TRADEWINDS: Canadian Navy goes underwater in reef research dive

Dr Elon Cadogan, Scientific Dive Leader for the Tradewinds Dive Track exercise. (SB)

The protection of the island’s coral reefs should remain top of mind of Barbadians, a dive scientist has urged, as Canadian navy and Barbadian divers began to map and research large areas of the island’s west coast reefs.

Dr Elon Cadogan, Scientific Dive Leader for the Tradewinds Dive Track exercise, told reporters that coral bleaching remains a worrying development at the start of a two-day collaborative climate action initiative – Descend to Defend our Reefs – as part of the annual Exercise Tradewinds.

The research dive is a joint exercise between the non-profit Coral Reef Restoration Alliance (CORALL) Barbados and the Canadian Armed Forces.

Dr Cadogan said the coral bleaching events being recorded in Barbados and around the world cannot be ignored and must be studied and monitored, given the importance of coral reefs to the marine environment and economy.

“We think it’s important that we raise awareness about what’s actually happening here regarding the coral bleaching event,” he told journalists. “It isn’t something that is unique to Barbados, it’s something that is happening worldwide. I think it’s important that we have the collaboration to not only know this but also to be able to share this information with the general public and to have it in a palatable way that persons can easily understand.

“The coral reefs are a nursery for the baby fish, so when you don’t have these nurseries being available for the baby fish, it’s basically a snowball effect, where you don’t have in a couple years the juveniles, and then the mature fish to continue the population of fishes. That is a huge impact, as well as the impact of the tide – the wave action onto the coastlines. So when you don’t have that first barrier there, which is the reef itself, then you have additional energy being transferred onto the beach itself and destroying the quality of the beach.”

But Dr Cadogan noted Barbadians’ rising interest in keeping the beaches and offshore marine environments clean in recent years.

“From the perspective of CORALL, regarding the usual [boaters] and persons on the beach, what we are seeing is that people are actually taking their trash and taking it with them off of the beach, even sometimes when garbage bins are available. So we are definitely seeing that paradigm shift for persons and their attitudes changing, and basically protecting what is the livelihood for some Barbadians on the coastal communities,” he said.

Lieutenant-Colonel Stephen Hale, Canadian Armed Forces’ contingent commander on Exercise Tradewinds, said navy divers made up a quarter of the 100 Canadian personnel here. Another 14 are on a dive training track in support of the reef project.

Stephen Hale, Canadian Armed Forces’ contingent
commander on Exercise Tradewinds.

“We are going to be doing some unique skills in terms of mapping, recovering coral off of the trees that are out there at the present time, and being able to enable further research of the University of the West Indies,” he said.

“The skills that we are going to put in place over this next two-day period are actually military skills that we are transitioning into a civilian environment.”

The divers will be using skills learned from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation and other agencies in collecting evidence, which will be used to help CORALL in the management of offshore ecosystems.

Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados Lilian Chatterjee, who was also on hand as the exercise began said: “We are committed to marine conservation, so we are more than happy to look at marine conservation here in Barbados, and who better than our Canadian Navy to help CORALL with this [exercise].” (SB)

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