EUBeachCleanup 2021: Restoring Ile d’Ambre’s natural beauty to raise awareness on its role in ecosystem preservation
Ile d'Ambre is a natural reserve located in the North East of mainland Mauritius. This preserved natural gem island, made famous by Bernardin de Saint-Pierre in his novel ‘Paul et Virginie’, is popular among tourists. The 140-hectare uninhabited islet is covered by forest and surrounded by mangroves that provide an important nursery area for fish and marine invertebrates. The island also has a network of different wetland habitats containing unique flora and fauna.
Yet, Ile d’Ambre, which could attract up to 400,000 visitors annually before the coronavirus pandemic, faces several challenges. One is waste, in particular plastic, discarded by people into the sea or into nearby rivers that accumulates on the Eastern sandy shore of the island and in the mangroves. Apart from deteriorating the beauty of the island, the waste also hampers the key role that mangrove trees play in carbon storage and protection against flooding for instance.
Another challenge is the presence of invasive alien species that have a negative impact on the island’s environment. Invasive alien species are generally animals and plants that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a natural environment where they are not normally found.
As borders have just reopened and tourism is resuming, there is a need to clean up the island to ensure it remains a popular tourist attraction. Moreover, we also have to see how to raise the attention of the public authorities, private sector and population on the value of this natural reserve for tourism, the livelihood of local communities, the preservation of the marine and land ecosystem and our wellbeing as a whole.
Hence, we have organised a clean-up action as part of our global campaign EUBeachCleanup. Around 50 participants, including the French Ambassador, representatives from the French Development Agency and Région Réunion, staff members of the Tourism Authority and the EU Delegation, gathered on a stretch of beach of 100 metres to collect waste. Two hours later, they were putting six large bags full of waste on a boat to bring the waste back to the mainland where it was sorted.
We have also organised the planting of endemic species to raise attention on the action of the National Parks and Conservation Service to remove the invasive alien species and increase the native forest coverage.
The National Parks and Conservation Service aims to restore an area of almost 50 hectares of degraded ecosystems including mangrove forest through invasive plant species removal, reintroduction of native plants, removal of plastic wastes from coastal mangrove areas as well as wetland restoration. The National Parks and Conservation Service also plans to introduce 10,000 endemic plants into Ile d'Ambre each year to restore the degraded natural ecosystems. This action will provide habitats for plants known to be threatened with extinction, hence contributing to their recovery, and enhance aquatic and coastal habitats for wildlife.
With that action, the Eastern sandy shore of the island has been cleaned and has regained its natural beauty. We have also raised the attention of 100 participants on the importance of endemic species on Ile d’Ambre and kick-started the planting of endemic species on the island. The fishermen communities and tourism boat operators in the region, who took part in the action, have expressed their satisfaction at the end of this half-day mobilisation on the island.
The EUBeachCleanup in Mauritius was organised for the 5th year by the EU delegation, together with the National Parks and Conservation Service – the organisation responsible for the implementation of the 5-year Ridge-to-Reef project, the Tourism Authority, NGOs, local authorities and boat owners. The clean up was integrated in the national clean-up campaign Respekte Moris (Respect Mauritius), launched in July 2021 by the Prime Minister to clean up the whole island in view of the full reopening of borders on 1st October 2021 with support of the EU-funded Sustainable Island Mauritius.