Although they are mostly out of sight for those who spend most of their time on land, coral reefs play an essential role as they provide shelter and protection for many species of fish, which feed millions of people annually.
Additionally, without coral the amount of carbon dioxide in the ocean would increase significantly and have a negative effect on all living things.
Notably, coral reefs protect coastal areas from strong currents and waves by reducing the wave energy before it gets to the shore.
So considering those remarkable facts, who wouldn’t want to participate in the ‘Adopt a Reef Program’? A two day workshop which culminates on Wednesday, January 20, 2015 is underway at the Department of Fisheries (DOF) Conference Room in Castries.
The goal of the project being led by the DOF and the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) is to improve reef resilience through public- private partnerships towards a sustainable marine ecosystem.
Sixteen persons are targeted to be trained in Reef Check methodology to determine the status of coral reef health.
Reef Check is one of the most widely utilized reef assessment methodology due largely to the largesse and reach of the REEF Check Foundation which is an internationally recognized non-governmental organization dedicated to the conservation of coral reef ecosystems.
Coral reef monitoring and conservation has solely been the mandate of the Department of Fisheries, and is conducted on an ad hoc basis due to limited staff to monitor the health of our coral reef systems around the island.
Saint Lucia, which is a tourist destination, boasts of its beautiful sandy beaches and marine life, however, with 90% of resorts located along the coast and approximately 75% of which include dive facilities, a true and accurate account of the health of the coral reefs is needed to help determine and guide policy decisions to conserve and improve the resilience of our reefs.
The DOF has developed a good rapport with some dive establishments, however, there is a desire to extend the relationship to hotels/resorts and other agencies like the SLNT so that they could select a reef system and undertake regular and consistent reef monitoring.
Mr. Craig Henry, SLNT’s Program Officer –South, said “The information gathered from the monitoring will be used to assess the state of reef health as well as to recommend reef restoration and conservation measures to help improve resilience.
Additionally, the program demonstrates greater partnerships and recognition for the private sector in coral reef management and advocacy”.
Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Mr. Thomas Nelson is the lead trainer for the reef check training programme. He is currently the only certified eco dive reef check trainer on island.
The Adopt a Reef Program is funded by The Nature Conservancy through its Reef Resilience Program.