July 12, 2021
Ms. Dornet hull
Secretary Physical Planning and Development Board
Re: Objection to removal of Coral Reef at Indian Bay.
Dear Ms. Hull,
The St. Vincent and the Grenadines Conservation Fund (SVGCF) takes this opportunity to register its objection to the application submitted by Raffique Dunbar to the Physical Planning and Development Board to remove coral reefs at Indian Bay.
The SVGCF: Established as a Not for Profit Company on November 30, 2015, our general purpose is to provide a sustainable flow of funds to support the long-term management and expansion of the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines National System of Protected Areas and other activities that contribute substantially to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity.
We were very surprised to see that a developer will be putting forward an application of this nature that will undoubtable have adverse impact on the immediate existing ecosystem and surrounding environment. Given the global concern about climate change, the sustainable development Goals (SDG) and the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), it is very alarming that the EIA does not take note of all this. Our country is a signatory to the CBD, has adopted the SDG’s and is also a part of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) which is a coalition of governments, companies and partners working together to accelerate action on the marine and coastal environment. At the heart of this Initiative are two overarching, time-bound goals:
- ’20-BY-20′ GOAL: To effectively conserve and manage at least 20 percent of the marine and coastal environment by 2020.
- SUSTAINABLE FINANCE GOAL: To achieve the ’20 by 20′ Goal, to have in place fully functioning sustainable finance mechanisms that will provide long-term and reliable funding to conserve and sustainably manage the marine and coastal resources and the environment in each participating country and territory.
Most Countries have fallen way short of these Goals, but certainly the work continues to conserve our nature resources. This application is counterproductive to the global collaborative efforts by countries to battle climate change and the adverse effects that come with it. It out rightly opposes the sustainable development ambitions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and directly threatens the extermination of a marine ecosystem.
The Importance of Coral Reefs:
The average diver can tell you that coral reefs are beautiful. They are like undersea cities, filled with colorful fish, intricate formations and wondrous sea creatures. The importance of coral reefs, however, extends far beyond the pleasure it brings to those who explore it. Coral reefs play an essential role in everything from water filtration and fish reproduction to shore line protection and erosion prevention.
A Barrier from Storms and Surge: Reefs play an important role in protecting the shoreline from storms and surge water. Barrier reefs, such as Florida’s, were named for the way they reduce waves and buffer the shores. Barrier reefs help stabilize mangroves and seagrass beds, which can easily be uprooted by large waves and h6 currents. Erosion prevention is particularly important in coastal areas such as the Florida Keys, where much of the shore is lined with residential homes and commercial buildings.
Diverse Biodiversity: As the foundation for complex food webs, coral reefs support an incredible diversity of fish. Algae, soft coral, sponges and invertebrates create the base of this web. From small herbivorous fish to large predatory fish, all find food and protection on the reef. Alongside reef fish is an equally diverse array of marine crustaceans, reptiles and mammals. Everything from lobsters and octopus to sea turtles and dolphins depend on the reef for food, habitat and protection. Each animal plays an important role in the reef ecosystem, be it filtering water, consuming prolific algae or keeping a particular species under control. By supporting such a wide range of plants and animals, reefs are able to maintain balanced relationships between predators and prey and organisms in competition for the same resources. It is these balanced relationships that keep our marine ecosystems diverse and abundant with life.
Nutrition: Fish and other marine life have been a primary source of protein for as long as people have lived along the coast. From small scale artisanal fisheries to major commercial fleets, harvesting of marine life is a major economic force in all of the world’s oceans. Local fisheries, such as lobster, stone crab, snapper and grouper, all directly rely on the reef for spawning and habitat. Other fisheries, such as tuna, dolphin and other pelagic species, rely on the reef indirectly, though the bait fish that they consume.
Water Filtration: Most corals and sponges are filter feeders, which means that they consume particulate matter suspended in the water column. This contributes to enhanced quality and clarity of our near shore waters.
Economic Development: Coral reefs often form the backbone of local economies. Tourists coming to dive need not only dive boats and guides, but also restaurants, hotels and commercial and entertainment facilities. In many cases, tourism associated with reefs has expanded to transform the entire economy of a region. This of course has both positive and negative consequences for both the marine environment and the communities involved. For example, someone who harvests sea turtle eggs may choose to sell turtle tours as an alternative livelihood. On the other hand, an unmonitored number of tourists may result in environmental problems such as coral damage, pollution and inadequate waste treatment.
