After a year of consultation with local stakeholders, EPIC produced the “Community-based Conservation Management Plan for the Seabirds of the Transboundary Grenadines Archipelago” – a major milestone for breeding seabirds throughout the entire Caribbean.
“The Grenadines harbor regionally and globally significant numbers of nesting seabirds yet face many threats which must be addressed to stop declines in their populations,” noted lead author Juliana Coffey. Seabirds are the only type of animal to rely on water, land, and sea for survival, meaning they are impacted by a broad array of human activities. These impacts are further magnified when they migrate across different lands and borders with varying laws and practices.
Given the scope of issues, a management plan was needed to provide clear direction and path forward to ensure seabirds remain part of the natural and cultural landscape for generations to come. The EPIC team met with over 100 stakeholders, including fishers, tourist industry representatives, government and academia, to ensure that diverse viewpoints were included when developing action items for the Plan.
The document provides comprehensive background information not previously compiled in one document. Included are profiles of each seabird species found to nest in the Grenadines, descriptions of the islands where they are found, and the legislation relevant to protecting wildlife and habitats. Nesting islands are home to a variety of plants and wildlife facing some of the same threats as seabirds, therefore, the biodiversity of the region is described as well to illustrate the overall conservation value of protecting seabirds and their habitat.
The action items are divided into four sections: Research, Management, Education and Outreach, and Monitoring and Enforcement. Research is needed to understand how seabird populations are changing and which types of habitat they need for nesting and feeding. Priority management actions focus on reducing imminent threats, such as seabird harvest, invasive species, disturbance and habitat destruction (e.g., through fires and development). Education and awareness campaigns and programs regarding seabirds and their islands habitats are essential to the success of any conservation work while enforcement of existing legislation will protect these vulnerable species.
A Working Group made up of diverse community stakeholders is overseeing he implementation of the Plan and provide periodic updates to the action items and background information as needed. They meet several times each year to discuss crucial issues, prioritize actions, and develop plans for funding the actions. The Grenadines archipelago poses a unique opportunity for transboundary cooperation on wildlife issues and such an approach can serve as a model for similar situations worldwide.
This project would not have been possible without the generous support of the United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), United States Agency for International Development (USAID), and St. Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund.