Category Archives: marine biodiversity

Progress and Impediments to TCI Marine Environment

Image via wildoceans
Last June I was interviewed by Amdeep Sanghera as part of a Marine Conservation Society funded study to determine key marine conservation issues affecting the Turks and Caicos Islands.  Last evening a small group of individuals and I attended a meeting at DEMA to hear about the results of those findings and enter into discussion on possible solutions.  The largest concerns of the overall study were 1.Decline in conch, lobster, and reef fish 2.Damaging development and water activities 3.Lack of enforcement of existing laws and legislation. Our group came up with several great ideas; an adopt a dive or snorkel mooring initiative, an artificial reef initiative, increased signage within the national parks, a fish certification scheme coordinated between local restaurants and fishermen, workshops on eco-minded fishing and lobster catching practices, a DEMA officer of the month rewards program, a volunteer warden program, an incentive program for local businesses to be DEMA certified operators, and an awareness campaign via a list of top ten tips for conservation practices here in the Turks and Caicos that would be published and broadcast throughout the country for all visitors and residents alike.  We are looking for YOUR ideas!  What do you think can be done to conserve our environment?  What would be on your top ten list of tips? 
The Thursday Night Fish Fry is a superb example of how connected our marine environment is connected to our vital tourism industry here in the Turks and Caicos Islands.  CNN has just published a fantastic article, Fish Fry Bridges Tourist-Local Gap in Turks and Caicos, but as importantly, it forms an alliance between the environmental community and the tourism community.  This allegiance needs to be strengthened and solidified so these co-dependent sectors can sustain one another.   We need to keep our oceans healthy, to keep our marine species thriving and their habitats safe and a new threat has just surfaced. 
 Image via sustainablesushi
“The Turks and Caicos Islands, known throughout the world for their pristine beaches and diverse marine wildlife, is being threatened by a project which seeks to determine the viability of a commercial pelagic fishery in their waters. This exercise will open Turks and Caicos waters to long-line commercial fishing vessels. This indiscriminate method causes depleted fish stocks and excessive incidental catch, including sea turtles and billfish . Pelagic long-line commercial fishing is incompatible with the Turks and Caicos Islands’ unique marine waters that provide healthy ecosystems for marine species and our “Beautiful by Nature” mantra.  Good conservation and responsible use of our marine resources are the true “sustainable” methods; ours is more than a label, it is a way of life.”


 Furthermore, local resident and expert Delphine Hartshorn, writes, “Whether this is just a study or not, we must not allow longlines to enter our waters. Incidental, or unwanted, catch will threaten our billfish, turtle, shark and marine mammal populations as well as seabirds. 97% of blue marlin and 93% or white marlin are overfished as a direct result of pelagic longline commercial fishing. Those supporting longlining will argue that bycatch is released live, however, the majority will not survive after the stress and injuries caused from being hooked and dragged for 8 hours or more before release. The particular firm involved here will also argue that they hold MSC certification as a sustainable fishery. More than one quarter of MSC certified fisheries have been deemed unsustainable and out of 71 that were examined, 31% were concluded to be overfished and subject to continued overfishing. If this certification is so stringent in it’s guidelines then why were 189 out of 200 applicants granted certificates? It is merely a marketing tool that allows uninformed consumers to feel they are making sustainable choices when buying fish and for fisheries that are not sustainable to make the claim. A viable solution would be to review the existing fisheries ordinance and allow charter boats, which use rod and reel, to sell their catch – keeping the fish, jobs and money in TCI. Not to mention these commercial vessels are US owned and operated, meaning minimal jobs for Turks Islanders, and if any, strictly minimum wage. Let’s preserve our diverse marine environment and ban this ridiculous idea. And for those who believe that the impact of this proposed study for a pelagic longline fishery will only extend to the charter and recreational sportfishing community, you are very wrong. The impact will affect all industries including tourism, other water based activities, real estate, and the Turks and Caicos Islands’ ‘Beautiful by Nature’ brand as a whole. Please support the cause and help us stop this before it starts. Once those lines are in the water it will be hard to get them out.”
 Please click here to take a moment to sign this very important petition.

Biodiversity Day!

May 22nd marks the International Day for Biological Diversity and this years theme Marine Biodiversity is one especially relevant to the Turks and Caicos Islands.  You must read their 2012 booklet; an excellent overview on the importance of our oceans and the issues we currently face with their health and stability.  Not only is it filled with important facts, new research, and beautiful moving photographs, it concludes with a Strategic Plan of action to help alleviate the largest issues. 

