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IMA > News  > Promoting Marine and Coastal Awareness

Promoting Marine and Coastal Awareness

Lorraine Barrow, Institute of Marine Affairs

Our coasts and ocean are not only places that we go to rest and relax, and heal, but they are lifelines to island states.  These are places for most of our trade and economic activities.  An IDB study revealed that in 2015, 81% of our Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was generated from our wider coastal zone that extends 200 nautical miles to our Exclusive Economic Zone.  Our coastal and marine resources are vital since they support our livelihoods, supply jobs in the energy and tourism sectors and provide us with food.  How many of us are aware of the significant connection between our marine resources and our daily lives. 

When we go to the beach and see the waves pounding and rolling, many of us are of the view that somehow, the sea is larger than life, that it is an endless resource impossible to destroy. So many of us underestimate the enormous damage that we, as human beings, are exacting on our beaches and rivers every single day when we litter and pollute.  We must be aware that what we do in our very back yard affects our rivers and ultimately ends up in our ocean.  If we are to reverse the degradation of our marine environment, we have to be informed and kept abreast of pertinent information to change our attitudes and actions towards our marine environment.   

The Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), as part of its mandate in law, promotes marine and coastal awareness through its services and products.  One of the main services is the public education and school outreach activities, which are carried out by the Information Centre.  Through the Centre, the IMA is actively committed to ensuring that as many school children, students and citizens, learn about maintaining a healthy marine environment.


Public Outreach – Outreach services are extended to the public to safeguard our coastal and marine resources.   One example of these services was the recently convened community research symposium, which was held in Mayaro on the 20th September 2017.  At the symposium, the IMA delivered several presentations under the broad topic of management of marine resources, though specific to Mayaro, while disseminating pertinent information to community participants, engaging stakeholders and offering feasible solutions to coastal and marine issues backed by sound scientific research.    The IMA promotes an awareness through its partnering with other government and private sector agencies to bridge the gap between science and citizen.  One such example of a partnership is the Turtle Tracking Programme.  This is a collaborative effort between the Turtle Village Trust and the IMA, where turtle tracking maps are developed to safeguard the nesting areas of the leatherback turtle, thus promoting an awareness of this endangered species and empowering the community.    Other examples include partnering with the Emperor Valley Zoo to showcase the invasive Lionfish at Easter to the many families who visit the zoo.

School Outreach – The school outreach programmes target pupils and students at the primary and secondary school levels.  Targeting school children at the primary level stimulates their minds, exposing them at an early age to appreciate, and take care of our rivers and seas.  Studies have shown that children have a natural curiosity about the world around them, so capturing their attention early and continually nurturing their inherent curiosity, is critical to achieving marine environment literacy.  Hence, the outreach programmes delivered at the primary school incorporate a range of fun learning activities, such as art and craft made out of recyclable items, activity books, fun games, puzzles and field trips that pertain to the marine environment. 


At the secondary school level, the outreach programmes, which integrate the work of the IMA, are aligned to the curriculum and are tailored to not only raising an awareness but also preparing them for the workforce.  Secondary school students are given general presentations on topics such as marine pollution, climate change, global warming and Lionfish – an invasive species.   In some cases, researchers return to their alma mater to deliver more detailed presentations to and adequately address feedback from sixth-form students.  The students are also given tours of the aquaculture facility at the IMA where they learn the fish farming techniques of the tilapia fish.   At the tertiary level, students visit the research laboratories and facilities at the IMA where they are able to benefit from a more practical or hands/on approach.   Furthermore, Information Officers regularly go out into the communities and schools to provide relevant information and guidance on careers in the marine sciences.

Publications – The IMA recently published the first ever ‘State of the Marine Environment (SOME) Report 2016 for Trinidad and Tobago’, which provides pertinent information on the physical and ecological characteristics of our marine and coastal resources.  Though primarily geared for policy and decision makers, it states how we should manage and use our oceans and marine resources to achieve sustainable development.  Other noteworthy publications include ‘a Guide to the Beaches and Bays of Trinidad and Tobago’ and ‘Wetlands of Trinidad and Tobago’.

Research Reports – These scientific reports reflect the current conditions of our marine and coastal resources and relate to four broad topics – aquaculture and fisheries, environment quality, coastal processes and biodiversity and ecology.   These reports comprise a unique collection of research conducted on the marine environment of Trinidad and Tobago, helping to advance our understanding of marine conservation and protection backed by scientific data. The research reports and publications, which promote the research undertaken by the Institute, are written by research staff and are available in our library that is open to the public from 8 am to 4 pm from Monday to Friday.   

IMA Tidal Calendar – the IMA produces the calendar annually, which provides daily forecasts represented in tidal graphs for Trinidad and Tobago, allowing users to see the relationship between the tidal system and the different moon phases.

Promotional material such as the Trinidad and Tobago Biodiversity Maps, brochures on topics such as oil spills, invasive species, harmful marine creatures, the integrated coastal zone management help to promote awareness.  We also publish a digital newsletter that includes articles on local marine and coastal issues and an update about the ongoing research project work and conferences that staff attend.  This newsletter is available on our website and you can certainly follow us on Facebook and Twitter for the most up-to-date news in the IMA. The IMA continues to promote an understanding of our coastal and marine resources so that our children and grandchildren can benefit from healthy marine resources the way we, adults, have been privileged to enjoy.