Since the Institute has been working mostly in the western US, it might seem odd that the Institute's first project was on an island in the Caribbean. But our staff, board, and advisory board have diverse backgrounds and experience, including a long-standing interest in international conservation.
This is our broadest program, intentionally defined that way, so that we can respond to a wide variety of needs.
1. Contribute applied science, collaboration and impact to help resolve conservation and resource management issues where they can make a difference for people and nature.
2. Learn about conservation issues beyond our borders, and the local techniques used to solve them, and where appropriate, exchange information, apply and disseminate these techniques for use in resource management in the US or vice versa.
Summary of Impact to Date
2016 Marine debris removal and turtle nesting habitat improvement, Boka Washikembu, Bonaire. After this all–volunteer project, nest sites were clean for the three endangered marine turtle species found here and access to the sea was available to hatchlings. This short project ultimately led to the Women Making Waves for Nature program.
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2008 Developed the first Management Plan for the newly designated national park, The Central Forest Reserve on the island of St. Kitts, Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis. The project required six weeks of extensive outreach to the local population resulted in watershed protection, natural flood control and protection of important cloud forest bird habitat which will benefit wildlife and the local population for decades to come.
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2019 has no activities planned for this program. Our focus has shifted to the Women Making Waves for Nature program.
2016 Marine debris removal and Turtle nesting habitat improvement - Bonaire
It's about more than a pretty beach. National Geographic reported in 2015 that just the plastic portion of debris blown, tossed and swept into the ocean totals 8 million tons every year. Once there, it's fate is as variable as the ocean winds and waves. Some degrades in sunlight - slowly. Some is pulverized by the action of waves into microscopic pieces, which remain in the water, settle and coat coral reefs. Some drifts and some sinks. Some entangles birds, dolphins and turtles. Some is eaten by marine wildlife with fatal results. While our attention is gripped by images of oil spills and other catastrophes, marine debris is a equally catastrophic but nearly invisible tsunami of shards and slowly-released chemicals.
Bonaire is a remarkably tidy island. Compared to many other Caribbean islands, little trash is seen on the streets. Here and there a plastic bag will blow into and catch on the dry thorny trees. Yet, Bonaire has a serious marine debris problem on the beaches of the east side of the island. Where does this debris come from, if Bonaireans are so tidy?
The wind, the waves and other less tidy countries.
In an ideal world, Bonaireans could have a cup of coffee with those less tidy folks and politely ask that they keep their debris at home. But in the real world Bonaireans just ... clean it up.
The island of Bonaire has a profound commitment to conserving its natural resources. Residents, businesses, government and NGOs all note that the island's economy receives hefty support from visitors who come to view the Ramsar-designated wetlands, national park and marine protected area, iguanas, flamingos, other birdlife, and more. With the entire coastline a marine preserve of healthy reefs, a special emphasis of Bonaire tourism is scuba diving. And the healthy reefs found surrounding Boanire attract turtles: the endangered green and loggerhead turtles and the critically endangered hawksbill turtle.
These species also nest on the beaches of Bonaire. The same beaches where the debris ends up. Or at least they try to nest.
Which is one "why" behind the constant marine debris removal projects. Because if it doesn't get removed, the female turtles, driven to return to their natal beach, will have a tough time nesting, and the hatchlings, well, they have almost no chance of getting to the ocean through all that trash, nor avoiding the gulls and other predators that trash attracts.
Removing debris from nesting beaches is hard and tedious work, but there is no substitute for human labor. The Institute is pleased to have made this contribution to the conservation of turtles, other marine life, and the island of Bonaire.
We met so many generous people in the project. First we would like to thank the volunteers who donated a chunk of their vacation time. Truly an international group, we had volunteers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Argentina, Canada, and the US.
We also thank the following Bonaire businesses, agencies, and NGOs for support and collaboration in this project:
Sea Turtle Conservation Bonaire - Thank you for expertise and bags and ongoing efforts.
Belmar Dive Shop - Three employees generously gave their time. Inspiring.
Selibon N.V. - waived landfill fees to support this project. Thank you.
Buddy Dive Resort - distributed event flyers. Thank you.
We hope to work with you again in the future.
2007-8 Management plan - Central Forest Reserve, St. Kitts and Nevis
In 2007 and 2008, Seventh Generation Institute staff completed a management plan for a new national park on the island of St. Kitts - the Central Forest Reserve. This park's 12,500 acres of cloud forest provide habitat for a number of threatened resident birds as well as important stopover habitat for migratory birds. It was designated a globally important bird area by BirdLife International as large-scale tourism development has fragmented and degraded most of the island's unprotected habitat. Equally important, the newly designated park protects several important cultural sites and the watershed that supplies a clean, stable water supply and flood control for the human population of this rugged volcanic island.
Collaborators in the project included local citizens who provided valuable information and ideas, OPAAL and the government of St. Kitts and Nevis.