Home Sci-TechEnvironment Seychelles: Endangered Sperm Whales, Carbon-Sink Seagrass Seen On Trip Near Seychelles

Seychelles: Endangered Sperm Whales, Carbon-Sink Seagrass Seen On Trip Near Seychelles

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An underwater expedition by Greenpeace International saw an array of wildlife — including sperm whales and spinner dolphins — and a healthy seagrass meadow along the Saya de Malha Bank during a trip to the region, said a Seychellois marine scientist.

The expedition on the Saya de Malha Bank, which is part of the Mascarene Plateau region between Seychelles and Mauritius, was done from February 27 to March 30 to learn more about its underwater life.

Seychellois scientist Sheena Talma, who took part in the expedition, told SNA that more than 500 person hours of visual surveying recorded 58 sightings of cetaceans such as whales and dolphins.

“This included two feeding groups of endangered sperm whales as well as pilot whales, spinner dolphins, spotted dolphins, Blainville’s beaked whales, and Bryde’s whales and a killer whale. During the transit to the Saya de Malha Bank the team also documented a group of sperm whales in Seychelles,” said Talma.

Visual surveys of birds revealed species such as petrels, shearwaters, boobies, terns, noddy and frigate birds.

“Sighting of whales and dolphins tell a really good story. They play an important role in our global ecosystem as some of them are apex predators which means that they are right on top of the food chain. This indicates how healthy an area is. They are also ecosystem engineers and organic ocean fertilisers – their poop is linked to the productivity of an area,” said Talma.

She further outlined that the group also captured underwater footage of the seagrass growing on the bank. The Saya de Malha Bank is known for supporting the world’s largest seagrass meadow and as such is one of the biggest carbon sinks in the ocean.

“They looked healthy. Seagrass is really good because it absorbs carbon from the atmosphere and stores it in its roots and in the ground so that it doesn’t contribute to any atmospheric carbon. If we destroy these seagrass bed, this means that we will also be taking away these really important carbon stores,” said Talma.

By keeping carbon safely locked, seagrass meadows help slow down climate breakdown, and they are critical feeding and breeding grounds to a wealth of wildlife. A 2012 study in the journal Nature Geoscience showed that seagrass can store more than twice as much carbon from planet-warming carbon dioxide per square mile as forests do on land.

As a plea to the world to protect seabed and seagrass meadows, a 24-year-old Mauritian climate activist, Shaama Sandooyea, held an underwater protest above the Saya de Malha bank, during the expedition.