Mauritius Uncovered

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Mauritius Uncovered
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Marine life in Mauritius

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Mauritius is located in the Indian Ocean where one of the most beautiful coral reef systems is found. It is this extended system of reef that confers protection to the shoreline and enables people to swim at their ease. The island is mostly encircled by fringing reef consisting mainly of the Acropora species. Barrier reef can be found at Grand Port where as at Gris Gris there is no reef hence resulting in the strong currents in the area. According to researches done by the Mauritius Marine Institute (MOI), 159 species of hard corals have been found in the Mauritian waters. In terms of fauna and flora, the lagoon offers a breathtaking view of rich marine life. 1656 species of fish have been identified ranging in colour as well as physical appearances such as the common tuna fish to the less noticeable stone fish. Amongst the mammals, 17 marine species have been recorded in the Mauritian waters; most of them use the region as breeding grounds as they move away from the colder Antarctic waters to give birth in the warmer Indian Ocean. Dolphins, whales and blue marlins are very commonly seen in the area. Whilst in the past 5 species of turtles had been observed in the waters, today only the hawksbill turtle and the green sea turtle can be found. This change is mostly due to the clearing of pristine vegetation near the beaches where the turtles lay their eggs as well as hunting and shell collection. In terms of shellfish, clams, barnacles, mussels and oysters can be seen stuck to rocks or moving on the sandy floor of the ocean. Of the shrimps, 7 species of penaeid shrimps living in shallow waters and two further deep water species have been identified. The Octopus vulagaris, a delicacy of the Creole cuisine, is also present in the waters and is commonly fished. A number of starfishes are also present, including the crown of fish, which has been noted to prey on coral reefs thus damaging the reef system. The rich sea grass ecosystem that also acts as home to a variety of organisms has been found to consist of 36 species of seaweeds amongst which are the Ulva and Sargassum. Mauritius has an exclusive economic zone of 1.9 million kmĀ² meaning that Mauritians are allowed to fish legally within this huge area. The fishing industry itself is a very important one on the island, contributing to one percent of the overall GDP and employing about 11,000 people. All catches are made within sustainable yields with the tuna fish being the most coveted one. However, over the years, the marine environment has been seen to suffer mainly because of development and leaching of land used materials into the waters. In this respect, the Mauritius Marine Conservation Society (MMCS), an NGO, was founded in 1980 to ensure that marine life is protected from harm as far as possible and the government also has come up with numerous campaigns and legislations to reduce the negative impact on marine life.
Peaches Published 12 Oct 2010

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