Pigeon Island Marine Ecosystem Assessment Highlights Need to Protect Coral Areas
On October 28, 2021, the Saint Lucia National Trust (SLNT) hosted a virtual meeting with key stakeholders to present the results of a marine assessment study conducted for the marine area around Pigeon Island.
A summary presentation of the results of the study was made by Mr. Jules Kleitz, marine biologist from the consulting firm CREOCEAN Antilles Guyane based in Martinique. The study, which began in April 2021 and ended in September 2021, was carried out by a team of consultants from CREOCEAN.
This marine assessment is part of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) Ecosystem Adaptation Project implemented by SLNT and co-funded by the International Climate Initiative (IKI) of the German Federal Ministry of the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety through KfW. .
The purpose of this marine assessment was to assess the current state of health of the marine ecosystems surrounding Pigeon Island; identify the causes of any degradation observed and make recommendations to deal with anthropogenic and climatic impacts affecting this marine ecosystem.
The results of this study include a marine ecosystem assessment report, a rehabilitation and monitoring plan, a coral reef and seagrass ecosystem assessment report, maps of marine ecosystems and an atlas. of underwater photographs. The first of its kind for Pigeon Island.
Among the remarkable findings of this study is the observation of healthy colonies of coral species, notably Acropora palmata or the Elkhorn coral. The assessment report stated that “this heritage coral species constituted large populations in the Caribbean which were wiped out in the 1980s by bacterial disease”. However, he mentions that in recent years new colonies of Elkhorn coral have started to reappear along the coasts of the Caribbean islands and that it is possible to undertake a further restoration of this species in the marine area of the island. Pigeon.
Although positive results were found for the Elkhorn, the study however noted that “all coral areas in the Pigeon Island marine area contain colonies affected by tissue loss disease (SCTLD) and d ‘other coral diseases, which has led to the degradation of several reefs. In addition, the report points out that during the study, no live queen conch and sea urchins were present in the marine area and only dead and old queen conch shells were found. These species are essential for the health of coral reefs and seagrass beds.
Some of the pressures on Pigeon Island’s marine ecosystems that were observed during the conduct of the study include the use of sunscreen and related sunscreen agents by beach users, which may impact on corals; increased fishing pressure by recreational and small-scale fishing; lost fishing gear that could continue to become ghost fish; unregulated mooring of large yachts; damage caused by anchors to reefs and seagrass beds; and macro-waste consisting mainly of plastic bottles, plastic cups, aluminum cans and tires.
The assessment also revealed that the passage of many boats at excessive speed and fast boats with towed buoys generate high levels of noise nuisance in the marine area which can impact marine fauna, such as turtles and boat speed. elsewhere a real threat to people who swim from the beach or the yachts.
The study recommended, among other things, the need to develop and implement a management plan for the area, the installation of permanent moorings, vessel speed limits and the rehabilitation and monitoring of the population. of Elkhorn corals through transplantation.
The Director of Corporate Services of the SLNT, Ms. Jeannine Compton-Antoine, indicated that the SLNT intends to continue to collaborate with the organizations and users of the resources concerned in order to mobilize resources to implement the recommendations made by CREOCEAN to monitor and effectively rehabilitate the marine ecosystems of Pigeon Island.
Ms. Compton-Antoine also explained that Saint Lucia’s marine ecosystems are important resources that support livelihoods and help protect the island’s coastline from the impacts of extreme weather events. The estimated economic value of the coral reefs and seagrass beds studied in this marine area is approximately EC $ 425,355.00.