 Image via andthetrees

Tim Silverwood, an Australian surfer, is doing his part as an ambassador to our oceans.  He started the Take3, A Clean Beach Initiative in 2009.  Big thanks to Lynn for sharing this video with her fellow TCI Rubbish Runners, avid supporters of  lifting litter.
Are you willing to take 3 for the sea today?
  Image via take3theblog
From 101+ Ways to Make a Difference, to Ten Simple Things You Can do To Save the Coral Reefs, learning is the #1 way which you can help!  I applaud everyone who will get out there today and read, research, or take action.  Here is a fantastic Interview with Captain Paul Watson of the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and Operation Blue Rage, a great source of inspiration.

For further reading, please check out:

Five Eco-Friendly Facts about Fleur de Lys

Thinking green is a constant consideration at Fleur de Lys Villa and we hope that our guests follow the same practice.  There are so many gorgeous vacation villas in the Turks and Caicos, choosing one can be time consuming and quite the challenge!  When we holiday, we like to make certain that we are making conscientious decisions when visiting a new place; where will our hard earned dollars get utilised the best?  What local businesses can we support to help make a difference in the community?  What foods are sustainable?  What local charities are in need of assistance?  All of these questions usually involve a great deal of research online to answer, and even then, one hopes that the information is honest.  We hope to make the process simpler and easier to access for our guests and visitors to the island who may be reading this post.  Living here for the last decade, we aim to keep current on these topics and are happy to share the information with like minded individuals who are looking to vacation as eco-friendly as possible.

Image from here

#1 CONSTRUCTION: Fleur de Lys Villa is not a five story hotel with massive energy consumption and excessive waste required to operate daily.  The villa is a four bedroom, not too big – not too small, just right sized home owned, operated, and maintained by . . . US!  Thats correct, we do all the landscaping, the cleaning, the greeting, the carpentry, the cabinetry, the handyman housecalls (unless time constraints or expertise require otherwise).  Both construction and Caribbean architecture enthusiasts, we designed the villa to function ideally in this climate and all the concrete foundations, block walls, insulated roofs, louvered shutters, bi-fold windows, dual doors, patios, pergolas, and balconies attest to that.  The layout and location were specifically designed to best utilise trade winds, keeping inhabitants cool in the summers and comfortable in the winters. 
Image from blisstree

#2 CONSUMPTION: Fleur de Lys is a conservative consumer.  All the water heaters are on timers, the split unit A/C’s are designated per room,  majority of lights are on dimmers, and appliances not in use are kept unplugged.  At an average cost of .50 per kw, energy consumption is not only an ECO concern but an ECOnomical one as well!  We encourage our guests to keep the water coolers unplugged as room temperature water is healthier and more hydrating and also to use the more beneficial Caribbean solar line drying versus the power guzzling dryer.   We weekly monitor all usage to make certain the precious island  resources of water and power are not wasted.

Images by Adam Sherwin for resource magazine

#3  REDUCE, REUSE, RECYCLE: We have highlighted above many ways in which we reduce consumption and waste at Fleur de Lys Villa but we also try to reuse our resources.  Our gutter drainage feeds a large cistern for collection of rain water, the grey water is recycled for irrigation, and food waste is composted, the nutrient rich soil later fed back to the hundreds of trees, plants, and flowers on property.  Avid DIY’ers, the villa is full of reused items, from discarded lumber to louver blades (shown pictured) to Bedroom sets and beyond.  We support the Campaign to Ban Single Use Plastic by  providing reusable shopping bags and aluminum drinking bottles at the villa for guests use and as of November we are very thrilled to contract TCI Waste and Disposal for our recycling needs! 
Image from here, wonderful demonstration of how every little decision should be cradled with thought

#4 ACT GLOBAL, BUY LOCAL: This is one of the most important and effective strategies for making the planet a cleaner, greener place.  Every person CAN make a difference; you and me, there is no doubt about that WE can change the world with what we BUY.  There will be no demand for pollutants the day we stop purchasing them!  We want you to consume wisely when you are in the Turks and Caicos.  Here is a list of recommended options but this blog is full of information on local people, charities, events, businesses, and organisations that could use support.  Feel free to do a search for an area or topic that might interest you, this volunteer-in-turks-and-caicos post is a great place to start.


