The oral marine history painted in the narratives of divers, fishermen, and the first glass bottom boat tour operators portrays the Buccoo Reef Marine Park as a continuum of ecologies bridging mangrove clusters, emerald seagrass fields, impoverished zombie-like systems, and enchanting underwater aquariums.

It is a web of bionetworks that have experienced loss from hurricane surges, human disturbances, disease outbreaks, the growth of algae, declining water quality, strong grazing by herbivores, coral bleaching events, sedimentation, higher seawater temperatures, the drift of beverage container bottles and single use plastics, substrate collapse, toxicants, and loss of nutrient resources. 

Relics of what the reef used to be, can still be found. Divers still encounter huge fallen treelike corals (Elkhorn corals) that now lie broken and dead on the sea floor. Along the reef flat on the coastal side of the formation, species of small-bodied fish including parrot fish, snappers, and grunts in juvenile life stages intermingle with elusive apex predators like sharks, groupers, and charismatic octopuses, turtles, and manta rays.

The Buccoo Reef Marine Park is a restricted marine area pursuant to the Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act, chapter 37:02, Act 1 of 1970. Given the state of the world’s coral reefs, a Digital Atlas has been created. The Allen Coral Atlas project, is an world-wide research collaboration that uses real-time satellite systems to monitor reef bleaching of 230,000 coral reefs – to detect reef bleaching anywhere on the planet.

Trinidad and Tobago is an archipelagic state that consists of two large islands and twenty-one smaller islets, located about eleven kilometres off the South American coastline between 10° 02’–10° 50’N latitude and 60° 55’ – 61° 56’W longitude. The country covers a terrestrial area of 5128 km2 with its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) extending to 200 NM.

The coastline of Trinidad extends a distance of 420 km. Tobago has 120 km of coastline. The landscape of the two islands differs. Trinidad’s landscape is characterized by three mountain ranges separated by plains with the alluvial plains dominating three-quarters of the island.

Fascinatingly, the country’s only Marine Protected Area is located off the southwest coast of Tobago, and the oldest legally protected forest reserve geared specifically towards a conservation purpose is Tobago’s Main Ridge Forest Reserve. The Reserve encompasses 4046.86 hectares, and is one of the oldest protected areas on earth.

It was established by a 1776 Ordinance which states in part, that the reserve is for the purpose of drawing regular rainfall that impacts the fertility of soils in Tobago. The Caribbean was originally under 229,549 sq. km. of tropical rainforest. This has dropped considerably.

In the EU, the government of France in 2023 has initiated steps to put five per cent of the metropolitan sea under severe protection. This will include, the Posidonia meadows in the Mediterranean, thirty-four per cent of which has been lost already.

To combat invasive species that are taking root in French Overseas Territories, over 500 high-profile operations are under consideration for implementation between 2023 and 2025. France also intends to set up a government service to help companies meet their obligations to combat trafficking in endangered species, and the importation of goods linked to deforestation.

In an effort to safeguard nature through 2030, France has also published its National Biodiversity Strategy (SNB) which outlines 39 measures. France’s SNB is in keeping with the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework (GBF), adopted in December 2022. After two years of planning, the SNB will finally benefit from an increase of €264M in fiscal 2024. With a commitment of €100M per year for nature restoration, and €300M per year for wasteland, France’s investment to protect its biodiversity should reach about one billion euros by 2024. In addition, €500M will be mobilized to help bring nature back to the city.

After four years of consultations and negotiations, the Kunming-Montreal GBF was adopted during COP15. Built on the convention’s previous strategic plans, the Kunming-Montreal Accord charts an ambitious pathway to reach a shared vision of a world living in harmony with nature by 2050.

Alongside the package of decisions adopted at COP15, the Kunming-Montreal GBF creates an enhanced mechanism for reporting, planning, monitoring, and revisiting implementation. But of great importance is the agreement on digital sequence information on genetic resources. Next year in Turkey, at the Conference of the Parties, the world will take stock of the targets and commitments that have been set.

In adopting the Kunming-Montreal GBF, all parties are committed to setting national targets to implement the Kunming-Montreal GBF while other actors are expected to develop and communicate their own national commitments. The aim of all of this is to address the pressures on biodiversity and sensitive ecosystems and to restore nature wherever it is possible.

In France, over €264M will be used to harden effectiveness measures that focus on protected areas, the preservation and protection of ecosystems, species, and the biodiversity of marine environments that are similar to the Buccoo Reef Marine Park, and the Cloud Forest of Tobago’s Main Ridge.

Notably, Tobago’s Main Ridge remains home to the Campylopterus ensipennis – the White-tailed Sabrewing Hummingbird – which is both rare and endemic to Tobago.