Why conduct Research in the SMMA?

Science in support of sustainable resource use

The marine ecosystem of the SMMA consists of narrow fringing reefs, volcanic boulder fields and sand sheets bordering on deep, oligotrophic waters of the Eastern Caribbean Sea. The people of Saint Lucia depend on the coupled terrestrial and marine resources of the area for their livelihoods and recreation.

These resources must be conserved and their use managed carefully if they are to retain their values in the face of escalating human activity. For the management of the SMMA to be adaptive, it must be informed of the effectiveness of various strategies for achieving the goals of conservation and sustainability. Such assessment should be objective and quantitative where appropriate, and should support the development of predictive models.

What kinds of scientific studies are conducted in the SMMA?

Monitoring programmes are designed to measure change of the SMMA ecosystem in response to human activities and environmental forcing. The routine measurements attempt to track environmental, biological and socioeconomic variables at key locations in the SMMA over the long term. They include:

– Beach erosion and sand movement (G. Chambers)
– Water quality in the watershed and receving waters (CEHI)
– Coral reef community structure, live coral and algal cover (J.Nowlis & CANARI)
– Sedimentation rates on the reef. (CANARI, C. Roberts)
– Reef Fish censuses (C. Roberts)
– Fisheries catch and effort (DOF)

Research projects are designed to improve knowledge and understanding of the structure and function of the marine ecosystem of the Soufriere coast. They range from studies of coral fish migration to profiles of the Soufriere community.

– Fishery profile of Soufriere Fishery (Helen Bigot, IFREMER)
– Socioeconomic study of the Soufriere Community (CANARI)
– SERFS – Soufriere Experiment in Reef Fisheries Sustainbility (B.Hatcher – CFRAMP)
– Marine Park recreational use study (T.van’t Hoff, CANARI)

Monitoring and research activities are conducted by internal, national and international agencies, coordinated through the Chief Fisheries Officer, Department of Fisheries.

Featured website

Stakeholder Analysis and Natural Resource Conflict Management: An Alternative to Itchy and Scratchy ~ Jacques M. Chevalier. This web site contains quite a good synthesis of the literature and thinking on stakeholder analysis.


Research Areas

Why is it so important to monitor the sedimentation rate in our ocean?

Sedimentation is the mud that enters the ocean from river run-off. It consists of little particles and nutrients that are washed from the land into rivers by rainfall. What we do on land affects the coastal ocean. If the land is covered with trees and bushes, little soil will be washed into the rivers, but wherever soil is bare, it will be carried by the rainwater into the rivers…

From September 2000 to the end of January 2001, Fiona Gell (post-doctoral Research Associate, Environment Department, University of York) and Natty Faustin (Data Collector for the Department of Fisheries) studied fishing on the reefs in the SMMA, interviewing fishermen, recording where they were fishing and what they caught, and measuring and weighing the fish in their catches. This information was used to discover what effects the Marine Reserve zones in the SMMA have had on the fish catches that the fishermen are getting in the nearby fishing areas.

The “Status of Coral Reefs of the World: 2002” (PDF document, edited by Clive Wilkinson) has now been posted on the Australian Institute of Marine Science page, at

More recently, Studivan et al have published an interesting article on the potential for ballast-spread stony coral tissue loss disease:

Transmission of stony coral tissue loss disease (SCTLD) in simulated ballast water confirms the potential for ship‐born spread

Dr. Owen Day and CLEAR Caribbean recently published a report on biodiversity conservation in SIDS, with a specific focus on coral reef restoration:

Capacity needs within SIDS for effective biodiversity conservation within protected areas including MPAs/MMAs

Marine Reserves in coral reef areas result in several potential advantages to fisheries.

The most important is that they allow for the protection of fish from fishing, which will result in these fish growing bigger in number and size, and therefore reproduce more and in better conditions. They also allow for the protection of coral reefs, which are used as homes by many coral reef fishes, from physical damage which can be caused by fishing activity such as the use of fish pots.

If you take a look at the Soufriere bay after a heavy rain, you will see a cloud of brownish water coming from the river mouth. This is mud washed from the land by rain, and the sediment plume can extend up to Rachette Point. Underneath these brown waters, the mud drops onto the seabed covering the coral reef and jeopardizing the sensitive corals and sponges. After one or two days without rain, the sea regains its usual blue coloration but the mud remains on the reef.

Marine Reserves are for Fishermen

Recent reports in the local press have drawn attention to controversy surrounding the future of marine reserves in the Soufriere Marine Management Area (SMMA). Marine reserves are areas which have been closed to fishing. They lie at the heart of the bold and timely effort to manage St. Lucia’s valuable coastal reefs which the SMMA represents.

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