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IMA > Community Symposium

7th Community Symposium

IMA hosted its 7th Community Symposium on Tuesday 20th September 2022 at the Warrenville Regional Complex. Themed ‘Community and Ecosystem Connections – Improving Human Wellbeing, Sustaining Livelihood’, this symposium provided the results of the studies conducted under IMA’s CLME+ EBM Project, to its stakeholders.

*The CLMEEBM Project examined approaches aimed at reducing pollution from agriculture which impacts the mangrove forest and the harvested resources (oyster, crab and fish), toward improving human well-being and supporting livelihoods.

IMA/UWI Scientists call for 50-70% Reduction in Chemical Use in Agriculture As Part of Strategy To Promote a Healthier Marine and Aquatic Ecosystem in and around the Caroni Swamp

Cut chemical use in agriculture by 50 to 70 percent, as part of the strategy to improve the impact of agricultural practices on the health of the aquatic and marine environment in and around the Caroni Swamp. This from Professor Jayaraj Jayaraman of The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus. The Institute of Marine Affairs and The University of the West Indies collaborated on a project to ascertain the impacts of chemical based pesticides, fertilisers and fungicides on the aquatic and marine environment from farms located near and around the Caroni Swamp, which is an internationally protected site, under the Ramsar Convention. The results of the joint study were delivered to the community on Tuesday 20th September 2022, at the 7th Community Research Symposium of the Institute at the Warrenville Regional Complex, Cunupia. Themed “Community and Ecosystem Connections – Improving Human Wellbeing, Sustaining Livelihood” the symposium attracted the attendance of the Minister of Planning and Development, the Honourable Pennelope Beckles, His Worship the Mayor of Chaguanas, representatives of the area’s local government bodies and a number of the catchment area farmers and fishers.

The study was part of a Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME+) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The CLME + initiative is aimed at helping participating territories improve the management of their shared living marine resources using an Ecosystem-Based Management approach.

The study unearthed:

  1. poor water quality arising from the presence of nutrients such as ammonia and phosphates in the watercourses;
  2. concerning bacteriological pollutants impacting water and oyster quality; and
  3. heavy metal contamination of blue crabs and other fisheries above recommended levels in the seventeen (17) test stations located near and in the Caroni Swamp. It was however noted that the heavy metal contaminants posed no major health risk.

Among the recommendations promoted was the use of more biologically based extracts such as an organic Seaweed Extract (formulated by the University of the West Indies) made from sargassum seaweed, for application on vegetable crops, roots, tubers and ornamental plants as a replacement for chemically based pesticides, fungicides and fertilisers which have been found to have a deleterious impact on the natural environment. The scientists observed that the seaweed extract, which is environmentally friendly, promoted better plant growth and yield and enhanced the plants resistance to pest and disease when compared to the chemically based compounds. Professor Jayaraman also noted that there is room for local entrepreneurs to commercialise some of these biological inputs being developed by the university, bringing them to market; so that what is done in the lab can benefit the farmers.

How to Clean, and Open Raw Oysters - Former Chef

Handling oysters. Photo by formerchef.com

Regarding the contamination of food sources, the scientists recommended that fishers harvest the molluscs in areas where there is a reduced risk of contamination. Oysters can also be boiled or flushed with clean water before ingesting to remove bacterial contaminants and should be kept on ice before ingestion, to reduce bacterial load.

The study is significant because diverse and productive ecosystems such mangrove forests play a significant role in providing food such as fish, shellfish crabs and oysters. The Caroni Swamp supports livelihood opportunities such as ecotourism and fisheries, (harvesting of fish, crabs, oysters) however marine resources have become increasingly impacted by habitat degradation, unsustainable fisheries practices and pollution. The Caroni River Basin, the largest river basin in Trinidad and Tobago, receives land based discharges from agricultural, industrial and domestic sources from the most densely populated area within Trinidad. Pollutants within the basin are from sources such as agricultural and industrial activities, sewage and domestic waste from planned and unplanned housing settlements and runoff.

Addressing attendees, the Mayor of the Chaguanas Borough Corporation His Worship, Faaiq Mohammed, Mayor indicated its “our obligation to pursue synergy between growth and development with the health of the natural environment [in order] to propel food security and to preserve the natural infrastructure of our tourism sector.” The Honourable Minister in giving her closing remarks said that the session was an indication of the government’s continued commitment to evidence-based decision and policy making and stakeholder consultation.

Sustainable Agriculture – The Anti-Hero Trinidad and Tobago Needs

A farmer works in his field of dasheen bush. Photo by: Cari-Bois

It is expected that discussions generated from the presentations at the symposium will contribute to good agricultural practices in the future as the Ministry of Agriculture Land and Fisheries and the Health were among the stakeholders receiving the report.

A recording of the event may be viewed at https://www.facebook.com/IMAgovTT

The Presentations

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Meet our Presenters

Ms. Nikia Gooding
Ms. Nikia Gooding

Nikia Gooding is a young GIS professional who has a passion for the environmental application of GIS and Remote Sensing. She is currently the GIS Research Officer at the IMA. Where she works with spatial representation and analysis for the purpose of coastal and environment research through research projects in the Geomatics Unit, as well as spatial analyses and support for the IMA’s Environmental Monitoring Programmes and Research Projects. Nikia has a MSc in Geoinformatics and a double major BSc in Geography and Environmental and Natural Resource Management.

