is to evaluate the economic, environmental and societal nature of near shore waters with emphasis on their potential for aquaculture and coastal development directed towards Small and Medium Entrepreneurs (SMEs). The aim is to characterize aquaculture sites in terms of its properties and features and its potential marine renewable energy, eco-tourism and other coastal developments. It will also identify ocean/coastal hazard and give possible mitigative measures and provide a tool for sustainable marine planning and resource management applications and also for long term monitoring of the aquaculture sites and its surroundings. Finally, provide the Government and SMEs with adequate information on the possibilities of harnessing our marine coastal near/offshore waters and assist in the formulation of marine resource management strategy.

  • It will provide SMEs looking towards marine business with baseline information in terms of water dynamics
  • Support the government on decision making on the optimum use of our marine areas
  • Help to assess the vulnerability and asset of earmarked areas
  • Provide SMEs with information that will be optimum for their business plan and ultimately create sustainable jobs

Emerging knowledge for Local Adaptation

The Mauritius Oceanography Institute (MOI) is collaborating with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) (S. Africa), the Nova University of Lisbon (Portugal), the University of Eduardo Mondlane (UEM) (Mozambique), CORDIO East Africa (Kenya), the Open University of Mauritius (OUM) and the University of Mauritius (UOM) on this four- year (2014-2017) MASMA-funded project. The Ministry of Environment, Sustainable development and Disaster and Beach Management is the key Government partner of the MOI for implementation of this project at the National level.

The overarching objective of the project is to develop strategies to extend the impact of emerging knowledge relating to coastal vulnerability to enable local government and Governance structures and communities to use knowledge in order to facilitate adaptation and build resilience to climate change. The project vision states that: by 2016 local Government and other stakeholders have access to effective guidance on best applicable practices on the production, management and use of emerging knowledge on coastal vulnerability to climate change to facilitate adaptation in the Western Indian Ocean countries.

Completed Projects

Marine Dynamics of Tamarin Bay Estuary, West Mauritius

The temporal distribution of salinity, turbidity, pH, chlorophyll, wave, conductivity, pressure and current of the seabed at a depth of about fourteen metre were analysed from March to April 2014.

The main objective of this project was to summarize recent knowledge of the Tamarin estuary, integrating physical, chemical and biological measurements to explore the mechanisms responsible for the transport of water, salt and chlorophyll at the mouth of the river in this lagoon and to understand the current pattern. Information will be provided to stakeholders for a proper management of the estuary and its coastal surroundings. It will also help in coastal management, beach erosion and coastal stakeholders and community at large.

African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD)

The MOI had implemented a four-years' EU-funded project entitled African Monitoring of the Environment for Sustainable Development (AMESD) in collaboration with the African Union and the Commission de l'Ocean Indien. This project involved the reception and processing of real-time satellite images for the determination of Potential Fishing Zones and for monitoring physical oceanography parameters. (Contractual Project)

The implementation of the AMESD project by the MOI has enabled Mauritius to receive a satellite receiving station. This station has improved access to Earth Observation data and provided the country with baseline remote sensing data on chlorophyll-a and sea surface temperature at 1 km resolution. Furthermore, through the project a Wave Data Buoy that measures wave height and direction in near real-time was acquired for Mauritius. The Wave data received was disseminated to Mauritius Met Services on a 3 hourly basis.

The biological and physical characteristics of the waters in the South West Indian Ocean (SWIO) region and around Mauritius are not well known because of the scarcity of relevant information. The products developed by MOI during AMESD attempted to make up for this by providing a bulletin with a first level of interpretation of chlorophyll-variability around Mauritius and a referential database of the physical oceanography parameters for the SWIO region. This project has enabled MOI to provide useful information on the evolution of variables such as Chlorophyll-a, Sea Surface Temperature and marine currents around Mauritius and in the region. Also a desktop study of the accuracy of the Potential Fishing Zone maps in the EEZ of Mauritius was carried out with VMS data received from the Albion Fisheries Research Centre. There was a good correlation between the PFZs and the VMS data.

  • Wave data disseminated to Mauritius Met Services on a 3 hourly basis used in the formulation of daily forecast of sea state for fishermen
  • Wave data has been forwarded regularly to the Ministry of Environment upon their request in the context of the MoESD and JICA project on “Capacity Development in Coastal Protection and Rehabilitation in the Republic of Mauritius”
  • Forecast current data were produced and given to the National Coast Guard to assist in search and rescue missions on request
  • Ocean current forecast data used for analysis and to provide advice to the Prime Minister’s Office in the case of MV ANGEL 1” salvage operation

Coral Farming-Second phase

Reefs are constantly threatened by rising seawater temperature and ocean acidification. Coral culture therefore plays an important role in rehabilitating degraded reefs, while at the same time, enhancing the ecosystem services they provide for tourism, fisheries and coastline protection. The second phase of the coral farming project had focused on (1) the development of locally adapted techniques for the in situ mass culture of known resilient coral species for the rehabilitation of degraded reef areas, (2) the development of locally adapted techniques for reef rehabilitation, (3) the establishment of demonstration coral nurseries and reef rehabilitation sites, and (4) public awareness programmes.

Locally adapted techniques for the mass culture of known resilient coral species and for small scale reef rehabilitation have been developed. Demonstration coral nurseries and reef rehabilitation sites were established in situ at Albion, Flic en Flac and Trou aux Biches, in collaboration with the NGO Eli Africa (with the financial support of UNDP-GEF-SGP).

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