Grenadines Marine Protected Areas
Collaborate for Conservation
by Sally Erdle
“We’re not yet where we want to be, but we’re a long way from where we used to be.”
— Parliamentary Secretary for Carriacou & Petite Martinique, Senator Norland Cox
This statement was made in an opening address at the sixth Annual Meeting of the Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas, held June 7th through 9th at the Mermaid Hotel on the Grenadine island of Carriacou. Within the Caribbean, the Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas, which encompasses the nations of Grenada and St. Vincent & the Grenadines, is a leader. It is the only one of our two trans-boundary networks (the other -regional network is in the Meso-American Reef region, across Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras) that seeks to promote effective management across national borders.
The Grenadines Network of MPAs includes seven individual Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) operating with broadly similar objectives: to conserve and protect natural resources, to provide mechanisms for stakeholder engagement and the encouragement of alternative sustainable livelihood options, and to ensure the efficient and effective coordination and administration of the MPA. Together, they can achieve conservation objectives more effectively than individual sites could on their own.
The Grenadines Network of MPAs was established in 2011 with support from the US National Fish & Wildlife Foundation. It has grown from the founding three members to now include the Tobago Cays Marine Park, the Mustique Marine Conservation Area, the St. Vincent South Coast Marine Conservation Area and the Palm Island/Union Island Conservation Area, all in St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and the Sandy Island/Oyster Bed MPA, the Moliniere-Beausejour MPA and the Woburn/Clarkes Court MPA in Grenada.
This network is centered on the Grenada Bank, an archipelago of over 30 islands and cays extending from Grenada to St. Vincent — an area of ecological significance that supports the most extensive coral reefs and related habitats in the southeastern Caribbean. Within such an ecologically connected region, natural resources know no boundaries — ocean currents help transfer larval coral, reef fish and other species, and migratory species such as sea turtles, sharks and marine mammals travel great distances. The governments of both Grenada and St. Vincent & the Grenadines have designated a number of specially protected marine areas which overlie important near-shore habitats including coral reefs, seagrass beds, wetlands and mangroves, which safeguard habitats and species that provide the basis for local economies. MPAs are being employed in the Grenadines for the protection of natural resources, while also providing opportunities for the people who depend on these resources to benefit through the provision of sustainable livelihoods.
Fishers, yachtspeople and others who once used the areas without restriction often distrust MPAs, especially when they are being established; they perceive the introduction of rules and fees as “taking away rights” or “a money grab” by local governments. However, MPAs are recognized globally as a valuable science-based natural-resource management tool that helps to support ecosystem-based conservation and ensures the sustainable use of marine and coastal resources. International conventions and initiatives call for nations to establish a global system of effectively managed representative networks of marine and coastal protected areas. Grenada and St. Vincent & the Grenadines (SVG) are among the 196 signatories to the global International Convention on Biodiversity. SVG is also a contracting party to the Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol) of the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region — the only legally binding regional environmental treaty for the Caribbean. Additionally, Grenada and SVG are among the nine nations committed to the Caribbean Challenge Initiative, which aims to effectively conserve and manage at least 20 percent of the marine and coastal environment by 2020.
For the last four years, managers, staff and board members of the Grenadines Network of MPAs have come together at meetings organized by the NGO Sustainable Grenadines Inc. to update each other about their activities, share best practices and discuss plans for future activities. These meetings are a tremendous opportunity for MPA staff to meet their counterparts from other islands and countries and benefit from the synergies generated by learning from one another.
This year’s annual meeting of the Grenadines Network of MPAs included presentations by each MPA about their past year’s activities, celebrated World Oceans Day on June 8th, and then focused on the role of coral nurseries in coral reef restoration and effective reef management. Did you know that there are coral nurseries tended by trained coral gardeners in the waters off Mustique, Carriacou and Grenada? The coral “seedlings” raised in the nurseries can be planted out to improve biological diversity and structure on reefs damaged by storms, boat strikes, etcetera. We’ll share the coral news in next month’s issue of Compass and highlight individual MPAs in future issues.
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