Tobago’s world-renown coral reefs are to be the subject of an extensive Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA) initiative to determine the most effective strategies to rehabilitate and strengthen the endangered ecological wonder.
The Marine Resilience Initiative (MARIN) Tobago Project was launched today at the Pigeon Point Heritage Park, by the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), in partnership with bp Trinidad and Tobago. It is an 18-month pilot which seeks to determine the appropriate and feasible rehabilitation strategies for both the coral reef as well as the seagrass beds that surround Tobago.
The coral reef and seagrass beds that are part of Tobago’s marine ecosystem have suffered degradation over decades by a combination of climate change and human impacts. One of the most notable impacts was the loss of up to 50 per cent of hard coral cover due to global beaching in 2010. Seagrass beds along the island’s southwest coast have not escaped, facing land-based pollution, coastal developments such as land reclamation and events such as Sargassum influx.
Speaking at the launch, Minister of Planning and Development, Pennelope Beckles, said: “These ecosystems provide us with too many services to allow the degradation to go unaddressed. Our fisher-folk, tour operators, small traders depend on these marine ecosystems to remain at its optimum in order for their ocean-based business to grow and prosper. The importance of this assessment, therefore, cannot be over emphasised.”
bpTT’s regional president, Claire Fitzpatrick, shared this sentiment and noted that projects like MARIN Tobago demonstrate the leading role Small Island Developing States like Trinidad and Tobago can play in finding solutions to global issues like sustainability and climate change.
“I am very excited about what that project could mean for environmental protection, preservation of livelihoods and sustainability. It will also contribute to building greater climate resiliency as we face the continued threats of climate change,” said Fitzpatrick.
MARIN Tobago is one of two major initiatives bpTT is supporting in Tobago, the other being an oyster farming pilot project in Charlotteville in collaboration with the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC). Fitzpatrick explained that these were aligned with the company’s global focus to improve lives and care for the planet and its ongoing commitment to Trinidad and Tobago’s development.
MARIN Tobago will focus on five coral reef sites: • Buccoo Reef in the Marine Protected Area• Mt Irvine Reef, and Flying Reef in southwest Tobago, • Booby Island Reef, Charlotteville • Angel Reef, Speyside in northeast Tobago.
Southwest Tobago, namely Bon Accord Lagoon in the Marine Protected Area, Petit Trou and Kilgwyn Bay, will be the location for assessing the seagrass beds for current ecological health and then testing of the different replanting methodologies.
Project lead and Coral Reef ecologist, Dr Anjani Ganase, said the feasibility assessment for rehabilitation and restoration is a crucial first step to guide the implementation of future restoration activities in Tobago. She said the IMA intends to work closely with the impacted communities and stakeholders to ensure they understand the project’s value and the importance of their role in its success.
Notes to Editors
About the MARIN Tobago Project
Coral reefs and seagrasses are some of the most diverse ecosystems in the marine environment. Coral reefs are home to 25% of the marine life in the ocean. Seagrass meadows play an important role in keeping the oceans healthy and providing habitat for a wide array of marine organisms and supporting livelihoods.
Tobago’s coral reefs have suffered the impacts of global bleaching in 2010 and continue to suffer due to such challenges as pollution and overfishing while seagrass beds suffer degradation from events such as Sargassum influx, land-based pollution and land reclamation.
Under the Marine Resilience Initiative (MARIN) Tobago, the IMA will explore suitable methodologies for seagrass and coral reef restoration; one that maintains biodiversity and continues to support livelihoods. It will also sensitise communities to the importance of coral reef and seagrass restoration efforts and build support for sustainable restoration and active management efforts.