Location: Petite Piton
Another great morning, we awoke under the shadow of the Petit Piton (2400ft). After breakfast we were straight into a quick oceanography quiz before the rangers from the Soufriere Marine Management Association (SMMA) arrived to give us a talk on the marine protected area.
The SMMA is a local fisheries management authority and was formed back in 1995 to deal with increasing competition between pot and seine fishermen, yachts, divers and recreational users as well as to try and stop the degradation of the marine area as a result of overfishing, damaging fishing practices such as gill nets, land based sources of pollution, anchoring and unregulated diving. The SMMA is responsible for managing two areas along the West Coast of St Lucia. The first covers around 11km of coastline and stretches from Caribe Pointe in the South to Blanche point in the North (Soufriere Marine Management Area). The second runs from Blanche point to Marigot (Canaries/Anse la Raye Marine Management Area). The coastline is zoned into marine reserves, fishing priority areas, yacht mooring areas, recreational areas and multiple use areas. The marine reserves help maintain biodiversity by protecting important habitats and giving fish a safe haven. This helps increase fish productivity which then overspills into the fishing priority areas. Fish stocks have doubled in the fishing priority areas since the establishment of the SMMA back in 1995. With the success of the SMMA now apparent, local marine users now wildly support something that many people were initially opposed to.
After lunch was the highlight of the day as Peter Butcher, the chief ranger and 3 of his colleagues led us on a spectacular dive named Supermans flight. This is appropriately named for two reasons. Firstly, the dive starts under Petit Piton which is the mountain that Superman flies to in Superman 2 to collect a flower for Louis Lane. The other reason is what makes this dive special. The seabed drops away steeply and the current sweeps you past the wall of coral and fish at about 2 knots giving you the feeling that you are flying. No swimming required on this dive, just go with the flow.
And the day is still not over. After dinner down below due to a Caribbean squall we sat around for some maths as we began the Navigation Master course for MTE. I will sleep well tonight.