By Ashley Taepakdee
May 18, 2018
As our class comes to an end, we acknowledge the amazing staff and rangers from the SMMA who have helped us throughout our stay in Soufriere. They have provided us with the many tools we need to conduct our scientific diving and have accompanied us on almost all of our dives. The SMMA has come a long way since its inception in 1995. Soufriere’s economy and residents rely heavily on agriculture, fishing, and tourism, which depends on the environment which has suffered from over-exploitation, human development, and climate changes. Various conflicts arose in the past that were caused by multiple stakeholders fighting over areas in the marine environment. Therefore, after a few failed interventions by the Department of Fisheries, the SMMA was created after 18 months of collaboration and discussions with stakeholders.
The SMMA divides the coastline into several zones. These zones are marine reserves, fishing priority areas, yacht mooring areas, multipurpose areas, and recreational areas. These zones served to please all stakeholders reliant on the marine environment and the SMMA strives to reduce stakeholder conflicts. However, the division of the coastlines has not always been received well by all stakeholders and the SMMA’s history is riddled with conflict and political unrest. From this conflict, the SMMA has developed programs to address issues and adapt to changing times. Some programs the SMMA has helped to develop are a net buy back campaign for fishermen, community outreach, and they hold forums to discuss decisions and work out conflicts with stakeholders. Currently, SMMA rangers patrol the coastline daily, and receive most of their funding from user fees such, as mooring and diving fees. The SMMA continues to advocate for the health of the reefs they protect not only for its stakeholders, but for the wellbeing of all those who live in Soufriere.
For more information,check out their website: http://www.smma.org.lc/
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, 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.