It’s impossible to visit Grenada without feeling the urge to put on a mask and peer below the turquoise waters, home to healthy reefs, thousands of species of fish and other marine creatures, and more than a dozen incredible shipwrecks. But with rising sea temperatures, overfishing, and pollution, how do we protect our precious coral reefs around our island gems?
In 2013, Grenada made an environmental commitment that set the tone for the entire Caribbean. We were the first Small Island Developing State (SIDS) nation to commit to the goal of designating at least twenty per cent of our land and sea areas as national parks.
Marine Protected Areas (MPAs) are varied, but share a mission to limit indiscriminate harvesting of reef fish, reduce the destructive practises of anchoring and pumping bilge, and even limit the use of harmful types of sunscreen. MPAs provide ecosystem protection, giving our coastal marine habitats the opportunity to recover and flourish by enforcing a “no touch, no take” policy within their boundaries and provide outdoor marine learning centres for students from primary school to university.
Grenada is now home to four declared marine parks: Molinere Beauséjour MPA, home to the Underwater Sculpture Park, listed as one of National Geographic’s 25 Wonders of the World, the Sandy Island Oyster Bed MPA in Carriacou, Woburn Clarke’s Court Bay MPA on Grenada’s east coast and the most recently launched Grand Anse MPA.
This commitment, combined with a general increase in environmental awareness, has led to several important initiatives within the marine park management and scuba diving communities. Dive operators and local businesses are leading underwater and beach cleanups year-round, hosting lionfish hunts and competitions to control the population of the invasive species, and the island now hosts an annual Pure Dive Fest every October. Coral nurseries have been established to rescue and transplant fragile corals, and in partnership with the Grenada Hotel & Tourism Association and Grenada Tourism Authority, two shipwrecks have been prepared and sunk as artificial reefs - the MV Anina near to Purple Rain Reef on Grenada’s south west coast, and The Tyrrel Bay, in the Grand Anse Bay. To read more about wrecks and other dive sites in Grenada, check out our guide, 'Scuba Diving in Grenada: A Diver's Paradise'.
For marine parks to be truly accepted and respected by all stakeholders including fishermen, the community, visitors, and the private sector, we need to get everyone on board. Many of those who originally opposed the parks’ fishing restrictions, are now some of the biggest champions of the marine protection. Fishermen are now catching bigger hauls just outside the park boundaries than they had in years. So already, Grenada’s fish populations are recovering and divers, snorkelers and fishermen alike can see the results.
How can you help? Check out our blog, Responsible Tourism: 8 Ways to Protect Grenada's Marine Environment
Christine Finney is a marine biologist with Eco Dive