Information Officer I (Ag.)
Department of Information and Public Relations
Officers from across the Public Service are attending a workshop on commercial drone policies this week as part of a UK Government funded Darwin Plus Project titled, “Sustainable Sargassum Management”.
The Government of Virgin Islands through the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour has been engaged since 2021 in the project led by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI). The project is also underway in Anguilla and Montserrat.
Dr. Kimberly Baldwin of Marine Spatial Information Solutions is leading the workshop and stated that she was grateful for the opportunity to build capacity in the Territory.
Dr. Baldwin said, “This is a one week course in which I am teaching the various trainees not only to fly drones, but to operate on a commercial and professional level which involves a lot more safety procedures and operations.”
“We are going to be using drone mapping and monitoring software for the environment so that we can conduct flight surveys of the environment and create 3D maps and models,” Dr. Baldwin stated, adding, “The focus of this project is using that information that we are going to gather to inform decisions for the management for the Sargassum Seaweed, which is a problem all over the Caribbean as well as it is here in the Virgin Islands.”
The Sustainable Sargassum Management project will focus on implementing participatory and multi-level approaches to manage Sargassum influxes to protect and enhance coastal and marine biodiversity and associated livelihoods. Key activities will include improving research, monitoring and early warnings of influxes to inform decision-making; strengthening multi-stakeholder engagement; and building the capacity of coastal and marine managers and users for Sargassum use, removal and rehabilitation of affected areas.
Acting Deputy Secretary in the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour Mr. Mervin Hastings endorsed the workshop and spoke on its significance.
“Sargassum Seaweed influxes has been an occurrence in the Territory for quite some time now,” Mr. Hastings said. “We have to do our best to mitigate how it affects our coastlines and find the best uses for it so that best practices and sustainable by-products can be garnered from this seaweed that we encounter yearly,” he further stated.
Participants to the workshop include officers from the Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour, the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, Town and Country Planning Department, Hamilton Lavity Stoutt Community College (HLSCC), the National Parks Trust of the Virgin Islands (NPTVI) and the Association of Reef Keepers (ARK).
The Ministry of Natural Resources and Labour continues to effectively manage and administer the natural resources of the Territory in a manner that ensures long-term sustainability.
Photo : Photo of Dr. Kimberly Baldwin of Marine Spatial Solutions interacting with the participants of the workshop (Photo credit: GIS/ P. Bridgewater)