Buccoo Reef
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Buccoo Reef

Reefs are made from the skeleton of billions of tiny animals called corals. Living coral is on the surface. The reef grows as living coral polyps attached to the stone skeleton left by dead corals. There are more than two thousand species of corals. Some are hard stony corals while others are soft with flexible skeletons. Reefs support fish species (the centre of the marine food chain) and also act as a barrier for the coast.

In the early 1960’s and 1970’s the growth of consciousness, awareness and development began to give Tobagonians the realization of the natural beauty that surrounded them. One of these is the Buccoo Reef. Geographically it lies west-northwest of the island, at Latitude 11║ 11' N, Longitude 60║ 50' W, and encompassing an area of seven square kilometers. It is characterized by five emerging reef flats.

Since the 1930’s local communities at Bon Accord and Buccoo villages have directly exploited the resources by spear fishing, and diving for conchs, lobsters and sea eggs. By the early 1960’s these activities were superseded by tourism-related activities (e.g. boat tours and curio items).

Cecil Anthony, a native son, was said to be responsible for developing the glass bottom boat, thus enhancing the popularity and destruction of the reef. This unique area was described as a wonder of the world and was a delight to visit and boast about; but how time has changed. The introduction of machinery and man’s quest for money and material, and now globalization (hotels) with an influx of visitors has changed the face of this God given beauty.

The presence and exploits of mankind - compounded by inadequate control by the powers that be - has led to issues related to reef walking, anchorage and illegal fishing. Even more pressing is the issue of water quality, as nitrates and phosphates, silt from erosion, toxic chemicals and excessive fresh water runoff give rise to bacterial and fungal agents.

Because of the fragility of the reef systems all of these stresses contribute to the present state of depletion, as all forms of marine life come under threat (e.g. by diseases such as white band, black band, white plague or fungal infections in sea fans). All these negative impacts contribute to the migration of reef fish and other forms of marine life.

As the reef is further destroyed as a result of those physical and chemical stresses, it also suffers its share of boats running aground even as recent as August 2000. These create widespread damage, and in the process deposit remnants of lead and other oxides from paints (which are very high in toxins and an executioner of marine life), with residual effects for over a year.

Over the years the reef has being reduced to skeletal proportions where only a few parrotfish grope around seemingly hungry. As of now, stringent measures should be put in place not only to protect but also to rebuild so that our children can also experience this wonder of the world.

By Carl Hector
Coastal Environmental Officer
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment

Ocean would you stay blue?
Yes, but with the help of you.
I’ll be your friend and provider,
To soothe you when I break the shores,
With my sometimes, calm and sometimes,
Heavy relentless roars
I’ll be your neighbor for all regattas, playground
for divers and researchers and producer for explorers.
Medicine for the sick.
Masseur for the weak.
Fun for the meek,
And this is not all I can do
But, it all depends on you.

By Carl Hector
Coastal Environmental Officer
Department of Natural Resources and the Environment
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