People living on the islands in the Grenadines have been reminded that during the dry season they should not set fires on offshore islands as fires have negative effects on natural areas, both on land and in the ocean.
Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) says many islands in the Grenadines are refuges for wildlife, including globally important populations of nesting seabirds, and all are sensitive to fires and their consequences. In addition, setting fires in Wildlife Reserves, including Battowia and Petit Canouan, is against the law.
It says after burning events, there is less vegetation to hold the soil in place; when it rains, the soil is washed into the sea and covers nearby coral reefs, limiting the sunlight reefs need to thrive and support healthy fisheries.
EPIC notes this tragedy under the sea is mirrored by the death of plants, insects, reptiles and other wild creatures that live on the islands. Each plant and animal play a role in this sensitive ecosystem. Fires disrupt that balance, reducing the diversity of species on an island.
For example, it says Petit Canouan is subjected to periodic burning and is now dominated by Guinea Grass (Panicum maximum), which competes with native plants and is invasive in the Caribbean.
In addition, EPIC reminds it is also the start of nesting season for seabirds like terns and gulls that seek out the remote islands of the Grenadines to raise their chicks. Under the Wildlife Acts of St Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada, it is illegal to harvest seabird eggs, chicks, or adults at any time of year.
Illegal harvesting or poaching is therefore an offense that is punishable by law.
It is illegal to harvest eggs, chicks, or adults of seabirds such as this Laughing Gull. (Photo credit: Katharine Lowrie)
EPIC says it is working with communities to raise awareness about conserving seabirds, training citizen scientists through the Grenadines Seabird Guardians program to collect data, and hosting meetings of the Grenadines Seabird Conservation Plan Working Group to develop long-term solutions to key issues.
This project is made possible through support from St Vincent and the Grenadines Environment Fund, US Agency for International Development, and the US Fish and Wildlife Service.