Ashton Lagoon Restored After 24 Years of Severe Degradation

Environmental leaders worked in partnership to restore St. Vincent and Grenadines largest mangrove system.

On May 31, international and national environmental leaders and representatives from the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the government of Grenada celebrated the long-awaited restoration of Ashton Lagoon at Sustainable Grenadines’ (SusGren) office located in Jerome Village on Union Island. The goal of the restoration project was to restore the area’s ecosystem health and biodiversity and to promote ecotourism opportunities. The project was led by SusGren with support from the Phillip Stephenson Foundation, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) through the Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Program (CMBP), the German Development Bank (KFW) through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5C’s), the Global Environment Facility – Small Grants Program (GEF-SGP) and BirdsCaribbean.

“For many years, SusGren has worked with various partners to conserve and restore biodiversity across Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Restoring and maintaining the health of this critically important area is vital, as its ecosystem supports diverse plant and animal species and the Ashton community way of life,” stated SusGren’s Director, Orisha Joseph. In 1994, a marina-hotel-golf-course development was initiated in and around Ashton Lagoon which threatened the national marine conservation area. Dredging and construction of the marina causeway blocked water circulation within the lagoon and led to the loss of mangroves and significant coastal livelihood resources. The project was abandoned when the development company underwent economic challenges and the entire Lagoon area deteriorated over time.

“It is important for us to recognize the key role our natural resources play in the way we live – by providing food security, supporting livelihoods and contributing to a healthy lifestyle. Therefore, it is our duty to serve as environmental stewards and protect and maintain our nature-based investments. TNC is honoured to have participated in this conservation initiative.” stated Felicity Burrows, CMBP Chief of Party, TNC. In 2007, restoration activities led by SusGren commenced with support from community members, the government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines and national and international environmental groups. After twenty-four years of degradation, Ashton Lagoon is now restored!

The restoration project involved the replanting of over 3000 red mangroves in an area where there was significant die-off and the construction of breaches in strategic areas of the abandoned Ashton Marina pier structure, which ultimately restored water circulation to the area. Additionally, wildlife-viewing towers were built to promote ecotourism activities and a community-owned apiculture and honey production enterprise was developed to provide opportunities for sustainable employment and use of the natural resources.  “The conservation of our natural assets, such as Ashton Lagoon, must be seen as part of all of our efforts to build the region’s resilience. Working together with local communities and partners such as SusGren and The Nature Conservancy, we can achieve our goals to conserve and restore the beautiful Caribbean for generations to come,” said Joaquin Monserrate, US Embassy Chief of Mission.”

The next phase of the restoration project was presented by Ms. Joseph, which includes creating additional breaching gaps in the marina, developing a mangrove nursery to continuously outplant in areas where mangroves are degraded, install an additional swale/culvert system to help improve mangrove health, water circulation and marine life, and continue to improve livelihood enterprises on the island. Ashton Lagoon is the largest natural bay in the Grenadines and is surrounded by extensive mangroves that represent one of the last remaining mangrove forests in the country. Due to its rich ecological importance, this area was legally designated a Conservation Area in 1987 (under Schedule 11, Regulation 20, The Fisheries Act, 1986).

Contributors to this event are SusGren, Phillip Stephenson Foundation, USAID and TNC.

For further information on SusGren and the Ashton Lagoon Restoration Project, please contact: Orisha Joseph – SusGren Director 1784 485 8779 or susgreninc@gmail.com