What are the local initiatives for the protection of biodiversity in Martinique?

The protection of the marine environment in Martinique benefits from a lively and varied network of associations. New actors regularly emerge on this ecological scene, to the great delight of the seabed. They work in close collaboration with the institutions whose missions and actions converge with the associative environment. 

An overview of the actors who work on a daily basis to protect the environment in Martinique. 

The voluntary sector 

Some of these associations are small and rely on the efforts of their volunteers, while others have dozens of employees and are active throughout the country. Some work closely with the institutions, providing them with a direct link to civil society, while others regularly take up the cause of decisions they consider to be unequal. 

ASSO-MER, the underwater life specialist

Since 2016, L'ASSO-MER has been involved in the protection and enhancement of Martinique's marine heritage. Inspired by the Lasotè, the age-old Martinican practice of working together to plough fields on the side of a hill. The idea here is to work together to help protect the marine environment.

The coral restoration project relies on a network of dive clubs to monitor the project and a cohort of volunteers to help maintain the domes.

Participatory science is also involved, with the monitoring of sea turtle nesting tracks in the northern Caribbean: each year, volunteers are trained to carry out this monitoring, which lasts for several months during the nesting period. Eco-ambassadors are also trained to run public stands and warn about plastic pollution, and to organise waste collections on the beaches. Numerous awareness-raising activities are also carried out for schools. In particular, there are two AMEs (Educational Marine Areas) created in partnership with the Martinique Marine Natural Park and volunteer school teachers who want to guide their pupils towards active eco-citizenship anchored in their territory. 

The Carbet des Sciences, for a reappropriation of science by the general public

The leitmotiv of this association, which has existed for almost 30 years and is the Centre de Culture Scientifique, Technique et Industrielle (CCSTI) of Martinique, is to promote the sharing of knowledge by offering the general public the means to learn about and reflect on scientific and technical developments of our time. Like all the CCSTIs in France, its "aim is to encourage the sharing of knowledge by offering the widest possible audience the means to learn about and reflect on the scientific and technical developments of our time. "Thus, the issues addressed are as broad as the scientific ones: nutrition, health, water, energy, biodiversity and archaeology.

Its Sea Centre, managed by Mathilde Brassy, a diver and marine biologist, organises activities in schools and at public events, but also participates in large-scale projects such as the creation of the marine trail of the islets of François. [YouTube video: https: //www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_v_cULr93w]

Carouge the bird specialists but not only! 

"Nature is interaction, and without interaction there is no life", this sentence from the president of theassociation Le Carouge, David Belfan, explains perfectly the functioning of this teeming association with a historical basis on the territory. Created in 1989 by enthusiasts of the fauna and flora of Martinique, this naturalist association is on all fronts, as long as the issue of biodiversity is present. Monthly nature walks (open to non-members visiting Martinique), annual monitoring of the Iguana Delicatissima on the islet Chancel (the endemic iguanas of Martinique, highly threatened by the presence of common iguanas on the island), but also ornithological studies or training of tourism actors.

The Martinique World Biosphere Reserve Association

Since 2017, this group of actors from all walks of life: elected officials, companies, associations and personalities has been working on the project to obtain the UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve title for Martinique.

In September 2021, Martinique obtained its title and became part of a worldwide network of over 700 Biosphere Reserves in 131 countries.

A world title that commits Martinique to enhance its human, natural and cultural wealth, in a dynamic of sustainable economic and social development. It also encourages scientific research and environmental education.

The association now coordinates the activities of the World Biosphere Reserve and co-leads the Management Committee and the working commissions. It is also the privileged contact for the Biosphere Reserve network.

The next step is to include Montagne Pelée and the Pitons du Carbet in UNESCO's World Heritage List. 

Other younger associations are also moving the lines

With Coco AN DLO, Coraly Balmy intends to respond to two major issues: the fight against drowning accidents and the protection of the marine environment. This former Olympic swimmer, a beloved child of Martinique, was awarded the Prix Sport Planète in 2021 by MAIF for her associative initiative. The need to do something for her native land was marked by her experience as an animal caretaker in the Mediterranean. This is why she offers swimming courses at sea for young people from 4 to 17 years old, but also training programmes for school teachers who want to take part in the adventure. 

