Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, points to the divers as they prepare to go underwater to replant staghorn corals at Carlisle Bay. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

A rescue mission is under way to save Barbados’ coral reefs, which have been impacted by a range of climate-related and other hazards. Recent studies conducted by the Coastal Zone Management Unit (CZMU) and the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) reveal that 75 per cent of the island’s fringing reef (near shore reefs) were in very poor condition, while 40 per cent of the bank reefs were stressed.

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, said, according to the reef score card: “There are no areas of very good reef. None. All around Barbados you cannot find a spot with very good reef.  It has also told us that herbivorous fish are on the decline in a number of areas. There is a need to do something.”

He further outlined that the reef was also impacted by the volcanic ash, following the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano in St. Vincent and the Grenadines in April. But, the Ministry of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy is working to correct many of these issues.

To mark World Oceans Day on Tuesday, June 8, under the theme: The Ocean: Life and Livelihoods, the Ministry participated in an initiative to plant 50 staghorn corals at Carlisle Bay, which involved the CZMU, officials from Barbados Blue, divers, fishermen and marine biologists.

Minister Humphrey and the 14-member team set sail from the Shallow Draught on board the Mojito en route to Carlisle Bay to replant the coral there, for the first time in the island’s history.

“There are no areas of very good reef. None. All around Barbados you cannot find a spot with very good reef.  It has also told us that herbivorous fish are on the decline in a number of areas. There is a need to do something.”

Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey

“Some people may ask how is the coral going to fare. The coral started here….  I believe the coral will do very well,” Minister Humphrey said.

But, the study carried out on the reefs indicates that it would take a lot more than replanting coral to save the island’s reefs.

Minister Humphrey and a team of officials, including Director of the CZMU, Dr. Leo Brewster; Acting Chief Fisheries Officer, Joyce Leslie, and the Director of CERMES, Dr. Patrick McConney, outlined a series of initiatives designed to save the coral reefs and marine ecosystems and protect them from further damage.

These initiatives, once implemented, will see significant changes in the way fisherfolk and other users of the marine space operate within that environment.

Divers replanting staghorn corals at Carlisle Bay last Tuesday. (GP)

One of the changes outlined by the Minister is that cruise ships would no longer be permitted to anchor on the west coast, in an effort to protect the coral reef and very sensitive marine ecosystems in that space.

However, at Carlisle Bay, known as a traditional anchor spot, cruise vessels will be allowed to anchor, in “exceptional circumstances”, following consultation with authorities.

Mr. Humphrey pointed out that cruise ships using a dynamic positioning system, which allowed them to remain stable without dropping anchor, would be allowed to go to the west coast.

“From Government’s side, there must be more frequent and coordinated monitoring of the cruise vessels.  We will work closer with the Port [and] the [Barbados] Coast Guard. We will monitor our marine traffic….  There is going to be much closer monitoring, not only of cruise ships, but all vessels on the west coast. The important thing is, we are having conversations with our partners [and] the Port will be engaged in the conversations,” he said.

In addition, the CZMU has developed a flyer to give guidance on clearance procedures and anchorage areas for all vessels arriving in Carlisle Bay.

Barbados is also about to embark on a BDS$9 million marine spatial plan through ongoing work with the Nature Conservancy.

“That would allow us to plan out the marine space…in terms of timing and what happens where, and allows us to make proper use of the space,” Mr. Humphrey said, noting that Barbados would be the first country in the region to do such a plan.

Furthermore, Folkestone and Carlisle Bay are expected to be officially designated as two marine managed areas.  That order, Minister Humphrey said, is presently before the Chief Parliamentary Counsel, and is expected to be finalised in a few weeks.

Divers receive staghorn corals to replant at Carlisle Bay. The activity is part of an effort to to save the island’s coral reefs and marine ecosystems and protect them from future damage. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

The Minister explained that on the west coast, the marine managed area would run from Weston to Fitts Village, and along the south coast from Pierhead to Rockley. “That would start the process to allow the reef and the fish to regenerate,” he said.

He added that the Ministry was also working on new fisheries regulations to restrict certain behaviours in the ocean space.

“This would include regulations on seine net fishing. The report said 62 per cent of the fish taken from the reef is taken from seine nets.  We are going to restrict seine net fishing on the reef,” he stated, while giving the assurance that fishermen would still be allowed to catch pot fish using other means.

Meanwhile, Ms. Leslie indicated that a change in the Fisheries Management Regulations was overdue since the first one was established in 1998.  “We need to make sure our fisheries are sustainable,” she said.

In addition to restrictions on seine net fishing for chubs, the acting Chief Fisheries Officer said the new regulations would also seek to restrict the size of mesh used for the flying fish gillnet, as smaller mesh sizes were now being used locally.

“We are also looking at prohibiting the harming of marine mammals in our marine environment.  That will enhance our US export market.  We want to set minimum sizes especially for the capture of dolphin fish,” Ms. Leslie outlined.

Dr. Brewster told those present that information on the study and the draft Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan can be found on the CZMU website.

julia.rawlins-bentham@barbados.gov.bb

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