Media’s biodiversity education takes them to Tobago Cays

The Tobago Cays are only accessible by boat.

Twenty-three media persons from St Vincent, Saint Lucia and Grenada were hosted by The OECS Secretariat last week on a tour of the Tobago Cays Marine Park. Representing Saint Lucia on the tour were Chris Satney of GIS and Toni Nicholas representing the STAR.
The visit to the Cays is a follow-up to six media seminars conducted by the OECS on Biodiversity in the region under its OECS Protected Areas and Associated Livelihoods (OPAAL project). The Tobago Cays is one of six protected area sites supported by the OPAAL project under a five year Biodiversity conservation plan. The Cays—a breathtaking marine reserve located in the Southern Grenadines-part of St Vincent, consists of five uninhabited islands linked by a horse-shoe reef.
The media group got a tour of the islands which are only accessible by boat and got to see first hand the economic benefits derived including the operations of water taxis, vendors, and taxes accrued from yachters and persons visiting the parks. Over four thousand persons visit the Cays each year, either on their private yachts of catamarans from the mainland.
The conservation efforts there were also bearing fruit and testimony to this was the increase in turtles in the area thanks to a turtle sanctuary, other marine life as well as bird life and iguanas and lizards on the islands themselves. The tour was seen as part of ongoing efforts by the OECS Environment Department to promote the strategic importance of protected areas, in an effort to lobby their support for environmental conservation and preservation and in order to strengthen their capacity to serve as conduits of public education on the subject. Ahead of the trip to the Cays media representatives were hosted by Fr Andrew Roache Chairman of the Board of the Tobago Cays, who gave an overview of his organization, whilst the role of marine protected areas in biodiversity conservation was explained by Susanna Scott project Co-coordinator of OPAAL.
The tour included viewpoints off the five Cays including photo opportunities of such spots like Petit Tabac, the island where Jack Sparrow (Johnny Depp) was marooned in the film Pirates of the Caribbean. The final stop was on Petit Bateau for a blend of lunch, interviews and a chance to enjoy the park and surrounding shallow cerulean waters. Local experts in the field of environmental management in St Vincent and the Grenadines and Tobago Cays then met with the media.
According to Tecla Fontenard, who is the media coordinator on the OECS project the visit to the Cays is another step in deepening the relationship between the OECS and Media Operatives in region.

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