On Monday, May 15th, the Department of Environment & Coastal Resources (DECR) will be embarking on a week-long Atlantic and Gulf Reef Assessment Program (AGRRA) Coral Reef Monitoring Training course.
The course is to provide technical training to DECR Officers, as well as key volunteers and marine conservation partners, to strengthen coral reef monitoring, in the Turks and Caicos Islands.
“We should not under-estimate the value of the goods and services provided by the marine protected areas (MPAs). Monitoring of the extensive coral reefs system is of paramount importance to healthy reefs which in turn attracts thousands of tourists to our shores annually,” said Hon. Ralph Higgs, Minister for Tourism, Environment, Heritage, Culture and Gaming.
“Having a good understanding of the state of our natural environment is very important for management so that we can respond to any changes or impacts and take necessary actions, if we need to. The AGRRA training will help build capacity within the DECR, so that monitoring programs can become a core activity of the Department. We are very grateful to all the partners collaborating on this project,” said Dr John Claydon, Director for the DECR.
The aim of the training is to provide technical training to participants, providing a framework for coordinated coral reef monitoring to strengthen the management of the Turks & Caicos Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
The five-day intensive course, made possible by funding from The "BEST 2.0 Programme", part of the EU Biodiversity for Life (B4Life) flagship (a funding facility for small-scale and medium-scale field actions in EU Overseas Countries and Territories); will equip participants with appropriate AGRRA methods, the identification of key coral, benthic and fish organisms and their role in the structure and functioning of coral reefs, data collection consistency and accuracy training, site selection options and an overview of data entry analysis.
Minister Higgs commented, “We are grateful to have our officers engage in this vital training that will undoubtedly enhance their knowledge and increase awareness in coral reef monitoring, enabling us to deliver on our mandate to preserve and sustain the natural environment”
The Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) Program (www.agrra.org) is an international collaboration of scientists and mangers aimed at determining the regional condition of reefs in the Western Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico. For 20 years, AGRRA has used an innovative regional approach to examine the condition of coral reefs and together with teams of over 100 in country partners and reef scientists, has assessed over 2,000 reef areas.
AGRRA is the first and only program that has developed an extensive open-access regional database on Caribbean coral reef condition. The data have provided valuable baseline data for scientists and government officials responsible for protecting marine coastal areas. AGRRA collaborates with partners to conduct capacity training workshops, field assessments, data analysis and prepare results for publication and public outreach, and is a co-founder of the Healthy Reefs Initiative (HRI), helping to produce Coral Reef Report Cards for a number of countries in the region.