Tobago Coastal Ecosystem Mapping Project (TCEMP)

Tobago Coastal Ecosystem Mapping Project (TCEMP)

Trinidad and Tobago
Organization type: 
nonprofit/ngo/citizen sector
$100,000 - $250,000
Project Summary
Elevator Pitch

Concise Summary: Help us pitch this solution! Provide an explanation within 3-4 short sentences.

The TCEMP is a collaborative effort between CCC, ET, THA and the local community of Speyside to develop a comprehensive coastal management plan, which will include the establishment of a Marine Park as well as detailed mapping of Tobago’s coral reef ecosystems. The programme provides training and conservation education opportunities for local Tobagonians and will ensure the long-term protection and sustainable use of Tobago’s precious coastal ecosystem.

About Project

Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?

Tobago’s coral reefs are being adversely affected by both natural and anthropogenic factors including overfishing, habitat degradation, land-based pollution stresses and climate change induced events. The addition of nutrients from land-based agricultural runoff and/or untreated sewage discharge are creating situations which promote the growth of phytoplankton and seaweeds; the latter can out-compete corals for space and light. The widespread overfishing of reefs has removed many of the herbivorous fish that keep algae in check, upsetting the competitive balance between corals and seaweeds, often leading to a fundamental change in the community. The large-scale bleaching event of 2005 as a result of thermal stress affected 85% of coral colonies around the island with many now exhibiting signs of disease. A lack of education and media attention regarding these problems mean that most local Tobagonian coastal communities, if they have any knowledge of these phenomena at all, do not have the information or resources to combat their occurrence, least of all their increase. As coral reefs are vital to the Gross Domestic Product of the island, it is crucial that the island

Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!

Coral Cay Conservation pioneers the citizen science approach by providing education and awareness of marine ecosystems and their vulnerability to local Tobagonian nationals, and additionally through training volunteers to record scientific research in the field. The scholars learn key ideas about their local environment and how to protect it, and also gain knowledge about how a marine conservation project works. There are three types of scholarships available, lasting days to weeks, in order to accommodate the flexibility of the applicants. Scholars learn about reef biology, survey techniques and sustainable fishing practices. The programmes have so far been very successful, with five local scholars, formerly fishermen, now working as the ‘Speyside Marine Park Eco-Divers’ – in partnership with CCC – to spearhead the designation of Speyside Bay as an MPA. CCC also hopes to continue the Jack Petchey grant for underprivileged students which was undertaken in 2007, whereby CCC send out a group of students to the Tobago project site, to fulfil their aims of studying in a marine environment and completing an activity most would otherwise have had no chance to do. With appropriate funding, this will hopefully be repeated in the near future. Additionally and importantly, the power and enthusiasm of the volunteers is harnessed. It is a cost effective way of protecting these vulnerable environments, as it provokes interest and passion for the subjects and issues they are addressing, and this is key to the successful protection of marine environments. The idea behind the TCEMP is unique and innovative in that it not only diminishes the gap between NGO and community, but also incorporates them as part of the running of the project.
About You
Coral Cay Conservation
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Section 1: About You
First Name


Last Name



Coral Cay Conservation



Section 2: About Your Organization
Organization Name

Coral Cay Conservation

Organization Phone

(0044) 207 620 1411

Organization Address

1st Floor Block 1, Elizabeth House, 39 York Road, London, SE1 7NQ

Organization Country


Your idea
Country your work focuses on
Would you like to participate in the MIF Opportunity 2010?


Do you have a patent for this idea?

What impact have you had on your clients and the tourism sector?

Our clients are primarily the volunteers who come out to our project, but also include scholars who take part in our scholarship programme, which has been running for five years and has benefited over 100 scholars to date. The scholars learn about their surrounding environment and gain valuable skills which they can take back into the economy. Ana Loureiro was a scholar in Tobago and her opinion of her CCC experience was this: “What I’d been dreaming about doing ever since I first heard of Coral Cay had come true, I had taken part in a survey, I had contributed to protecting the corals, and I had done something really worthwhile towards our planet.” Other comments include that from Imran Khan, another Tobago scholar, “My stay here was unbelievably wonderful…I’ll be back!” Through our work in the TCEMP, we have given these scholars diving, science and key management skills.
The TCEMP, along with CCC, is at the forefront of the eco-tourism sector. During the five years the project has been running, hundreds of volunteers have passed through the project, gaining key scientific and teamwork skills along the way. This is what volunteer Afsaneh Malakouti had to say: “I feel so lucky to have been given this [opportunity] to come out and be a volunteer for CCC. It is a truly memorable and enjoyable experience that I will never forget.” CCC has enabled hundreds of volunteers to gain experience of diving and scientific fieldwork, inspiring some to go on to careers in marine conservation, such as Ife Smenkh-Ka-Ra, who you can read about here:


