Coastal & Marine Management & Education in the South Eastern Caribbean


Two thirds of the Caribbean’s coral reefs are threatened by impacts from human activities such as sedimentation from deforestation, coastal development and dredging; pollution from agricultural and industrial development; untreated wastewater discharge; and fishing related activities. The reefs of the Eastern Caribbean were identified to be highly threatened in the Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean Report produced by the World Resources Institute in 2004.

Tobago has historically marketed itself as a tourist destination that is unspoiled and has managed to maintain this image despite an increasing trend in tourist arrivals. More recently however, the island’s coral reefs, which play a critical role in the tourism industry, society and local livelihoods, have been degrading at an accelerated rate primarily due to a combination of human and natural pressures. Tobago, like many of its Caribbean neighbours, has to balance development and conservation to curtail the loss of ecologically fragile resources on which local communities rely while, at the same time, offering its populous options for sustainable livelihoods.

The Buccoo Reef and Bon Accord Lagoon Complex, which encompasses coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove forests, and provides habitat for endangered and vulnerable species, was officially designated a Marine Protected Area in 1973. The site was subsequently designated a Wetland of International Importance under the Ramsar Convention in 2005, and is soon to be declared an Environmentally Sensitive Area in recognition of the significant biological diversity of the site, and of its importance as Tobago’s most popular tourist attraction (estimated 75,000 visitors per year).

Despite its protected area status, the Buccoo Reef, a designated site of the International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), continues to be adversely affected by the pressures and impacts associated with tourism and coastal development. Focused effort to improve and support management processes is required in order to reverse this trend.


The Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT) and ICRAN have developed a three-year project to assist Tobago and other countries of the Southeastern Caribbean to respond to the challenges they face in managing and sustaining their coral reef environments. The BRT is a non-profit organisation in Trinidad and Tobago, which has successfully implemented education, research and coastal zone management programs throughout Tobago. BRT seeks to build intellectual and technical capacity in marine sciences that will enable governments, resource managers and the general public to make informed decisions on how best to interact with and use the region’s marine resources. BRT will lead the implementation of the project which is generously funded by the United Nations Foundation and C.L. Financial Ltd.


This project seeks to improve the Southeastern Caribbean’s marine environment, through enhanced access to research and education facilities and expertise, and the exchange of sustainable practices for tropical islands.

Project initiatives will reach out to managers, researchers and policy makers across the Wider Caribbean through the international network of ICRAN and partners to ensure that the existing expertise and available information for comprehensive management and marine resource monitoring purposes is further developed.


Enhanced management capacity for Buccoo Reef Marine Park (BRMP) in Tobago – Facilitate integration between key national organisations and stakeholders and provide and coordinate human and technical support and assistance to MPA managers and staff as they implement local management actions.

Enhanced management capacity within the Southeastern Caribbean – Managers and teachers from across the region will be provided with opportunities for information exchange through “Training of Trainers” workshops, technical and scientific training related to aquaculture development, and networking exercises.

Strengthening the sub-regional node of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN) – The project coordinator will assist in the collation and dissemination of socio-economic and biological monitoring activities information gathered from coral reefs across the region by GCRMN researchers, providing a focal point, opportunities for information exchange, and improving the inter-regional cooperation of the Caribbean nodes within the GCRMN network.

Demonstration of Alternative Income Generating Approaches – Aquaculture projects tested by the Buccoo Reef Trust will be used to demonstrate how the available technology can be applied to provide sustainable livelihoods for poor coastal communities, and shift the reliance on practices which may damage the coral reefs.

Education and Awareness – Materials on the coral reef environment and their management will be developed for dissemination to the general public and schools, and opportunities for collaboration with domestic and international universities will be sought to encourage stewardship of Tobago’s marine environment and to improve international recognition of the local issues.

Proposed Activities

Activities to be undertaken that relate to the specific outputs identified will include:

  • Facilitation of community workshops at the BRMP to garner support for the proposed management approaches
  • Provision of technical assistance and training to managers and staff for Park activities
  • Design, development and implementation of community-based resource monitoring programmes for BRMP
  • Facilitation of the UNEP CAR-RCU/ICRAN ‘Training of Trainers’ course for marine park managers and those with authority for regulation, enforcement and policy development
  • Coordination of exchange visits for managers, scientists and researchers from across the wider Caribbean
  • Implementation of environmental education and outreach activities to engage tourists and local communities in the challenges of marine resource management within the Caribbean
  • Coordination of GCRMN activities including collation and dissemination of socioeconomic and biological coral reef monitoring activities from across the region
  • Coordination of coral reef Crime Scene Investigation training to build investigation and enforcement skills for MPA staff and natural resource trustees