A new short film titled Grenadines Seabirds: Uniting Land, Air, and Sea journeys through the remote and uninhabited islands of the Grenadines to explore the secret lives of seabirds, their importance to the ecosystem, threats to their survival, and what we can do to help. The U.S.-based non-profit organization, Environmental Protection in the Caribbean (EPIC), released the film, which travels through land, air, and sea with these remarkable and uniquely adapted birds. It can be viewed on the YouTube channel “epicislands” or on Facebook @epicislands.
The transboundary Grenadine islands harbour tens of thousands of seabirds, making the region crucial for the protection of these threatened birds. Seabirds alone possess the unique ability to nest on land, fly vast distances through the air, and fish from the sea. This makes them especially vulnerable to threats from human activities in a variety of environments. Seabird Biologist, Juliana Coffey, has been collecting footage of seabirds through the Grenadines for the past nine years. While noting that “Seabirds are notoriously difficult to film”, she adds “many people will never have the opportunity to observe seabirds at their remote island habitats or out at sea. It is because of this that we wanted to feature them in this short film, so that their story in this region does not remain untold.”
The film is part of an ongoing initiative called “Conservation of Key Offshore Island Reserves”, which aims to develop long-term strategies to protect Grenadines seabirds. The project is a partnership between EPIC and St. Vincent-based organization Science Initiative for Environmental Conservation and Education (SCIENCE). The initiative is made possible with funding from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and USAID.
Until now, seabirds have been afforded limited conservation and protection in the region due to lack of financial resources,confounded by the remoteness and inaccessibility of nesting islands. Seabirds in fact are rapidly declining worldwide from factors such as development, climate change, invasive predators and declines in forage fish. The Grenadines are no exception and are further threatened by livestock grazing, traditional seabird harvests and an overall absence of conservation and management strategies.
So why save our seabirds? The Grenadine archipelago consists of over 50 islands, islets, and cays that provide important nesting, resting and feeding habitat for more than 20 species of seabirds. Not only are seabirds important indicators of ocean health and climate change, but they have been an important part of Grenadines’ culture and livelihood since people arrived in the region. Artifacts recovered from early Amerindian sites depict seabirds on pottery as well as document the use of seabird bones and feathers in tools. Today they continue to be represented in art and folklore. In addition, for those dependent upon a maritime economy, such as fisherfolk, seabirds assist with navigation, fish finding, and interpreting weather patterns. The potential for revenue generated from seabird tourism has proven to be valuable in other areas and is an underdeveloped opportunity for those looking to diversify their livelihoods in the Grenadines.