(GIS) – Coral reefs are regarded as vital marine ecosystems that provide valuable goods and services to Saint Lucia, particularly through the tourism and fishing industries.
The ability of these ecosystems to sustain the generation of goods and services is being threatened by many natural and human disturbances, which result in their degradation and modification of their natural environment. These disturbances include storms and hurricanes, increases in sea surface temperature, overfishing, runoff related to unregulated agricultural practises, and development activities.
Considering the importance of coral reefs and the threats they face, the Government of Saint Lucia, through the Disaster Vulnerability Reduction Project (DVRP), commenced a consultancy with the overall objective of preparing a plan of action for enhancing coral reef systems within the Point Sable Environmental Protection Area (PSEPA). It is anticipated that information gathered will result in appropriate action to build the PSEPA’s resilience to the impacts of climate change.
Addressing stakeholders at a kick-off meeting last week, Consultant Jean-Pascal Kenneth Joseph Deslarzes, noted the extreme importance of coral reefs in the Point Sable Environmental Protection Area.
“As ecosystems, coral reefs and mangroves are highly diverse and provide a large number of services, both to the organisms that live on the reef but also to us as humans. We can measure their value, in terms how people are attracted to witness their beauty, how they support very diverse ecosystems and very importantly, their role in preserving the livelihoods of thousands of Saint Lucians,” Deslarzes said.
Coral reefs, however, are fragile, and with the onset of climate change, effects such as sea level rise and ocean acidification continue to pose a major challenge for maintaining their natural habitat.
“Now more than ever, the need to rejuvenate and in some instances undertake measures to protect existing reefs is seen as priority for the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries, Physical Planning, Natural Resources and Co-operatives,” said Deputy Chief Fisheries Officer, Thomas Nelson.
The 12-month consultancy, being undertaken by Jean-Pascal Kenneth Joseph Deslarzes and Beatrice Chantal Marie De Gaulejac, will include training of staff of the Department of Fisheries, and other coral reef stakeholders, in underwater research specific to coral reef biology/ecology, health, nursery establishment, monitoring, other laboratory techniques and implementation of the guidelines and PSEPA Reef Enhancement Plan.
The DVRP is being led by the Department of Economic Development, Transport and Civil Aviation.