Under the waves at Macqueripe - Photo courtesy Mike Rutherford

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Under the waves at Macqueripe

By Dr Adana Mahase-Gibson

FRINGING coral reefs. Dolphins and porpoises. A swim with a sea turtle and all manner of colourful fish. You might think that these experiences are a ferry-ride away from Trinidad, on Tobago’s underwater coral gardens.
Guess what? You can also find all of this at Macqueripe Bay, Trinidad. On Sunday, from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., an ‘Under the Waves’ event at Macqueripe will celebrate this special piece of T&T and, at the same time, try to clean it up.
Macqueripe Bay is a gem located in Chaguaramas. It is a picturesque, easily accessible, small sheltered bay bounded by lush, verdant headlands. The little beach hosts a wide variety of users and activities. On any given day you can find people splashing and liming in the shallows, swimming, snorkelling, aquasising or scuba diving. 
Activities at the beach are difficult to regulate and with so many different users, there is bound to be conflict. People regularly spearfish and line fish off rocks although posted signs indicate that these activities are not allowed. Swimmers risk serious injury as spearfishing occurs mere metres below them. Sea turtle poaching also happens at Macqueripe. Visitors remove fragile, often endangered coral for silly souvenirs and of course, once people are present, garbage abounds.
When you put on a mask and take a dive underwater, in addition to fringing coral and its residents you will see a whole lot of garbage. In Disney’s Little Mermaid, Sebastian sang a little ditty, ‘Under the Sea’ with lyrics like “We got no troubles, life is the bubbles, under the sea.” If Sebastian or the Little Mermaid were living at Macqueripe, they would relocate.  
Apart from the usual junk of discarded glass, styrofoam cups, plastic bottles, KFC wrappings, used diapers, plastic bags and old shoes, there are countless snags of discarded fishing line. Marc de Verteuil from Papa Bois Conservation recorded on film a resident sting ray at Macqueripe dead and tangled in a discarded fishing line. Fishing lines are not just a hazard to fish and turtles; divers and swimmers are at risk too.
The NGO, Trinidad and Tobago Eco Divers is familiar with this underwater mess and other threats to our marine ecosystems. The group’s goal is to save and preserve our marine environment. For these marine-conscious folks, Macqueripe is a very special place. 
In an effort to raise awareness and take action on threats to marine environments, Eco Divers will be hosting an underwater clean-up with fun, educational marine activities at Macqueripe Bay on Sunday. The event is supported by the Chaguaramas Development Authority (CDA) and will be hosted with several other environmental groups. ‘Under the Waves’ begins with the underwater clean-up at 8 a.m. followed by activities throughout the day till 4 p.m.
Under the Waves coordinator Mike Rutherford explains what the group hopes to accomplish. “The immediate impact is the underwater clean-up of the bay including glass, styrofoam and plastic.” Rutherford explains that they will try to remove the mess of fishing lines and fishing hooks that are tangled in the coral and surrounding rocks. The group plans to organise the rubbish as a display for beach-goers. The message is to take responsibility for your waste. Afterwards, the group will recycle what is possible and safely discard the rest.
It’s not all serious. Eco Divers also hopes to share information about the wonders of T&T’s marine environment with beach visitors. Other NGOs and eco-conscious organisations will be present to share stories and information, including Trinidad and Tobago Field Naturalists’ Club and Turtle Village Trust. Be sure to check out Papa Bois Conservation talking about shark conservation and meet “Martha”, their shark mascot. 
The University of the West Indies’ Zoological Museum will be displaying cool critters and will have aquariums set up to display some of Macqueripe’s underwater creatures.  Don’t miss the invasive Lionfish presentation and learn about our dolphins and whales from Trinidad and Tobago’s Marine Mammal Stranding Network. There will also be guided snorkelling tours throughout the day provided you bring your own equipment. 
Saving the best news for last — the entire event is free.

Head down Macqueripe Bay on Sunday. You won’t be disappointed. For further details check out T&T Eco Divers via facebook, call 329-8401 or e-mail ttedc2012@gmail.com.  

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