November 14, 2016

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St. Vincent and the Grenadines was designated a Mission Blue Hope Spot at the IUCN Congress in Hawaii by Dr. Sylvia A. Earle on September 9, 2016. 

By: Shilpi Chhotray, Mission Blue Communications Strategist 


@ Salvage Blue

@ Mark Pratley, Barefoot Yacht Charters

When someone says they are going to St. Vincent and the Grenadines (SVG) you probably think of islands. But the marine environment — the big blue — in this southern Caribbean nation is 70 times greater in area than its land mass! Indeed, SVG is famous across the globe for clear blue waters thriving with marine biodiversity, including myriad species of cetaceans, coral reefs, seagrass, mangroves and, of course, a spectacular variety of fish, invertebrates and more. The cetacean megafauna is particularly diverse in these waters where at least 26 species of cetacean are thought to occur. The SVG Hope Spot is in pretty good shape, but there still lingers a complex issue of mammoth proportion.

Did you know that the whaling of humpbacks continues in SVG to this day? It began in 1875 as a primarily commercial activity. In the 1970s, the focus of the operation changed from export of whale oil to domestic consumption of meat and blubber. Despite the International Whaling Commission’s (IWC) general ban on hunting North Atlantic humpback whales, it continues to permit a small scale artisanal hunt in SVG: the Commission permits a quota of four humpback whales annually for aboriginal subsistence. There is also a fishery for blackfish (short-finned pilot whales) and other cetacean species occurring in St.Vincent. The hunts have long been the subject of controversy since SVG fails to meet the criteria for nations seeking to hunt for subsistence purposes.

Salvage Blue, a Mission Blue partner operating in the SVG Hope Spot, is working hard to stop whaling in the region and has some novel ideas about how to do so.

Smart Business Solutions 

@ Salvage Blue

@ Gaston Bess, SVG National Trust

Salvage Blue is focusing their efforts on protecting critical marine ecosystems and reducing threats to the region’s fisheries and tourism sectors. Through this work, they are working alongside whalers to find alternative (and more steady) forms of employment focused on ecotourism like whale watching, mariculture and coral restoration.

Whale Watching 

As ecotourism increases in the region, Salvage Blue encourages whalers to consider whale-watching as a viable business venture and change their relationship with the whales. One Caribbean whaler, Orson ‘Balaam’ Ollivierre, turned to whale watching as his livelihood and is setting a precedent to other whalers in the community. According to Whale and Dolphin Conservation, a global campaigner for whales and dolphins: “He feels that the time has come for a change and hopes that whale watching will be more lucrative than whaling – as has proved the case time and again in other parts of the world. Doubtless, like other whalers turned whale watchers before him, his local knowledge of whales and their movements will prove invaluable.” 

@ Adam Gravel

@ Adam Gravel

Mariculture 

Mariculture as a business solution is another huge opportunity for SVG. It’s a specialized branch of aquaculture involving the cultivation of marine organisms for food and other products in the open ocean. This is an industry where whalers can work for local operations while still being authentic to their livelihoods. The islands boast an array of fish and the Salvage Blue team has proven experience for their business solution being timely, practical and functional based on the success of mariculture farms in Belize and Panama for a number of years. Furthermore, receptivity from the whalers has been promising. Salvage Blue is committed to ensuring whalers generate steady income while maintaining their skill set.

Coral Restoration

James Walker, Head Diver and Technical Manager of Salvage Blue, works on the private island of Mustique, where he teaches and leads dives to the surrounding areas. For the past year and a half, James has been working on a coral restoration project, which takes existing coral from the areas that have a lot of healthy colonies and separating them into multiple pieces.  Since the original reef was destroyed from a bad storm, restoration is essential to safeguard the marine life in the area. “I am very privileged to have been a part of this project — to help the ocean get back to its former glory by restoring the magnificent reef life,” he said.

By promoting and implementing alternative economically viable business solutions, Salvage Blue is pioneering a new path for the SVG islands while illuminating its beauty and ecotourism opportunities. By designating SVG as a Hope Spot, the islands are recognized, empowered, and supported by individuals and communities around the world to ensure a healthy ocean. 

 

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7 Comments

  • Jane Oakley says:

    Years ago we visited Bequi. My husband insisted we visit their whaling museum. I was forced to listen to some man fuss and fume that they had only been able to kill some number of whales that year. A year later there was a letter to the editor of a cruisers magazine detailing how the locals had tried to kill a whale calf. The poor thing seemed to escape but was injured. I will go to Mustique but we boycott all other islands in the Grenedines. There is no reason for those people to kill whales. It is one tradition that needed to stop long ago.

  • Chris Teubner says:

    Hi how would someone volunteer to work on reef restoration??

  • Jeanetre Schmitt says:

    I hate whaling or any other forms of killing for the masses! I eat mainly vegetarian and some fish on occasion, but am trying to avoid fish as much as possible. There are other alternatives, but not enough yet. Animals are so beautiful and special in their own environment and add much beauty to our world. Thank you for caring for God’s creatures that have no words! Keep up the good work!

  • I am reading this in SVG. Just this week a local conservationist informed me that the Japanese have offered to help fund turtle conservation efforts here in return for whaling permits, starting January 2017 – how can this be??

  • Melinda Parke says:

    Finally ! I lived on Bequia, the whaling center of the Grenadines of St. Vincent for 26 years and still go there regularly. I have been speaking out against whaling for 40 + years now and finally Orson is realizing that whale watching is more lucrative than whale hunting. Especially the way they were doing it….catching and torturing the baby and then killing them both when the cow comes to save it. Decimating not only those two whales but the ones the cow could have birthed later. Not to mention the ones that got away and ended up dead, rotting on the rocks….such a waste of these incredible creatures lives. So , my heart is gladdened by this progress. Hopefully they will never kill a whale again. This is a soul lifting day…the day I found this group with such wonderful, hopeful news.

  • Hilary Blumer says:

    So pleased to read about this. I live in the UK but also have Vincie citizenship…have always wondered why whalewatching was not higher on the agenda here. Having sat and watched a whale and her calf off the Leeward Coast I can vouch for it being an unforgettable experience. Am also a member of Tourism Concern in the UK..trying to promote sustainable and ethical tourism. I wonder if they know about your organisation and Hope Spots?

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"With knowing comes caring." - Dr. Sylvia Earle