CCC is addressing the problem of lack of education and awareness in the local community by constantly expanding our Speyside Scholarship programmes and including the provision of education in all its ventures. Children from all schools on Tobago are exposed to marine education through field activities and visits, and six tour guides and 18 students have had their knowledge of the biodiversity of the area expanded since the scholarship programme was set up. CCC also educates locals about ways they can enhance the area’s sustainability, and inform them about how and why CCC is working here. To this end, CCC is always invited by the local government/community to work in a region, so we make sure they are informed about our activities and are happy with our progress.
CCC also trains previously inexperienced people to dive and record scientific data ourselves, thus increasing the human resources we have at our disposal.
The main issues which threaten the success of our innovation includes mainly a lack of funding, particularly if the global economic climate is affected by a recession and volunteers feel less able to pay for our expeditions, and extreme environmental factors


The issues of habitat degradation and pollution are being addressed by involving local communities and businesses in the area, and we expect to see a reduction in the occurrence of these. The series of small, well-managed no-take zones which would be instated would promote the recovery of some marine species, such as grouper, and develop a sustainable fishing industry in the Speyside area. This would then lead to increased income from dive and snorkel-related tourism.
The main results of addressing lack of education in the local community are expected to be an increased awareness of the problems faced by the reef and surrounding environment, and increased action taken on behalf of the environment. This could be in the form of more locals applying for and taking up our scholarship scheme, or more schoolchildren, who are specifically targeted in our campaign, becoming interested in marine conservation.
We have already been able to bring these two strands of our campaign together, with many former scholars pursuing degrees and careers in environmental science and fisheries, and intend to continue this throughout the coming years.

What will it take for your project to be successful over the next three years? Please address each year separately, if possible.

Throughout 2011, we aim to increase local capacity through our primary school education programmes, open days, scholarship programmes and community events. Using these opportunities and activities to help the local communities of Tobago learn about the coral reef ecosystem and how to protect it, we will be able to ameliorate the facility of the community to understand and promote plans for a marine park that would not only be beneficial but necessary for the economic situation of the community and also the biodiversity of their marine ecosystems.
Additionally, for the project to be successful on a purely scientific scale, by the end off 2011 we will have a complete baseline survey inventory of the current status of the area around Tobago’s coasts, focusing on:
- Fish biomass/diversity
- Coral health
- Protecting key biodiversity sites
This would only be truly successful with the full support of the Tobago House of Assembly.

This is the year that establishing a Marine Protected Area (MPA) is vital to the success of the organisation, to fish stocks around Tobago and hence to the Tobagonian fishing industry. The management of the MPA would be handed over to trained members of the community, including the surveying upkeep and monitoring of nautical traffic within the area.
For this to continue steadily and successfully, revenue must commence through tourism. Using the support of the tourism sector for this designation, this would be obtained by an increased awareness amongst the tourism sector, which CCC intends to promote.

By the end of the third year, for our project to be successful there will be complete community control of the MPA, survey sites and all managed environmental areas, as well as substantial financial gain for the community. A system whereby tourists pay to visit and dive in the area of Speyside – with the fee going towards the maintenance of the MPA, and the tourists’ local expenditure going straight into the community – will be the main goal of the TCEMP fulfilled. The economic improvement of the Speyside and surrounding areas (due to the designation of the MPA) will improve their quality of life, and additionally the MPA will become a successful case study or model for effective marine conservation in the Caribbean Sea.

What would prevent your project from being a success?

