Students, teachers get biodiversity lesson on Refuge Cay tour

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

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More than 60 students and teachers from two schools in the Corporate Area recently learnt about the importance of the biodiversity within the Kingston Harbour through a tour and field lecture at Refuge Cay and The University of the West Indies (UWI) Port Royal Marine Laboratory & Biodiversity Centre.

The activity, which was sponsored by Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited (KFTL), was carried out in partnership with UWI's Centre for Marine Sciences.

The educational activity, which was held on February 2 in observance of World Wetlands Day 2018, under the theme 'Wetlands for a sustainable urban future', also served to highlight some of the work being done to preserve wetlands in the Kingston Harbour. This includes the 'Restoration and Clean-up of Refuge Cay Mangroves' project, which is also being sponsored by KFTL and implemented in collaboration with UWI's Port Royal marine lab and involves clean-up and replanting activities at Refuge Cay.

“It was an amazing experience to learn about the mangroves, and I love how the workers are helping to get it cleaned,” a KFTL news release quoted 11-year-old Zion Dowie, who attends Port Royal Primary School and who said he was elated to participate in the Refuge Cay tour. “I want to encourage people to stop throwing garbage into the sea and into gullies and to throw them in garbage bags instead.”

More than 4,200 bags of garbage have been collected so far since the clean-up project began on January 8. Following the clean-up, mangrove seedlings will be replanted and garbage barriers installed to help sustain the cay and prevent further garbage build-up.

Refuge Cay is a significant mangrove system as it is a roosting ground for both migrant and resident birds. It is also an important fish nursery in the harbour. However, over the years, because of improper waste disposal in the Greater Kingston Metropolitan Area, a large quantity of garbage accumulated on the cay which limited the flushing of the sea water through the mangroves. Consequently, the cay became hypersaline causing a “dead zone” to develop in its centre.

According to Professor of Marine Biology Mona Webber, who is also director at the Centre for Marine Sciences at UWI, “mangroves are natural filters cleaning our waters. They remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (helping to mitigate climate change) and they support birds and other wild life. It is therefore a tremendous partnership between KFTL, UWI and the men and women of Port Royal and Kingston Harbour who are trying to save an area on which we all depend”.

Kingston Freeport Terminal Limited and UWI have also partnered on another project, the Port Royal Cays Coral Reef Rehabilitation, which will be implemented over a five-year period and will feature the design, installation and monitoring of artificial reef structures on the Port Royal barrier reef. Preliminary diving visits have already been conducted.

According to Chanelle Fingal-Robinson, social impact specialist at KFTL, “both projects will not only benefit the environment, but also financially benefit the Kingston Harbour fisherfolk through potentially creating alternative livelihoods such as ecotourism”. For the Refuge Cay project, for instance, more than 20 people from Port Royal, most of whom are fisherfolk, have been contracted to clean the area.




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