The South Coast Marine Managed Area (SCMMA) is located along the south coast of mainland St. Vincent and Stretches from Canash Bay/Blue Lagoon all the way to Indian Bay. Initially designated in 1987 as a Marine Conservation Area, the South coast Marine Conservation Area (SCMCA) was one of ten specially protected marine conservation areas in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. In 2014, the National Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority (NPRBA) earmarked the SCMCA for delineation and designation as South Coast Marine Managed Area (SCMMA). In 2015, the declaration as an MMA or Marine Park made it the second in the country – the other being the Tobago Cays Marine Park (TCMP) in the Grenadines.
Reef Replanting Project:
On May 2020 the Serenity Dive Inc., a local dive shop, was approved to receive grant funding for a project entitled “Reef replanting and school dive program” in the amount of XCD$91,314.03.
The goal of the project is to restore coral reefs in St. Vincent, mainly within the SCMMA as well as areas in Petite Byahaut and Questelles, through coral gardening as a means of building climate resilience, conserving biodiversity and enhancing SVG’s tourism Product. This project also gives 20 students within the Secondary Schools and the Community College the opportunity to get certified in Scuba Diving as an additional skill while broadening their awareness of the underwater environment through their participation in the maintenance of the coral nursery and the out planting of Coral to the areas mentioned above.
The project will see the out planting of 800 – 1000 coral plants. The nursery has already been set up in the back of Young Island and out planting will begin by January 2022 within the SCMMA, Petite Byahaut and Questelles.
The main types of corals to be harvested and out planted are the Elkhorn and Staghorn Corals.
NOTE: It is Important to note that the site mentioned in the application submitted by Raffique Dunbar has been earmarked as one of the locations for out planting.
Evidence of life on the Reef:
The environmental impact assessment (EIA) in the application refers to the reef as “dead” but a recent diving expedition on Tuesday July 6, 2021, by Serenity Dive reveals that the reef is not “dead”, but teeming with life, supporting a diverse range of biodiversity. See images below of live Elkhorn and Pillar corals on the reef described as “dead”
This EIA done by Ms Krystle Francis is grossly lacking in evidence to support the claim that the reef is “dead”. There is no reference of any data, research, assessment or under water pictures to support this claim. Surely before such a claim can be made, proper research and assessment must be done by appropriate professionals to substantiate that claim. This however seems not to be the case with the EIA and leaves one to question its integrity.
The Placement of a new artificial reef at about 100-150 feet from the shore will most certainly disrupt and change the existing water current which will have unknown effects on the immediate area and surrounding environment.
The placement of imported sand to increase beach width comes sometimes at a steep price with it major disadvantages, which include but not limited to:
- It is a temporary measure to fix a permanent problem: Ultimately beach renourishment is only a bandage for an ongoing problem. Beach erosion has a core problem that is not addressed by this process. Without a plan to address the erosion issue, eventually beach renourishment will need to occur again and again to preserve the ecosystem.
- It alters the natural course of nature: Natural sand compacts over time as a way to prevent itself from being eroded away. When the tide is out, walk out on the sand that exists between the moist, soft sand that a foot sinks into and the powdery sand that rarely experiences waves. The middle zone is firm and protective, which is why wild beaches tend to be more durable. Much of the replacement sand ultimately just floats away with the first waves.
- It is incredibly expensive: That’s money could also go to reef rehabilitation, or social programs.
- The process of renourishment can interrupt natural life cycles: The process of repairing a beach can be very extensive. Beaches are often extended vertically and horizontally during the repair. Sand is often imported for this process, creating grain variations that can be problematic for local sea life. Even after the repair is completed, the natural life cycle may still be interrupted by changes to wave patterns, the shape of the beach, and other unforeseen factors that occur locally.
- It may reduce light availability: Changes in beach size and shape can affect the way sunlight reaches the shallow tidal zones. In return, plant and sea life can be affected in positive and negative ways. The biggest negative is that lower or higher levels of sunlight can cause species growth to overwhelm the system or species death.
- There is also the possibility that the imported sand can transport invasive species to our shores.
In conclusion the SVGCF strongly objects to the application for the multiplicity of reasons mentioned above. The application is counterproductive to the global collaborative efforts by countries to battle climate change and the adverse effects that come with it. It out rightly opposes the sustainable development ambitions of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and directly threatens the extermination of a marine ecosystem. In the spirit of biodiversity conservation and sustainable development we therefore ask that the Physical Planning Board deny this application as we continue to strive for conservation of our natural resources and a greener future.
Mr. Vanburn Harry
SVG Conservation Fund