Several public officials from across the public sector are attending a workshop on commercial drone policies this week which is a part of a UK government-funded Darwin Plus Project for Overseas Territories titled “Sustainable Sargassum Management”.
The BVI government, through the Ministry of Natural Resources, has been involved, since 2021, in the project led by the Caribbean Natural Resources Institute (CANARI). The project is currently ongoing in Anguilla, Montserrat and the Virgin Islands
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.
“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,” Dr Baldwin said.
“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. 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
,” she further explained.
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 Mervin Hastings endorsed the workshop and spoke on its significance.
“Sargassum Seaweed influxes have been an occurrence in the Territory for quite some time now,” 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.”
Participants in 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).