A British family-of-four are swapping South West London for the world’s smallest nature reserve to launch a coral farm to save the reef.
Karolina and Barry Seath have sold their house and are now preparing to move to Moyenne Island, part of the Seychelles, which is just 400 metres long by 300 metres wide.
They have launched a charity and teamed up with local biologists in a bid to revitalise the Seychelles coral reefs, which have been devastated by rising sea temperatures.
Barry, a 47-year-old former recruitment consultant and policeman, said: ‘We are just a normal husband, wife, and two kids, living the sort of life that most others do.
‘But we both felt the need to make a positive change for ourselves, our children and the world we had largely taken for granted.
‘So we have sold our home and parted company with most of our worldly possessions.’
On several holidays to the Seychelles, the Seaths witnessed how the coral was deteriorating over time as they snorkelled around the coastline. Now, around 90% of the island’s coral has died.
The couple was eager to make a difference and to show their daughters, Georgina, 11, and Josephine, seven, an alternative way of life.
They’ve teamed up with experts at the Marine Conservation Society Seychelles, whose staff specialise in coral and marine biology.
Building the farm is scheduled to take just three months with all the equipment, including tanks, chillers, filters, and pipework, costing £25,000.
Once complete it will be the first large-scale, land-based coral farm in the Indian Ocean. They aim to grow around 10,000 corals a year.
A diverse range of corals will be grown and then replanted in the local reefs.
The process involves cutting an individual coral into small pieces which then stimulates their growth rates – much like how skin grows over a cut.
The corals will be grown in temperature-controlled tanks for up to nine months, before being replanted in the local reefs.
Whilst in the tanks, the corals will also be exposed to warmer temperatures, enabling them to adapt at a young age to the ever-increasing sea temperatures they will face when returned back into their natural habitat.
The Seaths, from Putney, are already talking to researchers at a UK university, about how they can use their tanks to carry out ground-breaking research on new techniques.
In 2012 Moyenne was designated the world’s smallest National Park after its only inhabitant, British expat Brendon Grimshaw, died.
Barry said: ‘The island has an amazing history. There are stories of hotel groups and rich individuals wanting to buy the island from Brendon.
‘They told [Brendon] he could just name his price, but he refused every time. He didn’t want it to be developed.
‘We hope to honour Brendan’s legacy by using the island as the venue of our first coral farm.’
The family hopes that replenishing the coral reefs will help boost future visitor numbers to the country.
And once the coral farm has started to produce results, the team hopes it will lead to further coral farms being developed by the government and hotel groups.
Karolina will juggle motherhood whilst acting as the project’s social media coordinator, whilst Barry will work as a full-time volunteer.
The 37-year-old mum said: ‘I am really looking forward to educating the local school kids and tourists who visit the island, on the vital role the coral reefs play in our lives.’
Georgina and Josephine will become youth ambassadors alongside their studies at a new school on Mahé island, just a 15-minute boat trip from Moyenne.
The sisters are eager to start their new adventure. Josephine, the youngest sibling, said: ‘I’ll miss my friends, but I’m really looking forward to seeing lots of different animals and doing lots of snorkelling and helping my dad look after the coral.’
Georgina wants to learn to dive to assist the project and added: ‘I’m really excited to have this opportunity to move abroad and learn more about the world. I hope we can make a real difference.’
The family is hoping flights will return to normal ahead of their planned departure in late August.
They are now establishing a charity called Coral Reef Conservation UK, and hope that the organisation’s official status will encourage donations from individuals and corporations.
The family have enough money to support themselves for the first two years, but still need donations to fund the project’s running costs.