Darryl Banjoo
Dr. Darryl Banjoo

Dr Darryl Banjoo is presently the acting Deputy Director of the Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA). His areas of expertise include Environmental Monitoring and Assessment of the Marine Environment. He has over 24 years’ experience in environmental chemistry and has represented the IMA as a Land Based Sources of Pollution Regional Activity Center since 2005. He has worked with the Cartagena Convention secretariat in the production in the first “State of the area convention area report (SOCAR)” and the recent “Nutrient pollution reduction strategy and action plan for the Wider Caribbean Region”. He has presented both locally and regionally on environmental issues affecting countries of the Wider Caribbean Region.

Sheldon Ramoutar
Mr. Sheldon Ramoutar

Mr. Sheldon Ramoutar is a microbiologist with over 10 years of experience. He has been employed at the IMA in the Environmental Quality Program department since 2015 as a Microbiology Research Officer. His main areas of research involve bathing beach water quality, microbial community dynamics and food safety involving oysters. Sheldon has published articles in scientific journals based on bioremediation and on recovery of indicator organisms. He has also published several newspaper articles for the general public in the daily newspaper based on bathing beach water quality and public health. He has presented at numerous conferences and symposiums, and likes to educate the younger generation on water quality.

Wendy Nelson
Mrs. Wendy Nelson

Mrs. Wendy Nelson is a Senior Research Officer in the Environmental Quality Programme, and has been employed at the Institute of Marine Affairs for the past 22 years. She holds an M.Sc. degree in Environmental Science from the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow, Scotland, a B.Sc. degree in Chemistry from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, and an MBA in General Management from the Heriot-Watt University in Scotland.

Mrs. Nelson has successfully designed and implemented research projects on trace metals in water, sediment and biota from the coastal and marine environment over the years. She has authored technical reports, delivered presentations and published the results of her research in peer-reviewed journals. Ms Nelson serves on regional and national committees and working groups established to address various environmental issues, including the United Nations Environment Programme Working Group on Marine Litter and Microplastics in Latin America and the Caribbean, and the UNEP Open-Ended Working Group on Monitoring and Assessment for the Pollution from Land-Based Sources and Activities Protocol. She has also represented the IMA at several local, regional and international meetings and workshops.

Farahnaz Solomon
Dr. Farahnaz Solomon

Farahnaz N. Solomon is a marine biologist with significant experience in fish biology and fisheries. She has over 15 years’ professional experience implementing projects in coastal resource management. She has conducted research in the areas of fish reproductive biology and age and growth, fish larval growth and development and fish population connectivity as it relates to conservation and management. Current areas of interest include, invasive species management, elasmobranch conservation, fish biodiversity, coral reef fish ecology and the blue economy. Farahnaz has a Postgraduate Diploma in the Science and Management of Tropical Biodiversity from UWI and a PhD in Marine Ecosystem Health and Conservation from the University of Algarve in Portugal and the University of Pierre et Marie Curie (UPMC), in France.

Jayaraj Jayaraman
Prof. Jayaraj Jayaraman

Professor Jayaraj Jayaraman graduated in Agriculture, earning a doctoral degree in Plant Pathology at Annamalai University, India. He served as a Senior lecturer at Annamalai University till 1999, later completing his postdoctoral work at the Kansas State University (KSU), USA, on a postdoctoral visiting fellowship up to 2000. He served as Associate Scientist up to 2003 at KSU, USA and later as Senior Scientist at the Simon Fraser University, Canada between 2003 and 2009. In late 2009, he joined the UWI as Senior Lecturer in Microbiology and Biotechnology. Since 2014, he has been a Professor of Biotechnology and Plant-Microbiology at the Dept. of Life Sciences, UWI-St. Augustine.

His research area spans in the fields of microbiology and biotechnology. His specific research projects focus on Plant-Microbe interactions, Plant elicitor-biomolecules for induced disease resistance, Biological control, IDM/IPM, Molecular-based disease diagnostics, Characterization of emerging pathogens, Metabolic engineering of plants, Development of probiotics, Investigation of antimicrobial resistance in bacterial pathogens and Identification of novel antimicrobial compounds. He has completed over 25 funded research projects, guided more than 25 graduate students and published over 130 refereed research publications.

Ruqayyah Thompson
Ms. Ruqayyah Thompson

Ms. Ruqayyah Thompson is a policy researcher at the Institute of Marine Affairs’ Marine Governance and Policy Research Programme. Ms. Thompson holds an MSc Sustainability (Environment and Development) from the University of Leeds, UK and a BSc Geography and Environmental and Natural Resource Management from the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine. She has approximately eight (😎 years of experience conducting applied research across the environment-development nexus. At the IMA, she conducts research to guide the Institute’s policy position on matters pertaining to the coastal and marine environment.

Christopher Alexander
Mr. Christopher Alexander

 Mr. Alexander has been employed at NAMDEVCO for over 10 years, starting as a Field Officer I in 2008 to 2014, he held to the role of Head (Ag), Farmers Market Unit until 2019, then moved onto the current position of Manager of the Quality Assurance Department. Christopher completed both his undergraduate and postgraduate studies at the University of the West Indies, St. Augustine, Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension. He has training and certification in several areas relevant to the field of agricultural production, extension, agribusiness management, food safety and quality assurance. In his capacity as Manager, Quality Assurance he is responsible for leading the development and implementation of the National Good Agricultural Practices Programme for Trinidad and Tobago and has chaired interim Steering Committee over the years. NAMDEVCO is currently working towards the establishment of the National GAP Certification Scheme within this programme to upgrade the existing Farm Certification and Monitoring Programme.