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SMMA – Marine Management

Pitons

The island’s marine park, the SMMA, is located on the magnificent west coast

Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA)           

The town of Soufriere and its nearby environs, located on Saint Lucia’s southwest coast, has long been recognized for its stunning natural beauty and historical richness. Rising from the blue Caribbean are this island’s – and the wider Caribbean’s – most famous landmarks, the Pitons, which are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a major attraction in the area. Also nearby are found the Sulphur Springs volcano, Diamond Falls and Botanical Gardens and several other sites that have lured visitors to the town for decades.

The local coastline and adjacent waters also were recognized for their scenic ruggedness and abundant coral reefs that in their own right have enticed sightseers, yachts, divers and snorkelers to the area. These same areas have for centuries also been the traditional fishing grounds for the local inhabitants. Recognizing the demands on this local environment, a bold initiative was begun in 1992 to manage and protect these valuable resources for all stakeholders… fishers, yachtsmen, divers and snorkelers and water taxi/day charter boats. Thus was created the Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA).

To best utilize and protect these resources, the coastline in the area was divided into zones that are designed to benefit all stakeholders. As the basis for this set up, all of the coral reefs in the area were designated Marine Reserves in which only diving, snorkeling and glass-bottomed boats are permitted. As Reserves the delicate corals are protected from the damaging effects of yacht anchors and fishermen’s nets. Equally important is that the protected Reserves also serve as breeding grounds for the fishing industry whereby more fish survive to maturity and produce hundreds of times more eggs during reproduction thus perpetuating fish numbers. The zone set up allocates areas adjacent to the Marine Reserves as Fishing Priority Areas to take advantage of the ultimate spilling out of the mature fish.

Over the first six years of the SMMA’s zoning arrangement, an ongoing university study proved that the Marine Reserves were working. In that period, reef surveys and monitored fish catches showed fish populations had tripled in number and doubled in average size. Of course, fishers were delighted with this bounty as was the island’s dive industry that were provided with 13 excellent dive sites with healthy coral reef environments teeming with fish.

The SMMA over the years has won numerous international awards for its efforts in environmental protection and has been visited by interested officials from all over the world who would then adopt the same approach in their locales.

To benefit the yacht community, the SMMA installed and maintains 60 yacht moorings in the area. There are two sites where anchoring is permitted as well, at the Hummingbird Beach on the north end of town and at Anse Mamin near the Anse Chastanet Resort.

Arriving yachts are visited by SMMA rangers who issue Coral Conservation Permits, the cost of which is determined by the length of the boat and length of stay. The rates are known to be very reasonable within the yacht community. Authorised members of the Soufriere Water Taxi Association are on hand to help tie lines and are available for all transfer services.

For more information on the SMMA, CLICK HERE.

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