The Biodiversity of St. Vincent
St. Vincent has a wide diversity of biological resources. According to the National Biodiversity Strategy and Action Plan (2006), the following species have been recorded in the country:
- mammals: 17 species, including 12 species of bats;
- birds: 190 species, including 2 island endemics, the St. Vincent Parrot and the Whistling Warbler, as well as over 14 regional endemics;
- reptiles: 21 species, including 5 endemics, four lizards and one snake – the Black Snake. There are 4 species of turtles: Hawksbill, Green, Loggerhead and Leatherback. Two of the 21 species are apparently recent invasive species;
- amphibians: 4 species including one endemic and two invasive species;
- plants: 1,150 species of flowering plants with 16 endemics. There are 163 species of ferns, 4 are endemic, including the Tree Fern found on the uppermost ridges within cloud and rain forests;
fresh water: 25 fresh and brackish water species;
- fresh water: 25 fresh and brackish water species;
- marine: over 500 marine species including 450 species of fin-fish, 12 species of whales and dolphins, 4 species of turtles, 9 species of gastropods, 11 species of seaweed and 30 species of corals recorded.
- 25 species of diplopods (centipedes and millipedes), 220 species of arachnids, 2,000 species of insects, and 35 terrestrial crustaceans have been recorded in the country.
- 875 species of molluscs: 75 terrestrial and aquatic, 800 marine.
- 16 species of nematodes have been recorded for Union Island alone.
St. Vincent and the Grenadines has made progress in responding to the environmental issues, especially in formulating policies and plans. However, like with many other small island states, implementation and enforcement are still lacking because of limited resources (financial and human), inadequate integrated sectoral policies and poor coordination at the ministry/agency level.
Lion fish – a big threat to the reefs
Here in St. Vincent we observe two types of lion fish, which have invaded the West Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. The lion fish can range from 5 to 45 cm in length, weighing from 0.025 to 1.3 kg. They are most famous for being very beautiful and very venomous. Their venomous spines are the main reason why they don’t have many predators. Another is that any potential predators have never seen this fish in the Caribbean waters and simply don’t know that they could attack it, while people are afraid that eating the lion fish can lead to food poisoning.
Lion fish are native from southern Japan and southern Korea to the east coast of Australia, Indonesia, Micronesia, French Polynesia, and the South Pacific Ocean. Recently they have been abundant along the United States East Coast from Cape Hatteras, North Carolina to Florida, and off Bermuda, the Bahamas, and throughout the Caribbean. There are many theories about how the lion fish come to the other side of the world, but the most possible one is when Hurricane Andrew destroyed an aquarium in southern Florida in 1992.
A female lion fish can produce 15,000 eggs which she sends to the surface of the sea in clusters to travel with the current. The lion fish can live up to 15 years, and it only takes months before they can reproduce. The population of lion fish is increasing rapidly in the invaded areas, resulting in a population boom of up to 700% from 2004 to 2008.
The fast spread of the non-native species in our waters ruins the marine ecosystems. Lion fish eat the smaller fish, which eat plankton; with the extinction of those smaller fish more plankton will survive, making it harder for the sunlight to get through water. This will in the end kill the coral reefs, because they can’t get the sunlight they need.
Here at Richmond Vale Academy we catch and eat lion fish while protecting the marine life. Almost every Sunday students and teachers who have a PADI Scuba Diver Certificate (possible to get at our Diving Centre) go out to fish, combining fun with useful. Big and small, we kill them all. Our Diving Centre is located next to the Richmond Beach. We have several dive locations and a fantastic underwater wall just at our beach. The waters of the northern part of the island of St. Vincent are unspoiled, virgin and scenery.
So far we go out to four areas, which we change every week, so that we help the marine life over a big area. In the future we would like to do monitoring, to be able to see the possible change in the numbers of lion fish over those areas.
Tree Planting action for restoration of the Richmond Beach
Richmond Beach is located 5 minutes away from the Academy and is one of the most special beaches in St. Vincent and the Grenadines, because it has one of the most important wetlands in the nation.
Wetlands play an important role in our ecosystem, because they can prevent flooding and monitor water levels. Furthermore, they filter and purify the surface water and create a safe living area for different animals, insects and plants. The wetland area on Richmond Beach is in danger because of sea level rise, fishing and mining activities.
In January of 2015 a restoration project The Richmond Coastal Conservation Initiative started, with the collaboration of Richmond Vale Academy, the Police Co-operative Credit Union, the Forestry Department, the Parks, Rivers and Beaches Authority. 100 trees – fat pork, neem, almond and sea grapes – were planted along the beach front. The local tree species were chosen by the Forestry Department to be planted, because they are strong and most likely to survive while offering a good protection and shelter for other plants and animals.
This single action was the first step towards mitigation of further erosion at the Richmond Beach, which has been battered by numerous storms over the years. This particular beach is also one of the vulnerable places, experiencing the effects of climate change first hand. The effects of rises in sea levels, storm surges and severe flooding in the Richmond area seriously impact the beach. The Climate Compliance Conference participants take a special care of the planted area and monitor the growth of the trees.