Protecting the Caribbean’s Marine Treasures

Head Warden CJ Jeffrey patrolling Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area in Grenada. (E. Doyle)

St. George’s, July 28, 2011 – World Ranger Day is commemorated on July 31 by national parks around the world.

In the Caribbean, let’s take this chance to honour the dedication and passion of the rangers and wardens who work in our region’s marine protected areas – wardens who are at the frontline in protecting the marine environment that we love, such as a Head Warden from Grenada who we profile here.

Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area is considered to be home to some of the finest reefs in Grenada, and Head Warden ‘CJ’ Jeffrey tells us about the work that goes on to protect such a special area.

“We patrol the waters in and around the marine protected area ensuring that visiting boats are on the correct mooring and looking out for other folks using the area,” he says. “We check that all other safety aspects are obeyed like not speeding inside of the boundaries.”

Most important to the wardens is ensuring that there are no illegal activities, especially spear-fishing, which is very destructive to the reef and as such is prohibited. “Marine protected areas play a vital role in helping provide refuges where fish can breed. The fish grow and fill the protected area, and because they’re territorial they then move out into the surrounding waters and help replenish nearby fisheries” CJ explains.

Wardens might give a warning on the first offense, but the second can lead to arrest. “Wardens have the power to arrest because they operate under the Grenada Fisheries Act.”

But policing is only one part of what the wardens do. At Moliniere-Beausejour there are excellent sites for boating, swimming, snorkeling and scuba diving, and the protected area is home to the famous, world-first underwater sculpture park. So the wardens are also ambassadors for tourism.

“We want to make sure that visitors have a safe time and an environmentally responsible experience. I remember having fantastic times on this part of the coast when I was a child, with clean beaches and lots of amazing sea life,” CJ comments.

Photo: Head Warden CJ Jeffrey patrolling Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area (E. Doyle)

“As more and more pressure is being placed on the environment, I want to help protect these areas and their marine creatures so that I can share the wonders of the sea with my own daughters as they grow up.”

When the wardens are patrolling they’re in communication with tour guides, yachts and dive operators to make sure everyone follows the guidelines and has a great time. “We also answer a lot of questions, things like where can you see a sea horse? ” adds CJ.

Ask him what the best part of his job is, and CJ doesn’t have to stop and think.

“The wardens are all PADI-certified divers and it’s our job to know every inch of Moliniere-Beausejour, both above and below the water. We regularly monitor the coral, fish, lobster and other important species like turtles, and we work with marine biologists to evaluate our findings.”

Mooring maintenance check at Dragon Bay (E. Doyle)

In fact, before working for Grenada Marine Protected Areas, CJ was a professional Dive Master and Dive Instructor who already knew the underwater world of Moliniere-Beausejour like the back of his hand.

Apart from being divers, the wardens get to use some pretty sophisticated equipment in their jobs. They have to be adept at handling and maintaining the patrol boat, they’re proficient marine radio users, and they work with GPS and related computer equipment like geographic information systems. They also install and maintain the marker buoys and mooring buoys in the protected area, on occasion using specialist equipment like underwater jackhammers.

The wardens also do land patrols where they check the marine protected area from vantage points on land. This is where the wardens get to engage with the closest neighbours of Molinere-Beausejour, who are the people of the local communities.

So it’s a very cool job working in a very special place. “The wardens love their day-to-day work out on the water and meeting people” he says, but he also stresses; “It’s an important job that we have in protecting the environment, and it’s a high profile job in our communities, who we want to serve well.”

So what can you and I do to help? CJ says “If locals and visitors alike respect Moliniere-Beausejour’s regulations and understand the importance of protected areas for now and for the future, then you help us to protect the beaches, reefs, fish and other marine biodiversity that we all love.”

Moliniere-Beausejour Marine Protected Area is located to the north of St. George’s, from near the north of Grand Mal to the north of Beausejour Bay. White demarcation buoys show the seaward boundary, which runs along the edge of the continental shelf and the seaway for maritime traffic. No anchoring is allowed in the protected area, and fixed red mooring buoys are available for day use, white buoys for mainly the yachts. Please be sure that you leave all marine creatures in place and dispose of all your litter properly.
For more information about Grenada’s Marine Protected Areas, please contact the Fisheries Division on tel +1 473 440 3814 or emailmbmpa@hotmail.com. For more information about the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM), seehttp://campam.gcfi.org/campam.php or email emma.doyle@gcfi.org.

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