The Buccoo Reef Trust has embarked on a new project funded by the Inter-American Foundation (IAF). This fiscal grant, a first for Trinidad and Tobago, has reaffirmed the IAF’s commitment to grass roots development in the Eastern Caribbean. The award will help to restore an endangered Caribbean crop, Seamoss, and strengthen the NGO’s capacity to engage in community development. The project aimed at introducing sustainable Seamoss harvesting in Tobago has gotten off to a successful beginning.
Traditionally Seamoss harvested from natural stocks has been used for food as well as medicinal products. These include the popular milk drink; believed locally to be an aphrodisiac. Due to the rising popularity in products derived from Seamoss a trend in over-harvesting arose, resulting eventually in shortages, as not enough Seamoss was left to grow for the following season. A result of this was a rise in prices caused by this decreased supply for demand. Due to the dwindling supply of Seamoss from the shallow reef stocks harvesters turned to deep-dive methods which served to aggravate the problem. The methods of harvesting used also increased the speed at which stocks were depleted, the Seamoss was ripped out, destroying root-like structures called, holdfasts, necessary for its regeneration resulting in a cycle that led to less and less supply through the seasons. Increased pollution was another factor in this problem and harvesters who relied on Seamoss for their livelihood became at risk of unemployment.
Buccoo Reef Trust (BRT) in collaboration with the Inter-American Foundation has a long-term aim to neutralize the issue of over harvested Seamoss. The BRT will organize 120 small-scale producers through a Youth Build project. 120 of Tobago’s youth will participate in a course that will teach methods of sustainable Seamoss cultivation as well as Business techniques and management. Following the completion of this course these people will go on to set up their own farms from knowledge gained in the course. Locally, there are two species of sea moss with commercial value: Gracilaria terete and Gracilaria domingensis, informally known as the “bearded” type and “centipede” type respectively.
As well as this the BRT will invest its grant funds in researching and developing new Seamoss products to introduce to the market such as Beauty products, Ice Cream and Pudding. It is hoped that through this project a link will be formed between local communities and NGO’s encouraging the development of conservation issues in Tobago.