Image from website below
big blue unlimited eco adventures – learn about TCI’s unique environment while having eco-friendly fun hiking, kayaking, stand up paddle boarding, kiteboarding or bicycling and support local businesses/people while island hopping.  You can be certain the staff will be sure to follow all rules and regulations put in place to protect the National Parks.  Ask questions, they are happy to oblige.

sail beluga– Sail away on board a unique catamaran that utilises solar power and very little fuel.  Twenty-five year veteran and Turks and Caicos Islands enthusiast, Captain Tim, is both a National Park protector and a wealth of history and information.

Image from wherewhenhow
Provo Ponies– Horseback riding on the beach.  Started as a rescue operation for abused and malnourished horses and ponies, over the course of seven years two have grown to a healthy stable of twenty-one!  Plus dogs, cats, chickens, birds, frogs, fish, and you may even find a rescue in care such as a piglet or baby donkey . . . animal lovers will not want to miss this!

-EATING- Look and ask for locally grown produce while grocery shopping; tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, basil, cilantro, mint, and other home growns you will find are far more flavorful than those that have traveled thousand of miles and burned hundreds of gallons of fuel to arrive at your plate.  Visit the Farmer’s Market at Fresh Bakery, the five-cays fishery for local catches, and the Conch Farm to learn about the island’s only export.  Before ordering or purchasing seafood, check SeafoodWatch to find out what is sustainable for the region.  Make requests at restaurants for tap water (a steripen is great for traveling), straw free drinks, and styrafoam and plastic free to-go containers.  We suggest bringing your aluminum water bottle with you and buying an eco-clamshell at home to travel with.  Ask restaurants what local dishes they suggest and inquire if they recycle and if not, why not?  Patronise the Greenbean-Cafe, a flagship eatery that boasts eco-friendly products and recycling bins within the restaurant.  Be sure to try TCI coffee, island scoop, Turks Head Beer, bambarra rum, and visit Flavors-Of-The-Turks-And-Caicos for a wide variety of locally made products sure to set the taste buds soaring.
Image from link above

-SHOPPING- Find all kinds of incredible locally made products while supporting a noteworthy organisation, the tci national trust (see their site for must see cultural and historical sites to explore) at their Souvenir Shop.  Attend the Graceway Gourmet Market the second Saturday of the month from 9am to 1pm for a great selection of local art, crafts, jewelry, accessories, eats, and treats.  When looking to buy any product, check the ingredients whether it is a food, a beauty product, or an article of clothing.  Stay away from ingredients that are toxic to us and to wildlife.  We use as many eco-friendly cleaning, landscaping, and amenities products as possible at the villa.  If you have a great product tip, please tell us about it!

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#5 BIODIVERSITY:  Fleur de Lys Villa lies just steps away from one of the consecutively voted best beaches in the world, which lies on a sparkling, breathtaking beauty of an ocean that boasts the the third largest reef system in the world.   These are well known draws to the destination that have earned the Turks and Caicos the reputation as the new darling of the Caribbean, but what makes Fleur de Lys Villa stand apart from many villas is a unique attribute regarding her location.  No, it’s not the beach!  There will be no beach traffic peering in the windows to admire the furniture nor noisy passing boats to disturb an afternoon snooze.  It’s better than the beach in my book.  Fleur de Lys Villa  borders a nationally protected reserve which provides a spectacular looking glass into the biodiversity that thrives in this part of the world.  On any given morning you are likely to see a bahama_woodstar_hummingbird  gathering nectar from the firecracker flowers, a no-bigger-than-a-fingernail frog resting on a courtyard vine leaf, or a vivid green lizard sunning on the deck.  The courtyard and extensive landscaping were designed to create a lovely, relaxing haven for humans and the many wonderful Caribbean creatures we are lucky to share it with.  Villa guests enjoy unprecedented privacy, there are no neighbors or structures on the left and right flanking properties, and just past the pool lies a forest of buttonwood and red mangroves and one of the best bird watching areas in all of Leeward.  Please read the /wondrous-west-indian-wetlands post and this world wildlife profile to find out just how incredible and rare the Turks and Caicos ecoregion is.  Wetlands have many misconceptions, and we want to do our part to educate otherwise.  Did you know that wetland areas, like our reserve pictured below, actually help combat mosquito infestation, provide flood control, acts as filtration systems for pollutants, and are living nurseries to wildlife? This part of the world demands to be preserved and protected and one of our many joys and duties with living here is to do just that.  We are highly active members of the tci-environmental-club and founders of the TCI Rubbish Runners.

Fleur de Lys Villa circled, the long thin body of water south of the villa is a nationally protected reserve