By Valerie Gregoire, Reef Check St Kitts & Nevis Coordinator
This August, 10 students braved the summer heat and came to C.A.R.E. SKN at Oualie, Nevis in the Caribbean to start their Reef Check EcoDiver course. All students live on St. Kitts and Nevis and some are native residents. Their ages ranged from 16 to 51 years old. The class was hosted by C.A.R.E. SKN, (Coral reef Assistance, Restoration & Education in St. Kitts & Nevis), a newly registered NGO (2021) that started operations with a coral nursery pilot project in June 2022. For C.A.R.E. SKN, the Reef Check certification is a very important tool. It brings awareness to the community and the public and builds up a local team of “Reef Warriors” from the citizen scientists helping C.A.R.E. SKN with data collection.
The class was offered through snorkelling, not scuba diving, in order to reach a wider audience of the local community. Here in St. Kitts and Nevis, 70% of the population does not know how to swim, and most of them are scared of the water. However, now there are more swimming programs emerging and growing, therefore we have hope that we will continue in the future to have more candidates for our Reef Check program.
Our class was held at the NASC (Nevis Aquatic and Sailing Center) at Oualie, Nevis, a local NGO that teaches sailing and aquatic activities. For NASC, the marine environment is vital and awareness and classes about the ocean are part of their goal, therefore C.A.R.E. SKN partners with NASC and offers marine biology classes to their students during a kid’s camp.
Our classroom was set up at NASC, outside underneath a shade while the in-water sessions were done at the breakwater in front of the Four Seasons Resort. St. Kitts and Nevis does not have much direct reef access from the shore, but the breakwater did give us a good location to use for Reef Check. Easy access, shallow for snorkeling and a lot of marine life, including frogfish, stingray, spotted eagle ray, green turtle, barracuda, butterflyfish, grunts, parrotfish, porcupine fish, lobster, flounders, damselfish, and Acropora palmata, Millepora, Pseudodiploria and Porites species of coral.
We successfully certified 10 new Reef Check EcoDivers in substrate, invertebrates and fish. We were also able to complete a survey at the end of the class. Eventually the breakwater will undergo coral restoration, so these surveys will be useful.
We had two local instructors and three instructors from the USA, which made our in-water class perfect with a ratio of two students to one instructor. To James Hewlett, Brooke Day and Marissa Hassevoort from the USA, a special thank you for coming down to Nevis and teaching our Reef Check class. Thank you as well to Vaughn Sturge from Nevis.
Our goal at C.A.R.E. SKN is to promote and offer a Reef Check every summer and we hope to be able to have two classes of 10 students each year.