Because of this, the Institute of Marine Affairs yesterday held a workshop to deal with the threats of IAS. The workshop was held at Capital Plaza, Port-of-Spain.
IAS are organisms, either plants, animals or microbes that have been introduced into one region from another region, and have been able to destroy native species.
“In response to this threat, CABI, in collaboration with several partners, is implementing the project known as MISTAC — “Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Carribean” says Dr Amoy Lum Kong, director of the Institute of Marine Affairs.
The main objective of MISTAC is to protect the native biodiversity of the country by reducing the overall risk posed by IAS. There are currently three pilot programmes that MISTAC has in place to tackle the Invasive Alien Species..
The three pilot projects of MISTAC are: Prevention of the entry of a fungus, called Moniliophthora roreri, which causes a “frosty” pod-rot on cocoa; the management and control of invasive green muscles in Trinidad and Tobago; and, the management and control of the spread and impact of IAS in the Nariva Swamp.
Vidia Ramkhelawan, Permanent Secretary for the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources, told the audience “In the last decade this problem has grown in magnitude, and has now been recognised by the United Nations as an issue which merit urgent response at the global, regional and national levels.”
Trinidad and Tobago’s 110,000 square kilometers of marine area Ramkhelawan said, are critical habitats for coral reefs, seagrass and mangroves which provide a “valuable service” to the country’s well-being.
Ballast water is the main contributor to the spread of IAS. She said while various marine organisms come into the country’s water from different parts, ballast water, which are discharged by ships, have negative impacts on the marine environment.
They are expelled into the Caribbean Sea causing a threat to the marine life. It was estimated that some six million tonnes of ballast water were released into the Caribbean Sea in 2005.
Other vectors that add to the spread of IAS. include marine culture, ornamental fish trade, drilling rigs and recreational boating.
The issue of marine IAS will be given urgent attention from the Government through continued policy intervention, laws, programmes geared towards safeguarding the environment through inter- ministerial efforts.
The ministries of Transport, Health and Food Production, are also partnering to assist with the problem of IAS. Two strategies the government is working on to address the IAS are, the National Invasive Species Strategy and the Ballast Water Management Strategy. Ramkhelawan hopes that the workshop would help improve on these strategies, so that it could become successfully implementable.