A September 1995 assessment of communication within the SMMA and a July 1996 survey of perceptions of the SMMA revealed that poor information flows contribute to a lack of compliance with the Area’s regulations and to mistrust of authorities and their motives by members of the wider Soufriere and St. Lucia communities.
The following six issues were identified as the main communication problems facing the SMMA:
- Lack of understanding of the SMMA and its purpose and goals by members of the various user groups, including the following: dive operators, hoteliers, the yachting sector (local and foreign), law enforcement agencies and officers (marine police, police force, immigration), and the general public, particularly the residents of the greater Soufriere area.
- Lack of understanding of the need for and significance of boundaries within the SMMA, by commercial and recreational users, including: fishermen, especially pot fishermen and local recreational fishers, including spear fishers, local recreational boaters, yachting and diving sectors, water-taxi operators, and beach boys.
- Poor information flows between the management of the SMMA and the surrounding communities, including the town of Soufriere, partly because representatives of the various sectors on the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) do not function as such.
- Lack of understanding by the Soufriere community and the general public in St. Lucia, of the ecological and economic benefits of coastal resources and the marine environment.
- Insufficient flow of scientific and research data to the Soufriere community, the schools, the management of the SMMA and the general pubic in St. Lucia.
- Soufriere, and St. Lucia as a whole, are receiving bad publicity internationally, notably in the yachting sector, because of harassment and crime.
A communication plan was developed for the SMMA to address specific communication deficiencies that were identified during the September 1995 assessment. The plan outlines recommends steps and approaches (target audiences, messages, media and/or actions) to address them.
While a number of communication activities have taken place over the past years, financial constraints have prevented the full implementation of the SMMA Communication Plan and key sectors remain insufficiently mobilized to support the objectives of the SMMA and comply with its rules and regulations. These include representatives of user groups (fishermen, yacht charter and dive operators), relevant government agencies (customs, immigration, district- and marine-police) and the general public