Tobago’s coral reefs have been threatened significantly by numerous factors both anthropogenic and natural. The reefs in Speyside, however, showed little susceptibility to the natural environmental threats that have persisted over the years, namely, bleaching, eutrophication and sedimentation. It was for this reason that it was described as versatile and resilient by the Buccoo Reef Trust and consequently became the target for a properly managed and protected, marine park.
In 2008, the Buccoo Reef Trust focused on engaging the Speyside community in reef conservation and data gathering to increase its possibilities of becoming a legally protected area. Multiple efforts by various national and international agencies such as the Tobago House of Assembly, Institute of Marine Affairs, European Commission and Buccoo Reef Trust, were made to establish a management plan for the area and designate it a restricted area and marine park. Despite these efforts, the Speyside marine area remains without legal status as a marine park, restricted area or protected area.
To identify the gaps and prepare the management plans that could help in this process, the Bucoo Reef Trust with a total GEF-SGP grant allocation of USD $49 920 and the organization’s support as well as that of Coral Cay Conservation and the Tobago House of Assembly started the Speyside Marine Area Community Based Management Project.
The project aimed to create greater environmental awareness among the community, promoted community participation in the execution of marine management plans, built local capacity to support livelihood needs and the consequent development of a registered CBO called Speyside Eco Marine Park Rangers.
The first Initiative was increasing environmental awareness with the project “My Island My Community: Increasing Awareness and Changing Attitudes and Behaviours” on Climate Change in Tobago. The focus that was placed on community participation and a bottom-up approach that promoted confidence among community members, allowed for greater participation and a synergistic approach where formal knowledge complimented existing community needs to produce realistic project objectives and community goals. The conservation of the surrounding area and its treatment as a protected area has resulted in the overall improvement and regeneration of reef conditions. Additionally, there has been improved watershed management and more controlled use and consumption of resources. This has provided an example of how an integrated coastal management system can efficiently ensure the protection of all biodiversity of the area while incorporating this into sustainable livelihoods of the 1064 community dwellers.
A partnership with the Department of Natural Resources and Environment of the Tobago House of Assembly’s provided additional support and helped promote the work of the project while bringing education and awareness to 450 community members, including 100 females and 200 children. Together with established management plans, the partnerships led to greater efforts toward biodiversity studies, ownership of the project and project sustainability which perpetuated capacity building and income generation through active involvement in project activities.
- Ana Maria Currea, Knowledge Management Specialist, GEF SGP, email@example.com
- Mr. Barry Lovelace, firstname.lastname@example.org