#TurksandCaicos, April 8, 2021 – Stony Coral Tissue Loss Disease (SCTLD) is a highly deadly, fast moving disease that affects approximately 30 species of hard corals on the reefs of the TCI. First observed on the reefs of South Caicos and West Caicos in early 2019, the disease spread quickly to reefs off NW Point, Grace Bay and continues to spread eastward past Pine Cay recently being observed on the reefs off North, Middle and East Caicos.
Scientists in Florida have been dealing with this disease since 2014 and through extensive research identified the antibiotic, amoxicillin, mixed with a specially developed, proprietary ointment base was the most effective option for stopping the progression of this disease. The antibiotic paste is pressed into the coral tissue at the edge of a disease lesion. The ointment base expands in sea water to fill the ridges and valleys of the coral skeleton slowly releasing the antibiotic into the coral tissue and minimizing the amount of antibiotic leaching into sea water.
This is an incredibly labour-intensive, time-consuming and expensive way to deal with the disease but with Florida still seeing infection spread 7 years later, doing nothing is not an option. This disease has the power to severely reduce the populations of live stony coral cover. A recent paper from the School for Field Studies on South Caicos reports an approximate 60% reduction in live coral coverage since the disease outbreak in early 2019. In 2020 TCRF were granted a permit by the TCI Government to test this treatment to determine its effectiveness on TCI reefs and to watch for any untoward effects on the marine environment. TCRF began trials of the antibiotic treatment and recently completed and filed its final report of those treatment trials with DECR.
The treatment trials were conducted at six locations around the TCI – 3 on the reefs of Providenciales, 2 on those of Grand Turk and 1 on the reefs of Salt Cay. With up to 8 months of monitoring on 122 assessed colonies we are seeing a 93% success rate. Most of the control colonies that were not treated died within a few days or weeks, some of them continue to display slow disease progression. Species specific efficacy ranged from 50% to 100% with most species seeing 67%++ efficacy. To this date no untoward effects have been observed – fish would occasionally nibble on the ointment during treatment, but seemed to ignore it after the first nibble. There are more studies on this happening regionally and TCRF hope to help the studies in any capacity that we can.
“We are very excited to see such a high efficacy rate for our treatment program,” said Alizée Zimmermann, Executive Director of the TCRF. “Our results are consistent to slightly better than seen in other parts of the Caribbean where this treatment is being used. It is now considered to be the standard of care for treating SCTLD by the scientists studying the disease.”
These results are very encouraging and the Department of Environment and Coastal Resources has recently granted TCRF a research permit to expand the treatment effort. The treatment effort with the antibiotic ointment will continue and will target large colonies. They will be tagged with special tags instructing any divers observing these colonies to take photos of the colony and send them to TCRF at SCTLD@tcreef.org. This will assist in our ongoing monitoring effort of the treatment program. The goal with the expanded treatment effort is to target and save old, reproductive colonies of the most susceptible species so as to preserve the reef’s genetic diversity and ability to repopulate.
In addition, TCRF is teaming up with Ocean Alchemists, the company that developed the special ointment base for the amoxicillin, to test a new, non-antibiotic treatment. This treatment option utilizes a proprietary formulation of naturally occurring products and it is impregnated into hemp rope which is then applied around the edge of a lesion. TCRF will be comparing the effectiveness of this new treatment option to the current standard of care, the amoxicillin ointment. Testing of the new treatment should begin within the next month.
“None of us want to use antibiotics in the marine environment, but the alternative would result in the loss of many decades to hundreds of years old coral colonies on the reefs that protect our islands from storm surge and wave action,” said Mrs. Zimmermann. “So we are excited to be involved in conducting research on potential alternative therapies that don’t involve antibiotics.”
Founded in 2010, the Turks & Caicos Reef Fund is the only active environmental advocacy organization in the TCI. It is an organization that provides funding for education, research and conservation programs to individuals, organizations and agencies that help to preserve and protect the environment of the Turks & Caicos Islands. Our goal is to have at least 85% of all funds raised through voluntary contributions from divers and snorkelers visiting the Turks & Caicos Islands directed to the Fund’s programs.
Anyone wishing to donate or assist the TCRF in any way can contact them through their website, www.TCReef.org. Scuba divers visiting the islands are encouraged to make a $10 donation through the purchase of a dive tag that can be attached to their dive gear to show their support. Snorkelers visiting the islands can show their support through the $5 purchase of a pink or blue silicone wristband. Visitors can also support TCRF by purchasing a $40 spf50 rash guard designed each year by a different local artist. A complete list of outlets for TCRF merchandise can be found on the organization’s website.
Barbados to Host 41st Caribbean Travel Marketplace this Spring
By Sherrica Thompson
#Barbados, February 2, 2023 – Barbados has been selected to host the 41st edition of the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s (CHTA) Caribbean Travel Marketplace. The event will be held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown from May 9 -11, and it is expected to build on the success of the 40th staging held in Puerto Rico last fall.
CHTA President Nicola Madden-Greig, who made the announcement recently, said it’s the first time in the organization’s history that the association’s largest annual event, which brings together buyers and sellers of the region’s tourism products and services, will be staged in Barbados.
“CHTA has a very strong relationship with both public and private sector stakeholders in Barbados, and as we position the region’s top earner for robust growth this year, we are delighted to lock arms with our Bajan partners to drive business to the Caribbean,” she stated.
