Transboundary Grenadines Citizen Scientists Unite to form Seabird Volunteer Patrol Group

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BirdsCaribbean writes about an ongoing and inspirational project towards seabird protection as concerned advocates pledge to work together to monitor and protect the seabirds and natural heritage of the Grenadine Islands. As part of these efforts, in early August, fishermen, conservationists, and tour operators from the trans-boundary Grenadines gathered to learn how to identify seabirds, collect nesting data on remote islands, and act as advocates for wildlife conservation. Nineteen participants took part in a two-day workshop on Union Island in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, which was organized by the non-profit organization Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC).

In the article excerpts below, Will Mackin and colleagues share their journey in forming the Grenadines Seabird Team:

Seabirds are a common sight when you live by or work on the ocean—especially in the tiny remote islands that stretch between the “mainlands” of St. Vincent and Grenada. But residents of the transboundary Grenadines have the opportunity to gain a much deeper appreciation of these magnificent birds, particularly if they make their living from the sea. Similar to seabirds, citizens of the Grenadines practice livelihoods that are inextricably and ultimately reliant upon the marine environment. Although they live on the land, they look towards the ocean for sustenance and stability. Until recently, outsiders did not know much about seabirds on these islands, however local fishermen and naturalists knew and valued them for their beauty, fish-finding skills, ability to foretell weather events, and their eggs and meat. In recent years they noticed that many were in decline.

brown noddies and tern

In 2004, scientists Hayes, Frost, Sutton, and Hay visited the Grenadines and discovered high numbers of boobies and terns, but with respect to numbers of breeding seabirds there was little other existing research. They summarized their results in a chapter in An Inventory of Breeding Seabirds in the Caribbean in 2009. Soon after, this work was followed up through the collaboration of adventurers David and Katherine Lowrie and Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) who set out to catalog seabird colonies throughout the Lesser Antilles in the first standardized surveys of the region. These surveys resulted in the Seabird Breeding Atlas of the Lesser Antilles, which featured firsthand visits to all the colonies and numerous newly identified sites. These surveys showed that two of the Grenadine islands—Battowia and Petit Canouan—supported globally important seabird colonies but were relatively unprotected, with birds being heavily exploited for food. Furthermore, dozens of other islands had active colonies but local residents were becoming alarmed by decreases in recent years. We accepted the challenge this presented and sought to engage local communities to learn more about how seabirds are used for food and fishing. Simultaneously we built a locally relevant and practical conservation presence in an effort to restore and protect populations.

In 2014, EPIC teamed up with SCIENCE (Science Initiative for Environmental Conservation and Education) and began to build a volunteer patrol team to monitor islands in the Grenadines with funds from the Protect Baby Seabirds Campaign on GlobalGiving and a Global Environment Facility (GEF) grant, slated to increase biodiversity education and capacity in St. Vincent’s Grenadines. The first workshop took place in 2015 in Paget Farm, Bequia with participants from Bequia, Mustique, Mayreau and Union Island.

This year’s workshop took place from July 22–23rd in Clifton, Union Island, with volunteers primarily from the Southern and Grenada Grenadines, including Mayreau, Union, and Carriacou (plus one participant from Mustique). This team recognized the importance of addressing the entire Grenadines from a transboundary conservation approach, since historically, culturally, and ecologically, the transboundary Grenadines are more closely related to one another than to their respective mainlands. Therefore, it was considered more valuable to work across the entire Grenadines archipelago than to use arbitrary political boundaries to define the extent of the project area (not to mention that seabirds do not care about political boundaries). With representatives from the Grenada Grenadines in attendance this year, we can now consider this initiative to be truly transboundary! [. . .]

For full articles (and photos above), see http://www.birdscaribbean.org/2016/08/transboundary-grenadines-citizen-science-seabird-volunteer-patrol-group/ and http://www.epicislands.org/news-press/empowering-local-citizen-scientists.html#.V820aPmU1D8

[Source: First accessed via https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/55894839/caribbean-compass-yachting-magazine-september-2016.]

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