Reef Check News
St Vincent Hosts Reef Check Training for Tobago Cays Marine Park & Coast Guard
By Reef Check Executive Director Gregor Hodgson
St Vincent has a fascinating and complex history of native people, Africans, and more recently Europeans from a variety of countries. The active Soufriere volcano has erupted twice in the past decades, killing thousands.
St Vincent has one of the most diverse marine protected areas in the Caribbean, the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP). Originally gazetted (declared) in 1997, TCMP has gone through several management planning processes over the years.
Because there is no major international airport in St Vincent, the country is not on the major global tourist track. Many visitors arrive by sailboat and are from Europe. The annual number of visitors is less than may arrive in one day at a major destination such as Cancun. Therefore there is a lot of room to spread out and enjoy a beach or dive without disturbance, and the human impacts are relatively less. That being said, an analysis by the training group of human impacts indicated that poaching is a problem that is difficult to solve. During the training a couple of spearfishermen were caught poaching inside the park and were fined. The fishermen complained that the fine was too big while the park staff felt the fine was too low to deter repeat offenses.
Both the Coast Guard and the Park Rangers were extremely skilled in the water and picked up the Reef Check monitoring methods very quickly. While many areas of the park showed high coral cover and some now-rare elkhorn coral, the numbers and size of high value fish was low. An extra day was spent designing a monitoring plan for the park that could be carried out every year. Reef Check will continue to support the hard work of TCMP staff to conserve their corner of the Caribbean.