With its all-volunteer team, Roots Of The Sea is impressively dynamic. Mangrove restoration projects in partnership with other ultra-marine territories, participation in the OceanHackathon, holding the Marine Turtle caravan. This association is a fine example of the involvement of Martinique's youth in the protection of its ecological heritage.

The institutional sector

With its local branches, its services, its national action plans specific to threatened species, the French State is largely present in the Territory's actions, always in close collaboration with civil society, very often through the associative sector. 

The Martinique Natural Marine Park (PNMM) 

The latest of the Marine Nature Parks, the MMNP is a marine protected area. It is a tool whose aim is to participate in the protection of the marine environment within a logic of sustainable development. Although the park's employees are all part of theOFB, its governance is mixed, with a management committee integrating the diversity of marine stakeholders in Martinique.

Its seven orientations, specific to the island and its challenges, are: knowledge, awareness, preservation, sustainable exploitation, conciliation, responsible activities and monitoring. In concrete terms, its actions cover a wide spectrum. It may involve setting up protected areas (regulated fishing, prohibited anchorages with the provision of buoys), conducting or commissioning scientific studies (mapping, impacts of human activities on a marine population, etc.), supporting projects that are not yet completed, or developing new projects. The fields are wide), supporting professionals (help in reducing the impact of nautical events, training of sea professionals or monitoring of an innovative project such as Voile Nature), improving water quality with studies on the impact of sargassum, support for waste recovery projects, or awareness-raising missions among boaters.

Finally, its mission to raise awareness of the marine environment and its challenges leads the MMNP to organise events, to participate in numerous public events, but also to use the wonderful tool of the Marine Educational Areas, which allow the sea to be brought into schools.

AGOA, the marine mammal sanctuary

Like the Marine Nature Park, the AGOA Sanctuary is a marine protected area that is entirely focused on the protection of marine mammals. Its territory of action is more extensive, with 143,256 km2 "the Sanctuary covers the entire exclusive economic zone of the French West Indies, i.e. the waters of Martinique, Guadeloupe, Saint-Martin and Saint-Barthélemy. "

Its missions are both related to knowledge of protected species, awareness-raising for their protection, and support for economic actors whose work impacts on the lives of marine mammals. Great importance is also given to international cooperation with other Caribbean States, based on the SPAW (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife) protocol, a legislative instrument for environmental protection in the Greater Caribbean.  

Lesser Antillean Iguana Network 

To ensure the conservation of the critically endangeredLesser Antillean IguanaDelicatissima, there is a National Action Plan (NAP) led by the Prefect of Martinique (represented by the DEAL) and coordinated by theONF (Office National des Forêts). The actions carried out by the network, which brings together many actors: associations, institutions, and volunteers, include scientific monitoring, awareness-raising (with the iguana caravan that criss-crosses Martinique), and also very concrete conservation actions, notably at the îlet Chancel.

The Martinique Marine Turtle Network 

Like their cousin, the iguana, marine turtles also have a National Action Plan that is run by a multi-partner network. It is also steered by the DEAL (Department of the Environment, Planning and Housing) and run by the National Forestry Office. It benefits the five species of marine turtles that can be found on the beaches or in the water in the Lesser Antilles.

In Martinique, it is more specifically the leatherback, green and hawksbill turtles. The turtle caravan enables awareness-raising activities throughout Martinique, with events run by environmental protection associations. As far as knowledge is concerned, several areas are studied: each year, traces of egg-laying are monitored, as well as studies on the impact of human activity on egg-laying, and also monitoring of feeding populations (mainly practised on live turtles, feeding on the grass beds of the Caribbean coast). With regard to conservation, actions to combat all forms of disturbance or capture (accidental or not) are also underway. 

Written by : Jessica CHEKROUN

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