The joint expedition to assess the wetland areas of the Turks and Caicos continued through the week with visits to North Caicos, Middle Caicos and Grand Turk. Mark Parrish of Big Blue caught up with the team to help lead a trip to the vital wetland areas between South Caicos and East Caicos. Initial findings and observations were then presented to an open meeting of stakeholders and interested parties at the National Environmental Centre. Aspects of the proposal that will be submitted to the Darwin Initiative later in the year were discussed including the designation of particular wetlands as new RAMSAR sites, the ‘wise use’ of these areas, and available international cooperation for RAMSAR sites. Ralph Higgs of the TCI Tourist Board invited Wesley Clerveaux, Director of the Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) to a joint meeting with the TCI National Trust to assess cross department cooperation and use of resources. Dr. David Stroud suggested that the TCI might be the first country in the world to have a network of managed RAMSAR sites and explained how RAMSAR protection can be applied to mangroves, coral reefs, sea-grass beds and Karst or underground wetlands. This is set to be an ongoing project of significant importance to the environmental health of the Turks and Caicos Islands.
Big Blue Unlimited has joined forces with the Turks and Caicos Department of Environmental and Coastal Resources (DECR) and together with UK partners from the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC) and the Wildfowl & Wetland Trust (WWT) are assessing management plans and expansion of RAMSAR sites in the TCI. Several areas across the Turks and Cacios Islands are being visited this week. Currently there is one RAMSAR site in the TCI and this comprises the wetlands and mangroves on the southern parts of North and Middle Caicos. It is hoped that a number of other sites, some already exisiting National Parks and Nature Reseves, can be lifted to the lofty status of RAMSAR protection. Successful management and stewardship of these areas by all stakeholders will help protect valuable fish and invertabrate nurseries as well as irreplaceable habitat for numerous birds including the pelican, flamingo and heron/egret families.