Seabirds are among the most fascinating creatures inhabiting the oceans of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. From the Magnificent Frigatebird (Fregata magnificens) with an impressive 8-foot wingspan, to the Petrels or Jesus Birds said to be able to walk on water, and the amazing high-speed, 50-foot plunge-dives of the Brown Booby (Sula leucogaster) – very little is known locally about their way of life because of the proportion of time they spend at sea.
Ongoing research over the last decade by the Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC) and SCIENCE in collaboration with Grenadines fisherfolk, has revealed that the Grenadines hold regionally and internationally important populations of the Brown Booby, Laughing Gull Larus atricilla, Sooty Tern Onychoprion fuscatus, Red-footed Booby Sula sula, and Red-billed Tropicbird Phaethon aethereus. The Man-O-War or Magnificent Frigatebird has also been discovered breeding on at least one previously-unrecorded island. Through funding provided by the SVGPF, the expert birders of the Science Initiative for Environmental Conservation and Education (SCIENCE) embarked upon a National Avian Education Programme (NAEP) aimed at, not only educating Vincentians about local birds, but more so, sensitizing them about the plight of the seabirds that inhabit and utilize the many islets and cays of the Grenadines. The threats to these birds are many, and include habitat destruction, illegal harvesting of chicks and eggs, and pollution. Activities undertaken under the NAEP include school presentations, birdwatching exercises, community outreach, radio discussions and a summer programme for students held under the theme ‘There’s Science in Everything’.
Another hallmark of the NAEP was a two-day workshop held in collaboration with the Ministry of Education, aimed at introducing educators to the BirdSleuth Curriculum developed by BirdsCaribbean and promoting the use of the Curriculum in schools. The workshop was facilitated by Professor Lisa Sorenson of the University of Boston, Massachusetts, and Executive Director of BirdsCaribbean; and supported by Conservation Biologist Lystra Culzac, Wildlife Expert Glenroy Gaymes and Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Joanne Justo-Gaymes. A number of fishing communities and fisherfolk throughout St. Vincent and the Grenadines will be targeted during the NAEP.