Plastic beaches: change of tide or change of behaviour?

Shivonne M. Peters looks at  plastics on two Tobago beaches. The key to managing waste on our beaches will have to be based on science and observation: where is it coming from? Shivonne is Managing Director of Seven Environmental, a consulting company focused on the marine sector; and a PhD candidate in Marine Sciences at the University of Trinidad and Tobago. Email her at
Although convenient, readily available and an everyday part of our lives, plastics pose significant dangers to marine organisms such as turtles and seabirds through ingestion and entanglement. There is also the impact on us, which can extend far beyond riverine flooding and changes to the aesthetics of our favourite outdoor recreational spots. With an economy heavily dependent on tourism, Tobago’s coastal and marine environment should be distinguishably pristine. Sadly, this is not always the case. Furthermore, it may be easy for us to focus on the plastics that we see - water bottles …

The Village that sells itself

Tobago’s tourism industry has been in the doldrums, but one west coast village is bucking the trend with a lively trade in visitors. What is it doing right? This report by Pat Ganase first appeared in the Contact magazine (September 2018) and is reproduced courtesy the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce. 
Castara sells itself as the “real deal” in Tobago: an authentic Caribbean fishing village. But its property owners claim they don’t attend trade shows; they don’t advertise. How is it doing such good business? Is word of mouth so powerful? Is there some other way to reach a global market?
If you search for accommodation in Castara Tobago, you’ll find 15 to 17 properties. SeaScape on Heavenly Bay, The Naturalist Beach Resort, Cottage Mango and Castara Retreats have recent rave reviews. On TripAdvisor, the top-rated accommodations in Castara are Castara Retreats, AliBaba’s Sea Breeze Apartments and Carpe Diem Villa with “seaviews from the bed.” Carpe Diem bo…

Coral Reef Cleaning Stations

Relationships among marine species are not only about food. The health and survival of species also depend on “grooming” services from other species. In this feature, Dr Anjani Ganase looks at the functions of some coral reef inhabitants as cleaners for larger species. 
Divers often come across peculiar interactions between large fish or marine animals and smaller fish – Gobies, Wrasses – or with crustaceans, such as shrimps and crabs. These are not the typical predator-prey relationships but amicable associations, where the small fish or crustaceans can be seen moving about the body of the large predator foraging for ectoparasites and picking at dead tissue. The fish (the client) keeps as still as possible to avoid disrupting the activities of the smaller fish; it might even orient its head upwards and open its mouth and gills to give the fish or shrimp easy access to its cavities. The smaller fish or shrimp do not appear apprehensive at all about entering the mouth and picking at th…

Protecting Land and Marine Reserves Of Tobago

Last week, this column looked at what individuals might do to protect their piece of paradise, their backyards in Tobago. This week, we review some special sites around Tobago that have been identified for national protected status, to be ratified by the Government. Pat Ganase reports.
The National Protected Areas (NPA) Systems Plan for Trinidad and Tobago is complete, and now requires commitment through legislation and resources to be effected. Recommendations for Tobago include 13 terrestrial/ freshwater sites; 22 coastal/ marine areas; and extensive Open-Ocean Waters and Deep-Sea (OOWDS) areas amounting to some 15,600 km2 of the Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).
Prior to 1970, there was a utilitarian focus on the natural resources in the marine environment around Trinidad and Tobago. By 1975, the marine area under jurisdiction extended 12 nautical miles beyond the shores; this was pushed to 200 nautical miles in 1984. Today, the Plan seeks to bring some 22% of the EEZ under protection…

Eco-solutions in your backyard

What’s the real challenge against climate change? What can an individual do? Dr Anjani Ganase identifies the problem – using more than we need aka excessive consumerism – and talks about wise use of at least one resource, water.
We often come across these all-in-one solutions for saving the environment. Such solutions appear in the form of social media video campaigns where a simple action/ purchase, such as reusable shopping bags, reusable straws, smart light and hybrid cars may be enough to save the planet. However, even with the consumer substitution of more “eco-friendly” products, as long as we keep consuming, we are essentially swapping one resource for another, and therefore we continue to draw from the finite capacity of our natural environment. Furthermore no eco-friendly substitute may be suitable, when we consider the numerous environments and economies globally. For a small island nation, the carbon footprint of importing and manufacturing greener products, especially if t…

Flycatchers Abound

Birding enthusiast and photographer, Faraaz Abdool, takes us into the world of Tyrant Flycatchers. These birds are found all over Tobago and Trinidad. Enjoy Faraaz Abdool’s beautiful photos of these noisy little birds (All photos courtesy Faraaz Abdool).
One of the largest families of birds in the entire world, the Tyrant Flycatchers have 39 members that live within Trinidad and Tobago. Of these, a dozen can be found occupying different types of habitat across Tobago. They are not the most dashing of birds, as they do not sport the rich blues, greens or reds that have made some other tropical birds famous. What they lack in chromatic extravagance they make up for in charisma, often calling loudly or boldly doing battle with a stinger-equipped wasp. 

Most flycatchers have the word “flycatcher” in their name. For example, the Ochre-bellied Flycatcher is so named because of its rich ochre underbelly. The Brown-crested Flycatcher is named for raised brown feathers on the crown, giving it …

The Rundown on Harmful Algal Blooms

News of the red tides washing around Florida shores prompt concern among all places where the sea is a necessary resource. Can this happen in Tobago? Dr Anjani Ganase discusses the red tide phenomenon.
On the back of a hot summer, reports and images of floating schools of dead fish, and dead dolphins, turtles, manatees and even one whale shark washing up along the shores of Florida’s west coast have been making their way into the news and social media. These are the devastating impacts of the harmful algal bloom, commonly known as the “Red Tide.” Although Red Tides tend to occur seasonally, most years, this latest harmful algal bloom, actually began in November 2017, 10 months ago, and the persistence and severity is exceptional, coming in second but slowly catching up to the length of the 2004-2006 Red Tide event that lasted seventeen months. 

The culprit of this algal bloom is the single-celled planktonic algae called Karenia brevis (K. brevis for short), which is no stranger to the…