Coast Guard Base in Union Island, SVG: Final Upate

Kurt Cordice sre at
Sun Mar 11 19:39:46 EST 2001

Hello Everyone,

Just wanted to give a final report for those who have been following this issue.  The construction of the peir for the Coast Guard base has begun. There is a small work barge which has been "grounded" in the shallow water area of the site, and they are currently using cranes to fill the area of the peir with material from the surrounding waters.   A silt net has been placed between the work area and the harbour side of the project, but the other side remains unprotected.  There doesn't seem to be too much silt in the surrounding reef area at the moment.  I guess all we can do is watch and see how the project progresses.

My appologies for not yet answering those who wrote in to the lists regarding suggestions for monitoring.  In October of last year, the site was used as a test area for a monitoring protocol that will hopefully become part of consistent monitoring in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.  With some help from volunteers, two monitoring sites were set up in the planned area of the Coast Guard base, one in the shallow seagrass area, the other on the nearby reef.  Data collected included basic benthic coverage, counts of several common fish, water chemistry, temp. and salinity.  Also, UW video footage of the actual Coast Guard site and surrounding reef was taken, and a very general current assessment using a current buoy.  

The purpose of this effort was not to establish conclusive evidence of the damage that may result from the Coast Guard project.  However, it was ment to give indications of issues that should be explored further to ensure the safety of the marine area, and to provide at least a basic record of what was there before the work started.  

I have always believed that the key to saving the natural beauty of this place was establishing a way to collect environmental information.  Once we could show what was being destroyed, and measure ongoing threats over time, even in a very basic way, then the cost of "development" would at least be known, and maybe that would have an effect on the decisions being made.  

But, I guess the hard lesson I take from this experience is this:  No matter how much information we have, and studies we do, the resulting information is only as strong as the body or organisation that is there to use it.  In this case, it was not the lack of information that was the problem, it was not the lack of local expertise to make proper decisions.  The problem was that the internal forces within Government were not strong enough to use the available information to make a difference, and there was no external local organization strong enough to question the project.  From what I can see, I think this is the major problem we face.  

We need to move quickly to collect and continually update monitoring data.  There are already some good efforts in this regard.  I am specifically focusing on the field collection of data to help the process along (including a repeat effort at the Coast Guard site once the project is finished).  

However, just as important as the montiroing is the need for some external organization that can truely represent the people of the country, and be strong enough to make the Gov't take notice when it presents evidence regarding an issue.  I know, tall order.  Our national trust is currently inactive.  We will need to either reactivate it and strengthen its force, or create an entirely new heritage foundation whose mandate will be the protection of the heritage for the young people of the country.  It won't be easy, but without this, I truely believe that the other efforts will be wasted.  

Yet again, many thanks to all who have followed the story, contributed info, and actively assisted.  Specifically to coral-listers, I know this is supposed to be a research based list.  I greately appreciate the willingness of list members to include this issue among its discussions.  I think the ability to reach all the coral people out there through the list has been a great help in this situation, and to the overall movement to protect coral reefs. I hope it continues to grow in the future.  

All the best,


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