St Kitts Launches New Coral Reef Monitoring Program

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By Dana Niland
CJ Contributor

St Kitts has launched an important new program to study the state of coral reefs.

The St Kitts Department of Environment, in collaboration with the Department of Marine Resources, has installed a Coral Reef Early Warning Systems at the island’s Paradise Reef.

The initiative aims to better understand what is happening in the waters — and why.

“The CREWS buoy will be measuring meteorological parameters such as wind speeds, wind gusts, wind direction, air temperature, relative humidity, barometric pressure and precipitation,” said Cheryl Jeffers, Conservation Officer in the Department of Environment. “These parameters are typically measured on most meteorological stations installed at strategic locations around the Islands of St. Kitts and Nevis.”

The buoy, which is located about three-quarters of a nautical mile northeast of Charles Fort, is part of a climate change adaptation project funded by the United States Agency for International Development.

“However, one of the areas that we were yet to access data was our marine environment,” Jeffers said. “With the installation of the CREWS buoy, we can now access oceanographic parameters such as sea temperature, salinity and algae content which will allow us to better understand the biological mechanisms in the selected area as well as better predict coral bleaching over time.”

She noted that the government of St. Kitts and Nevis has garnered relationships with a number of regional and international entities to ensure that the Federation is in good standing, especially with regard to climate change.

“With the changing climate, the partnership that the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis has fostered with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is extremely important,” said Jeffers. “NOAA has agreed to continue to support the information infrastructure by archiving the data and subsequently analyzing it to produce user friendly outputs such as ecological forecasts.”

“The impacts of climate change to our marine environment continue to be serious and as such partnerships such as these are welcomed,” she said.

In an effort to minimize any possible damages to this piece of equipment, the Departments of Environment and Marine Resources are urging all mariners and fishermen navigating within the vicinity of Sandy Point to proceed with extreme caution and to stay clear of the buoy.

Technical assistance to support the installation of the CREWS buoy were provided by a team of experts from NOAA, the Environmental Mooring Institute and the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre.

Critical sectors such as Coast Guard Unit of the St. Kitts-Nevis Defense Force and Maritime Affairs were also involved in the process.

CREWS stations have already been established in waters around many islands in the Caribbean.