The most problematic prevention would be a lack of volunteers, who are the predominant source of funding for all CCC projects. This problem would arise in circumstances that include insufficient marketing due to a lack of funds, or a difficult global economic situation. A general lack of funding (most likely due to a rise in competition in the NGO/ecotourism sector) would be a primary prevention of the success of this project; furthermore, a lack of resources would have a similar outcome.
A secondary prevention to the success of our scholarship programme would be a fluctuation in community support and participation. Apathy or a lack of understanding of the main goals of CCC could lead to the disinterest of the local community, however, CCC endeavours to include the community at every point.
Infrastructure problems such as transport and travel difficulties would prevent not only the intake of volunteers, but also the ability for CCC staff to travel to different communities across the island. On a similar level, administrative difficulties such as issues distributing funds across CCC counterparts, problems that arise during legal processes and policy-making, and a lack of support from community and local government bodies would create a hindrance to the growth of the project. Luckily, these processes have run relatively smoothly so far.
Finally, external or environmental factors such as extreme weather conditions or phenomena, political disruptions and even climate change would impeach the expansion of our initiative on both the community and scientific levels. Naturally, these are unpreventable situations, however the success of our project is reliant on their essential stability.

How many people will your project serve annually?


What is the average monthly household income in your target community, in US Dollars?

$1000 - 4000

Does your project seek to have an impact on public policy or introduce models and tools that benefit the tourism sector in general?


What stage is your project in?

Operating for more than 5 years

In what country?
Is your initiative connected to an established organization?


If yes, provide organization name.

Environment Tobago, Department of Natural Resources and the Environment (Tobago House of Assembly)

How long has this organization been operating?

More than 5 years

Does your organization have a Board of Directors or an Advisory Board?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with NGOs?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with businesses?


Does your organization have any non-monetary partnerships with government?


Please tell us more about how these partnerships are critical to the success of your innovation.

Firstly, ET’s lasting legacy provides Coral Cay Conservation with essential connections and relations which we would otherwise struggle to establish. Additionally, they have strengthened the necessary relations with Tobagonian organisations that CCC needs in order to reach a wide community,
Also, ET has been critical to our success through their co-operation on education. ET’s well-established education programmes have provided our organisation with a platform from which to launch marine-related programmes which would otherwise have taken longer to gain momentum. ET’s reputation as a non-corrupt organisation has greatly benefited CCC; thus they remain critical to the success of our project.
The THA was critical to the creation of our project as they extended the invitation for CCC to work in Tobago. Additionally, in-country government support is necessary for any NGO to operate in the country as well as pass the legislation needed for consolidating regulated conservation such as the MPAs.

What are the three most important actions needed to grow your initiative or organization?

The most important action is to implement plans for a Speyside Marine Park, as this would help establish a local income through ecotourism. For example, plans involve developing a Marine Park Visitors Centre, which would attract more tourists to the area whilst keeping the anthropogenic impact to a minimum. There are also plans to employ local Marine Park Rangers, which would keep a connection between locals and the environment, as well as providing an employment opportunity in the area and promoting education of coral reef ecosystems. This is TCEMP’s primary goal for the future.
A secondary important action is to provide a constant monetary turnover in order to uphold the integrity of the project. Without sufficient funding, the project cannot grow and expand into its potential. Costs regarding the running of the project (such as the daily operational expenditure, as well as equipment hire, trade, and maintenance) have a perpetual impact on our financial resources, and hence in order to expand our project geographically, socially, operationally and scientifically, it must be amplified financially.
Marketing needs to be increased in order to enhance awareness both in-country and in volunteer-targeted countries. This action would be taken in the form of community education and training with regards to the local community at the project site, whereas actions involving advertising and awareness campaigns in countries such as the UK and US are needed to widen the opportunities to grow our initiative.

The Story
What was the defining moment that led you to this innovation?

- According to the founder and CEO of Coral Cay Conservation, Peter Raines, the defining moment came when, after the bleaching event of 2005 in Tobago, the former president of the Buccoo Reef Trust (and now a CCC patron) Owen Day sent an urgent message via Coral List, calling for anyone to who could put together a team to send out to Tobago to survey the impact of the bleaching event. Peter Raines was the most appropriate candidate, and as he had met with Owen Day in the Dominican Republic at a conference previous to the bleaching event, had considered already the notion of beginning an initiative in Tobago. Hence, he seized this spectacular opportunity volunteered himself, immediately assembling a team of scientists to spend 10-12 days doing a rapid assessment of the area. Things feel into place and his team’s commitment impressed Buccoo Reef Trust enough to be asked to return as an organisation. CCC then set up a permanent project site on the island, and have been developing their initiative there ever since.

