Snorkelers enjoy their first view of an underwater reef.

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Sustainable use of natural resources, especially the importance of coral reefs to the environment, were emphasized to more than 75 students, researchers and environmentally-conscious groups from St. Kitts and Nevis as they embarked on an excursion to view one of nature’s most beautiful wonders at Shitten’s Bay and White House Bay on the South East Peninsula.

The tour, sponsored by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Small Grants Programme (SGP) enabled participants to participate in the first-ever activity of this nature.

“This coral reef excursion is part of a United Nations Development Programme (UNDP)/United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Project, called Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management (IWECO) in Caribbean Small Island Developing States,” explained Ilis Watts, National Coordinator of the GEF SGP in St. Kitts and Nevis.

“Participants in the event attended two mandatory orientation sessions, one on St. Kitts and one on Nevis, before departing on the excursion. The sessions provided information on the SGP in St. Kitts and Nevis.”

The GEF/SGP coordinator said one of the goals of the IWECO project was to find ways to reduce the degradation of the natural environment, on which we all rely for our very survival. “The reef ecosystem was in a near pristine state and has suffered negatively from man’s activities both on water and on land,” she explained.

Nevis Director of Fisheries and President of the Nevis Turtle Group Lemuel Pemberton, explained that the reef area at Shitten’s Bay was one of the better ones that he had seen in quite some time. He explained that during snorkeling, he was able to observe different species of fish including the Stoplight Parrotfish; Blue Tang; Yellow Tail Snapper; Flounder; and Whispering Grunt.

“I found the reef in fairly healthy state, the abundance of long-spined sea urchins, seen at the site, are an indication of this,” said Pemberton.

The excursion provided an avenue for first time snorkelers to explore the reefs. Many echoed their sentiments in being able to take part in the activity and described it an awesome experience. This activity under IWECO was preceded by an excursion into the Green Hill Water shed facilitated by the Water Department on Whit Monday. The other upcoming activity is a hike to Nevis peak in August.

More information about Small Grants Programme activities should visit the global website www.sgp.undp.org or can contact the local office on West Independence Square Street, Basseterre at 1-1-869-662-3135.