Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 11


‘In managing our coastal resources, we are being called upon to play the all-important role of stewards of that resource, for other present day users. However, these resources have also been entrusted in our care for future generations. Because of the way that we have been doing things in the past, conflicts will arise from time to time among various stakeholders for such limited and shrinking resources, and we will have to find creative ways to resolve such conflicts, and even to learn from our ‘sister’ and ‘cousin’ islands who may have had to deal with similar experiences.’

Arlington James
(James, 2001)


Several definitions of coastal stewardship were proposed in the workshop presentations. Some of the main concepts contained in these definitions are included below:

In general, ideas about coastal stewardship ranged from the moral ...

To the economic ...


Coastal stewardship exploits a little understood, but limitless resource, which is acquired at birth by every human being: this is the human capacity to care. Every community and society has reserves of ‘caring’ that few recognize. Observations show that people do care about environmental issues, particularly at the local level; however, it is a case of finding out which issues they care about. This is one of the goals of the proposal for ‘Small Islands Voice’, which is discussed in Chapter 6. For instance, a general topic such as sea level rise, may not be of particular concern in some of the more mountainous Caribbean islands, while in the low-lying atolls of the Indian and Pacific Oceans, it is a very real and pressing concern. 

Private sector involvement  

New hotel under construction at Frigate
Bay, St Kitts, 2000, well inland from 
the active beach zone and the seaward
dune – an example of good 

Developing the entrepreneurial spirit will help instil a sense of coastal stewardship. The current attitude of a majority of the population in Antigua and Barbuda is to look to the government to provide employment. However, the private sector, with their capital resources, has a vast potential to influence the adoption of good coastal stewardship policies. Some businesses have taken specific steps in their coastal stewardship activities. The Royal Antiguan Beach Resort has formed a conservation committee, with members from government agencies, non-governmental and community-based organizations, and has sought to hold clean-ups and to conduct public awareness campaigns.

In St Kitts, private sector agencies assist with the annual beach clean-up conducted in collaboration with the Center for Marine Conservation. In addition, they have demonstrated stewardship in ways, which indicate an understanding of the resource on which they depend. The Sun ‘N’ Sand Resort in North Frigate Bay was built landward of the primary sand dunes and its owners have implemented a management system to conserve these dunes. The replanting of needed beach vegetation at Dieppe Bay Spit by the Golden Lemon Hotel is yet another example of stewardship by the private sector. In the Maldives, resort owners have demonstrated stewardship by building jetties on piles, so as not to disrupt sand movement around the atolls. Unfortunately, in many small islands such examples are few, indicating the need for more work, particularly in the fields of education, sensitization and awareness. 

Government involvement

In many small islands, government’s involvement in coastal stewardship is indirect. In Australia, however, a federally funded programme focusing on coastal stewardship, ‘Coastcare’, operates nationally. Coastcare is a network which provides support to coastal communities to help, repair and protect the coast. 700 projects around the country focus on activities such as rehabilitation of coastal habitats, protection of endangered species e.g. sea turtles, preparation of local coastal management plans, reduction of pollution and litter, development of codes of practice for specific user groups, and the preparation of educational material for beach users. 

Community involvement 

If community employment can be gained from improved coastal stewardship, the economic benefit will be translated to a sense of ownership and involvement. This is evident in the case of the Old Road community in Antigua. For the past few months (April to June 2001), they have been protesting the construction of additional hotel units, which would have encroached on the mangroves and beach. This community was well informed because they had participated in an inventory of wetlands, coastal cleanups and Earth Day walks. Their protest action included a blockade of the access road to the hotel. They sought help from the EAG, and subsequently meetings were held with the Prime Minister and a Technical Advisory Committee was established. As of the time of the workshop, a decision had been made such that the hotel could renovate their existing property, but no new rooms were to be added. 

Monitoring coastal systems 

Involving community members in beach
monitoring, Belle Hall, Dominica. 1995

As described in Antigua, involving community members in coastal monitoring programmes heightens their sense of coastal stewardship. The same may be said for school students and other groups. For 13 years, volunteers from the Nevis Historical and Conservation Society have monitored beaches in Nevis, creating a cadre of persons trained and knowledgeable about their island’s beaches, as well as a useful database. Dominica proposes to include persons from the Youth Environmental Programme in their beach monitoring programme. In the Maldives, fishers have been involved in beach monitoring programmes, with some success. However, in St Lucia, similar efforts to involve communities in beach monitoring programmes have had limited success because the communities did not perceive any clear benefit from such activities.

