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Fifth annual meeting – Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas

Fifth annual meeting – Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas

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Union Island hosted a gathering last week of marine park staff, government and non-government representatives, and media from both St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada.

The gathering in Ashton was the fifth annual meeting of the Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas. With members stretching from as far south as Woburn/Clarks Court Marine Protected Area in Grenada and up through Carriacou,{{more}} Tobago Cays and Mustique to the South Coast Marine Conservation Area of St Vincent, the annual meeting is an important event for marine parks and fisheries managers in the region.

“We are very pleased to help bring together colleagues working in marine conservation from various islands to share about their progress in the last 12 months,” commented Orisha Jospeh, acting executive director of Sustainable Grenadines, Inc who coordinated the meeting.

At this year’s meeting the group discussed the findings of a Grenadines-wide study of coral reef ecosystems. In 2014, representatives of each marine park sailed from Grenada to St Vincent to conduct underwater research into coral reef health.

“The preliminary findings of this research indicate that large reef fish are quite rare in marine protected areas in both countries, especially the commercially important species, such as groupers and snappers,” commented Myles Phillips, coordinator of Monitoring for the Grenadines Network of Marine Protected Areas.

“These are the fish that we especially seek to protect in our marine parks so that they can grow large and reproduce a lot, and then move out into surrounding areas with benefits for local fishers. But their numbers are critically low and those groupers and snappers that we found were generally small.”

The six marine protected areas of the Grenadines are still young, with most established or launched only five years ago. “On the bright side, the coral reefs in marine parks in both St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada are still in reasonably good condition, compared with the rest of the Caribbean, and ongoing protection from illegal fishing will help fish to recover,” he explained.

The public can help by always respecting fisheries and marine park regulations.

“Marine parks function as sanctuaries for marine life, ensuring that the sea remains profitable for our fishermen and beautiful for recreational users. Large fish reproduce more quickly than small fish, resulting in sustainability of our fishing industry and protection of the natural order of our ocean ecosystems,” commented Phillips.

The marine parks are also making efforts with partner agencies, the private sector and local communities to establish new Junior Park Ranger programmes for children, to help educate about marine parks and marine life. These programmes provide a great opportunity for children to learn to swim and snorkel, to get outside and learn about their natural heritage and, as they get older, to develop skills that can lead to work.

The exchange visit was made possible with support from the US National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Nature Conservancy and USAID.