Noting that: “This year’s Marketplace will also provide unique access to the Eastern Caribbean for buyers and tour operators as the region places a strong focus on the revival of multi-destination travel.”
Minister of Tourism and International Transport of Barbados Ian Gooding-Edghill, said the Barbados tourism industry was undergoing a major renaissance in the post-COVID environment, and the timing could not be better to welcome Caribbean Travel Marketplace to local soil.
“We are honoured to host such a preeminent gathering of tourism stakeholders from around the world,” Minister Gooding-Edghill said, noting that the meeting aligns with Barbados’ value offerings, which appeal, among others, to the very important MICE [Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Exhibitions] market.
The launch of the first Caribbean Travel Forum & Awards, a highlight of the Puerto Rico meeting, will return for a second edition and will be held in Barbados on Tuesday, May 9, 2023, ahead of the official opening ceremony of Caribbean Travel Marketplace.
The Forum will also focus on the business of tourism, and business appointments will be conducted on Wednesday, May 10 and Thursday, May 11.
Over 150 delegates, including Ministers of Tourism and key private sector leaders, engaged in the Caribbean Travel Forum last year.
National Food Policy to be created in the Bahamas
By Shanieka Smith
#TheBahamas, February 2, 2023 – A new initiative by the Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs in the Bahamas will see the creation of a National Food Policy geared towards ensuring food security on the island.
“This agricultural policy would encompass a holistic approach and incorporate regulations, legislation, and other aspects to assist the farmers who have not really gotten the attention they deserve for a long time,” said the Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Family Island Affairs, Hon. Clay Sweeting.
Other initiatives within the agriculture sector will also be implemented, such as the digitalization of applications and forms, which will make farming more efficient.
Clay said, “we have already digitalized for the most part the Department of Marine Resources and soon we will unveil new services such as dog licences, import permits, and other services needed for a successful agricultural sector.”
The construction of the Cultivation Centres (TCC) in Eleuthera and New Providence with produce exchange, food processing kitchens and farm stores will continue.
Sweeting said he hopes these initiatives will help to decrease the country’s yearly $1 billion food import bill.
The Incredible Story of David Avido of Kenya, 24 Year old designing for the Grass Roots to the Stars
By Dana Malcolm
#Africa, February 2, 2023 – One Kenyan designer began a sewing business out of the slums where he was born; now he dresses some of the Caribbean and Africa’s most famous faces.
Born the oldest son of a single mother and from Kibera Nairobi, David Avido Ochieng did not have an easy start. In Kibera, the largest urban slum in East Africa opportunities for international success are hard to come by and yet Avido can now say he has dressed the likes of former Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta, Beyoncé, Chronixx, Romain Virgo, Tarrus Riley, Chris Martin, Ty Dolla Sign, Koffee and many more.
As explained on his website, David dropped out of school to work and support his family quite young. In just first form he was working on a construction site but he knew he wanted more from life. After quitting his job he danced and saved what he could and tried his best to complete his education.
He told Vogue magazine: “When I started dancing I used to save money in order to go back to high school, with the little that I could get from dancing and my mom’s money from doing work as a house help, we were able to raise 15,000 shillings and with that, I joined an adult school and skipped forms two, three and four.”
David picked up a sewing machine to make costumes and realized his talent. By 2015, his brand LookslikeAvido was born. He completed a fashion & design diploma at Buruburu Institute of Fine Arts and began to sew incredible pieces right at home in Kibera. Even as his brand is globally recognized, Kibera is where his workshop remains; David says, his homeland is his great inspiration.
“There is no barrier if you believe in your talent and take the next step. I want to encourage and create beauty, where people don’t expect.”
Talented and thoughtful Avido is well aware of the stereotypes surrounding him, his home and the black community globally.
“We know about injustice and violence, prejudice, racial and social discrimination – we experience it within Kenya and we experience it globally, as people look at us as the poor, the uneducated, the needy,” he said.
Featured in Vogue, CNN and other international publications, Avido remains connected to his origins in a tangible way and as his success grows his roots just go deeper. Twenty per cent of all sales of his jackets and other clothing items go directly back to Kibera; his website explains that all the tailoring, product photoshoots and collaborations ‘is all done here in Kibra.’
There is no fabric waste from his garments, instead, scraps are repurposed into masks and shopping bags for residents, all his tailors are local residents, a portion of profits are used to pay school fees and Avido and his team put in extra time to make school uniforms as well.
On his website, is a photo of him sitting around a sewing machine, his worktable resting on hard-packed earth with presumably a group of family and friends surrounding him, a source of pride. The introspective photograph could have been taken in Nairobi, Trinidad or Barbados, so nostalgic is the picture, the bench and the story of community success that it represents.
In a video posted to his YouTube, David sits at his new work desk, and beside him hangs a rack of clothes in the cramped space that serves as his kitchen as well.
“I’m the firstborn of Kibera,” He explains, “Every kid in Kibera is looking up to me— my main dream is to open up a place where I can inspire people to work.”
David has a dozen employees and is listed in Beyonce’s directory of black businesses; with an uncommon wisdom, the designer knows that his successes so far are not parking spaces but rather stepping stones as he faces his future announcing that the journey, for him, continues.
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