SMMA Participates in 64th GCFI in Puerto Morelos, Mexico

The Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA) received a grant from the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) to undertake a learning exchange and participate in the 64th GCFI annual conference in Mexico from October 30th – November 4th, 2011.

The learning exchange contingent from St. Lucia comprises two members of the Soufriere Fishermens Cooperative Society Ltd and two staff from the SMMA who will travel to Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The St. Lucian group will meet with fishers from St. Kitts & Nevis and Mexico to share experiences and knowledge in setting up marine protected areas. The groups will also discuss the role of fishermen in managing MPAs, sustainable fishing practices and strategies to overcome challenges fishermen face. The St. Lucian MPA, the Soufriere Marine Management Area was established in 1995 and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis are in the process of setting up a MPA in Nevis.

The St. Lucian contingent will also participate in the Fishers Forum and attend various workshops organized as part of the 64th GCFI annual conference. During the Fishers Forum, the group will get the opportunity to network with fishers and scientists from the wider Caribbean. They will also participate in a field trip to visit landing sites in Mexico.

The group was also invited to participate in the Invasive Lionfish special workshop. The objective of this special workshop is to train key personnel in strategies to manage and control the invasive lionfish in their own countries. The two SMMA staff who are SCUBA certified will get the opportunity to dive and learn safe handling techniques to remove lionfish from a protected area. SMMA’s participation in this lionfish workshop is very timely as the first sighting and photograph of a lionfish in St. Lucian waters by a local dive operator on October 19th, 2011 was confirmed by the Department of Fisheries in a recent press release.

Upon return to St. Lucia, the fishers will hold a workshop for fellow fishers in Soufriere to pass on knowledge and information acquired from the learning exchange. The learning exchange contingent is also prepared to pass on any knowledge and skills gained from the workshop in Mexico to the St. Lucia Lionfish Task Force & dive community.

This learning exchange opportunity was made possible with the support of GCFI, CaMPAM and UNEP-CEP with funding provided by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

For further information on the project contact Nadia Cazaubon, Project Officer at 758-459-5500 or via email at cazaubon@smma.org.lc. For more information on lionfish invasion in Saint Lucia contact the Department of Fisheries at 758-468-4135 or deptfish@maff.egov.lc.

Invasive Lionfish Confirmed in Saint Lucia’s Waters

Press Release Issued by the Department of Fisheries, Castries, 21 October, 2011

The invasion of the Indo-Pacific Lionfish within the Northeastern Atlantic and Caribbean has has been progressively affecting the region over past years. The lionfish has a voracious appetite for eating juvenile reef fishes and it reproduces rapidly in new areas once it settles in. Based on a sighting and photographic record submitted through one of the Sandals dive centers, the Department of Fisheries this week has now verified the presence of lionfish in the waters of Saint Lucia, as sighted on a reef off the Ciceron area. This early notification of the presence of the Lionfish comes out of the swift response of the local dive company, having been part of the Lionfish Task Force set up earlier this year to facilitate St Lucia’s preparedness for the likely invasion of the Lionfish. The fish was confirmed in waters off Martinique earlier this year, having made its way steadily southwards following a gradual wave of invasion throughout the islands of the Greater and now the Lesser Antilles.

As a consequence of this sighting, the Department of Fisheries requests that all licensed dive operators and fishers now move to a higher level of surveillance in monitoring coastal waters for the lionfish. Any lionfish found should be carefully captured and, preferably frozen and brought to the Department of Fisheries where they can be examined and used in demonstrating and promoting the use of lionfish as a valuable food source. The Department has also called for a meeting of the National Lionfish Task Force to take place at its Castries office on Wednesday October 28th. At the meeting, the Task Force will seek to activate various components of the response plan. Persons are reminded that, although the Lionfish has venomous spines and must be handled very carefully using an appropriate protective barrier such as PVC gloves, it has been successfully used in many Caribbean countries and elsewhere in the world as a tasty and nutritious food fish. Developing a viable Lionfish fishery is often a key component of an effective national response.

Impact of Cargo Vessel Sinking on A Protected Area

When M/V Anglyn sank off the coast of Vieux-Fort, a few containers broke loose and floated up the west coast of St. Lucia. Three containers made their way into the protected marine zone known as the Soufriere Marine Management Area. One container was raided and sank in 60ft of water at Anse L’Ivrogne resulting in underwater debris littering the seabed, nearby coral reef flats and the shoreline from Anse L’Ivrogne to Anse Cochon. The second container was grounded at Sable Nic in the middle of two Marine Reserves at Gros Piton and the third was towed to Malgretoute and subsequently trucked out of the area.

The SMMA contracted a local tug to remove the containers from Anse L’Ivrogne and Sable Nic. The one at Anse L’Ivrogne was successfully removed however the other is still at Sable Nic after two unsuccessful attempts at removal due to the nearby shallow reefs and sea conditions. A series of cleanups both on land and underwater resulted in the removal of the majority of debris on the seabed and adjacent reefs.

The SMMA has also taken a lead role in continuing the national response to the spill and is assisting in the field assessment of possibly turning the wreck which is a navigational hazard in its present location to a dive site at another suitable location.