Over the past five years of operations, the SMMA has proven workable as long as the principles of participatory planning were followed. Political circumstances threatening the survival of the institution could be dealt with because of the strong commitment among the various stakeholders.
Since the existence of the SMMA was originally only based on a series of Cabinet conclusions, the institution was very vulnerable to outside interference, hence the new institutional arrangements have been put in place and the new arrangement is operational.
Initially the SMMA was also designed too much around certain leadership personalities and thus failed to clearly define the management responsibilities of the relevant institutions, which resulted in a “responsibility vacuum”.
However, the high level of transparency and a focused agenda is believed to be the reason that most of the stakeholder meetings are very well attended, although continuity by some members is missing, causing misrepresentation of relevant sectors at times (e.g. the reef fishermen).
The creation of a number of subcommittees to ease the workload of the SMMA staff proved unworkable, because of their complexity which made it difficult to convene regular meetings.
The implementation of the recommendations derived from the institutional review and the communications plan was the main priority to continue with the progress made, and to stabilize and strengthen the SMMA.
Key to the SMMA’s success in managing conflicts on an on-going basis is the very close contact which exists among user groups, and between them and SMMA management The SMMA plays the role of a facilitating link between the user groups, not an enforcement agency.
For of a variety of reasons, it sometimes becomes necessary for the SMMA to assist one group in formalizing or vocalizing its concerns, but it is essential for the SMMA to remain fair, and perceived as fair.
The SMMA has shown that two essential conditions for conflict management are:
Direct participation of resource users, because community institutions do not always provide adequate representation and because stakes/interests often vary from individual to individual.
Direct communication among stakeholder groups, for example, by allowing fishers to directly address conflicting interests to others, such as divers, or yachts people.
Communication and Public Sensitization
Although considerable progress has been made (e.g. balancing between enforcement of rules and regulations and public relations, establishment of newsletter, internet web-site, etc.), effective communication between stakeholders, community groups and other involved parties remains critical. Therefore it is essential that the enforcement staff continues the sensitization efforts for the user groups. The implementation of the communications plan remains a high priority.
Involvement/Support of self-regulating User Groups/Institutions
Further support needs to be given to strengthen local, self regulating institutions namely the Fishermen’s Cooperative, St. Lucia’s dive association Anbaglo and the Soufriere Water Taxi Association, the latter being particularly dependent on better recognition by government authorities. The role of true representation of their sectors can not always be fulfilled.