By Jessica Mailliez
From May 20, 2018
The Soufrière River runs through the busy island town of Soufrière, St. Lucia. Because of the steep terrain on this volcanic island, when heavy rain falls, sediment, fertilizers, and other contaminants are washed seaward down the Soufrière River. As our group spent time walking around the city we noticed that littering was a common practice. We have done some education outreach with the local school children over the past two weeks and informed them of the consequences of those actions. On our walk to a Soufrière primary school, we noticed that plastic bottles, polystyrene containers and food wrappers were littered all over the banks of the river. One short rainstorm could send all of that garbage out to the oceans to settle on coral reefs. The coral reefs surrounding St. Lucia are fringing reefs, separated from the coastline by just a short strip of sand or seagrass. The pollutants that flow from the river can quickly spread to inshore waters and to the reefs, and contribute to coral disease, degradation and mortality.
A reef cleanup had already been planned for several of the student dive groups, but it became very clear that a river cleanup was also in order. A group of four students led a river cleanup on Friday, May 18that the mouth of the Soufrière River. We were able to fill multiple 50-gallon trash bags and many other small bags in less than 30 minutes. We also noticed an oil slick pouring out of the river and straight into the Soufrière Bay. Trash on the reefs can also cause issues for local tourism. Because Soufrière relies heavily on tourism (35% is generated from the activities associated with coral reefs), if the waters and reefs surrounding St. Lucia are littered with garbage, it could have a huge impact on local tourism. Much of the garbage could come from the river outflow or from moored yachts, while other items could have come from the dump that used to be located at the top of Rachette Point. After the Soufrière Marine Management Association was founded in 1995 and marine reserves were established, the dump was moved inland, but large amounts of trash had already made their way into the oceans and settled on the reefs. Our reef clean up consisted of four main sites; Rachette Point (far), coral nursery, bat cave and Jalousie Jetty. At those locations we were able to cleanup glass and plastic bottles, tools, metal and plastic food containers, and nylon mooring ropes. We hope that the small things we have done to help keep St. Lucia beautiful might leave a lasting impression on the local people.
The authors of this blog are students enrolled in Tropical Marine Ecology and Conservation, field courses run in the Caribbean by the University of South Florida. In 2019 and 2021, the course went to the Carmabi research station in Curaçao and dived around the island over a 10-day period, for training and to carry out research projects. In 2018, the group went to Soufriere, Saint Lucia, and took part in various projects in partnership with the Soufriere Marine Management Association. In this blog, students will document their activities and how they relate to course material.