April 26, 2011

Grenadines MPA Staff Trained in Reef Check Methodology

Participants Ann-Marie Taitt and Cecil McQueen (far right) assist instructor Olando Harvey (far left) and Benjamin Wilson with completing a site description form. Photo credit: M. Brewis

By Sustainable Grenadines Inc. Intern Molly Brewis

Staff at two recently established Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) in the Grenadine islands are now better equipped to monitor the health of their coral reefs, following a training course on the Reef Check (RC) methodology which took place on Carriacou, Grenada in early February.

The course was just one component of a larger project to strengthen the ability of MPA managers to effectively manage their valuable marine resources. Coordinated by Sustainable Grenadines Inc. (SusGren), a transboundary NGO that spans the countries of Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines in the southern Caribbean, the project is generously funded through a grant from the United States National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF).

Reef Check EcoDiver Trainer Olando Harvey, marine biologist for the Tobago Cays Marine Park, was assisted by ranger Benjamin Wilson in delivering the course to participants over a 4-day period from February 8-11, 2011. Three wardens from the Moliniere-Beausejour MPA (Ann-Marie Taitt, Cecil McQueen, and Coddington Jeffrey) travelled from mainland Grenada to join their counterparts from the Sandy Island Oyster Bed MPA on Carriacou (wardens Bryan Prince, Kordel Simon, and Jody Placid, along with board chair Davon Baker) in taking the course. SusGren staff Molly Brewis and Valerie Francella were also on hand to help with course organisation and participate in the training sessions.

Following an initial classroom session, participants were given a practical introduction to the RC methodology in a shallow area of the Sandy Island Oyster Bed MPA. They tried their hand at placing the transect line, recording substrate cover, and counting indicator organisms while snorkelling. On the last two days of the course, participants collected data in deeper areas of the MPA using SCUBA. Following a delicious meal of saltfish souse on the final day, participants successfully completed the required test and became certified Reef Check EcoDivers! This training will assist the MPA managers involved in implementing a standardized protocol to regularly monitor the effects of stressors such as tourism, climate change, and coastal development on the coral reefs of the Grenadines. Additional support for the implementation of reef monitoring is being provided through a year-long small grant program for each of the participating MPAs, which is also being delivered by SusGren and funded through NFWF.

\"\" \"\"
Reef Check course complete! Photo credit: R. Laflamme Wardens Jody Placid (left, Sandy Island Oyster Bed MPA) and Coddington Jeffrey (Moliniere-Beausejour MPA) complete a substrate survey. Photo credit: O. Harvey