The potential exists to involve the private sector, especially hoteliers, in monitoring beach changes. These changes have obvious implications for hotel operations. While some participants felt that the information generated through monitoring might create panic, others considered that the benefits outweighed any potential disadvantages, especially since communication and stakeholder participation are essential for conflict prevention and resolution.

Student involvement 

Students building stone barriers and 
planting cacti to prevent soil erosion, 
Park Bay, Bequia, St Vincent and the 
Grenadines. 1997

In Bequia, in St Vincent and the Grenadines, school students have been encouraged to take a personal responsibility for their beaches. They are monitoring beach changes through the COSALC project and have discussed their findings with the island’s Tourism Association. They have also trained visiting college students from the USA in the monitoring techniques, and have expanded the scope of their monitoring activities to other islands, e.g. the Tobago Cays Marine Park. A project to contour and replant a hillslope above an eroding beach so as to reduce siltation on a nearby coral reef has also been undertaken. Adopt-a-beach programmes, such as at Sandy Point in St Kitts, where a Young Volunteers group have taken over the cleaning, beautification and management of the beach, are also effective, and have the added benefit of being used by the students as part of their school-based assessment programme. Other school students’ activities documented in the British Virgin Islands, Dominica and the Seychelles include tree planting, turtle monitoring and beach clean-ups. Coastal stewardship needs to become a part of students’ education and well being.  

Sign at Park Bay, Bequia, 
prepared by a student 
environmental club 
(Interact Club). 1997.

Beach clean-ups   

Results of a beach clean-up at Spring
Bay, Bequia, St Vincent and the 
Grenadines. 1997.  

Different groups, communities, students, NGOs and government agencies carry out beach clean-ups in many islands, and indeed in continental countries around the world. Such cleanups increase the level of consciousness about litter on the beach; the actual cleaning of the beach is a secondary aim. In St Lucia, beach clean-ups have been effective in sensitization and in improving the beach litter problem on the west coast beaches, but not on the east coast beaches, where ship-generated waste is a major problem. Beach clean-ups can be particularly effective if they are part of a programme of public awareness, such as the international beach clean-ups organized by the Center for Marine Conservation in Washington D.C. 

International standards and ecotourism 

In Dominica, international standards are being used to generate a sense of pride and ownership of the island’s natural resources and ecotourism product; these include the Nature Island Standard of Excellence and the Sisserou Seal of Eco-Excellence. Since 2002 is World Ecotourism Year, and the definition of ecotourism includes nature and people, there is a special need to consider indigenous peoples impacted by tourism. A new UNESCO project on ‘Local and Indigenous Knowledge Systems (LINKS) in a Globalizing World’, for which CSI has the lead role, seeks to empower local and indigenous communities in their struggle against marginalization and impoverishment. A CSI field project in Ulugan Bay in the Philippines is assisting with the development of ecotourism activities, such that the communities play a major role in their implementation (UNESCO, 2001a).  

Environmental levies 

Environmental levies may be one way of funding stewardship activities. In many of the Caribbean islands; however, funds from environmental levies and park user fees go directly to the government’s consolidated fund where they may be used for environmental or non-environmental purposes.

In some countries, environmental fees are used directly for resource management. At the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park in Australia, the tourism industry is charged Aus$ 4 per passenger taken to the reef. This charge makes up the industry’s contribution to the Cooperative Research Centre for the Great Barrier Reef. The involvement of the tourism industry in reef research has been instrumental in changing their attitudes and commitment to the long-term protection of the reef. 

Concluding comments  

While there are a great variety of coastal stewardship activities ongoing in the islands, they are for the most part undocumented and not always well publicized. The papers accompanying this report provide some attempt to record these activities. However, there is a need for improved coordination of these activities within and between islands. Education, continuity, persistence and coordination are key to furthering coastal stewardship activities on the ground.

One of the many interesting ideas emerging from the discussions on coastal stewardship related to the need to look beyond the concept of sustainability to a wider vision that seeks to improve coastal environmental quality.


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