This week sees the start of activities under the sixth year of the Commonwealth Marine Economies (CME) Programme.
The programme, which aims to ensure marine resources that belong to Commonwealth Small Island Developing States are better understood and managed, is delivered on behalf of the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office by a partnership of world-leading UK government marine expertise encompassing the NOC, the United Kingdom Hydrographic Office (UKHO), and the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas).
Like many overseas projects, the CME Programme has been significantly impacted by the global pandemic over the last year, with recent activities restricted to remote support and virtual workshops. However the NOC hopes to return to the Caribbean this year to assist two countries – Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica – with the surveying and characterisation of their marine environments.
In the first project the three CME Programme delivery agencies (the NOC, UKHO and Cefas), will combine to conduct an integrated survey of the marine environment and its ecosystem services within Antigua and Barbuda, supporting the creation of sustainable development and management strategies at both a local and national scale. The NOC’s contribution to this collaborative assessment is led by Dr James Strong and Dr Claire Evans and involves characterising the Blue Carbon content of the sedimentary deposits under the seagrass meadows in Antigua, providing a greater understanding of the health, extent and importance of seagrass on the accumulation of Blue Carbon within the country.
The second project will see scientists from the NOC return to Dominica to conduct an offshore survey and generate new habitat maps that help inform the marine spatial planning process of a significant fishing area. This survey, which is being led by Dr Tim Le Bas and supported by staff from the Fisheries Division of the Ministry of Blue and Green Economy, Agriculture and National Food Security in Dominica, will be conducted using the RRS James Cook whilst it is on transit through the Caribbean later this year, and marks the first time that one of the UK’s research vessels will be used to support the CME Programme.
Dr Christopher Pearce, CME Programme lead for the NOC, said: “We are delighted to be able to continue our collaborations with, and support of, Commonwealth nations whose need to understand, manage and protect their marine environments remains as great as ever. The surveys being conducted by the NOC this year will combine state-of-the-art sensors and surveying techniques with innovative sampling and analytical methods to characterise sensitive marine habitats and provide the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica with information needed to help inform the sustainable management of their natural resources.”
The CME Programme is funded by the UK Government and managed by the Foreign Commonwealth and Development Office. The NOC’s contribution to the 6th year of the programme started on 1 August 2021 and will run until 31 March 2022.