The Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA) received a grant from the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) to undertake a learning exchange and participate in the 64th GCFI annual conference in Mexico from October 30th – November 4th, 2011.
The learning exchange contingent from St. Lucia comprises two members of the Soufriere Fishermens Cooperative Society Ltd and two staff from the SMMA who will travel to Puerto Morelos, Mexico. The St. Lucian group will meet with fishers from St. Kitts & Nevis and Mexico to share experiences and knowledge in setting up marine protected areas. The groups will also discuss the role of fishermen in managing MPAs, sustainable fishing practices and strategies to overcome challenges fishermen face. The St. Lucian MPA, the Soufriere Marine Management Area was established in 1995 and the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis are in the process of setting up a MPA in Nevis.
The St. Lucian contingent will also participate in the Fishers Forum and attend various workshops organized as part of the 64th GCFI annual conference. During the Fishers Forum, the group will get the opportunity to network with fishers and scientists from the wider Caribbean. They will also participate in a field trip to visit landing sites in Mexico.
The group was also invited to participate in the Invasive Lionfish special workshop. The objective of this special workshop is to train key personnel in strategies to manage and control the invasive lionfish in their own countries. The two SMMA staff who are SCUBA certified will get the opportunity to dive and learn safe handling techniques to remove lionfish from a protected area. SMMAâ€™s participation in this lionfish workshop is very timely as the first sighting and photograph of a lionfish in St. Lucian waters by a local dive operator on October 19th, 2011 was confirmed by the Department of Fisheries in a recent press release.
Upon return to St. Lucia, the fishers will hold a workshop for fellow fishers in Soufriere to pass on knowledge and information acquired from the learning exchange. The learning exchange contingent is also prepared to pass on any knowledge and skills gained from the workshop in Mexico to the St. Lucia Lionfish Task Force & dive community.
This learning exchange opportunity was made possible with the support of GCFI, CaMPAM and UNEP-CEP with funding provided by the Directorate General for Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
For further information on the project contact Nadia Cazaubon, Project Officer at 758-459-5500 or via email at cazaubon AT smma dot org dot lc. For more information on lionfish invasion in Saint Lucia contact the Department of Fisheries at 758-468-4135 or deptfish AT maff dot egov dot lc.