Tell us about the social innovator behind this idea.

Peter Raines is the founder and CEO of Coral Cay Conservation (CCC), a not-for-profit coral reef and tropical forest conservation organisation based in the United Kingdom. Born of Anglo-Irish parents in West Africa, at an early age Peter developed a passion for wildlife, a passion that matured during his summers spent exploring the rock-pools of the shores of Ireland into a career in conservation. In 1982, Peter gained a Joint Honours Degree in Marine Biology and Biochemistry from the University College of Wales Bangor, and went on to undertake post- graduate research at UCW Aberystwyth and at the University of London. In 1986 Peter founded CCC through an expedition to Belize with like-minded Conservation and Science-focused postgraduates in order to assess the impact of the bleaching event of that year. The success of this expedition led to an expansion of the original idea and over the new few years, CCC project sites were set up in the same manner that Peter set up the first Belize project site.
Peter has had comprehensive experience in the field of science, from working as the Chief Technical Advisor at UNDP for the project management of Eritrea’s Coastal Ecosystems and Islands to being a Senior Research Assistant at the School of Pharmacy at the University of London.
Peter Raines’ dedication to conservation, alleviation of poverty, and particularly CCC was most honourably displayed when he left his job at the UN more than five years ago in order to return to Coral Cay Conservation as the Chief Executive Officer. He did this in order to save CCC not only from bankruptcy, but also from a ruined reputation and a failure to fulfil its mission statement. No longer having to withdraw from any project sites, CCC was reinvigorated and has thus grown to become the successful venture that it is today.
Peter is Fellow of both the Institute of Biology and the Royal Geographical Society, and is a Chartered Biologist and Chartered Geographer. He has authored and co-authored over 250 scientific reports and publications, and has won numerous international awards and citations for his work in conservation. In 2004, Peter was awarded the MBE by HM Queen Elizabeth II for his ‘services to the protection of biodiversity’.

How did you first hear about Changemakers?

Through another organization or company

If through another, please provide the name of the organization or company

Social media - Coral List

MIF Opportunity 2010
Has your organization been legally constituted or registered in your country or one of your target countries for at least three years?


Does the applicant organization have sufficient financial resources to guarantee the co-financing required by MIF during the execution period of the project? (This amounts to at least 50% of the project’s total budget with 25% in cash and 25% in-kind.)


Does the applicant organization have experience managing projects co-financed by international organizations? Please describe below

No, in the past all finance from international organisations has been grants.

Please classify the applicant organization according to the options below

Research Institution

What problem-area does your project address?

How will your project address this problem?

CCC provides community training and education,as well as providing and establishing employment opportunities, of coral reef ecosystems, fisheries, sustainable fishing practices, and Marine Park management and monitoring, to Tobagonian nationals and mroe specifically members of the local community in their location at Charlotteville.

Who is benefited by the initiative? (Please highlight the type and number of beneficiaries, and their role in the tourism value-chain.)

Firstly, local scholars and residents of the island are benefited, as they are involved in the preservation and protection of their home environment. Scholars also gain the opportunity to learn about operating a marine charity first-hand. Volunteers are the second group to be benefited, as they gain experience of working in marine conservation, a passion for many of them, and career experience for others.
Also, a recent report by the WRI (World Resources Initiative) found that coral reef-related services actually account for over 50% of Tobago's GDP:

How will the project's results assist the region’s tourism sector and micro, small and medium-sized enterprises?

As mentioned above, coral reef-related services account for over 50% of the island's GDP, so increasing awareness and protection of the reefs can only increase the GDP for the islanders. Enterprises can also benefit from the results of eco-tourism, as their practices become more sustainable and tourist numbers increase.
In specific, the new Marine Park will have a visitors' centre, which will increase local revenue and also create jobs for local people.

A. Total Budget (100%)


B. MIF Contribution (up to 50% of total budget and US$. 500.000 max)


C. Cash co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)


D. In kind co-financing (at least 25% of total budget)