Our Aim
To strengthen the connection between citizens of Trinidad and Tobago and our coral reefs. To show how we impact coral reefs by creating visual opportunities for people to experience coral reefs and other undersea marine environments.

Trinidad and Tobago is home to a unique biodiversity of coral reef ecosystems, remarked upon for its beauty by notable explorer, Jacques Cousteau, and marine scientist Thomas Goreau. Our coral reefs also serve crucial ecological, economic and cultural roles to Trinidad and Tobago. While there is some understanding and appreciation of what coral reefs provide, less than one percent of Trinbagonians have actually seen these reefs.

We want the citizens of our twin-island nation to see the beauty of our coral reefs and understand their importance. The marine expanse of Trinidad and Tobago is about fifteen times the size of our combined land mass. It is our responsibility to protect and manage these marine environments, especially coral reefs, for our economy and livelihood. More importantly we want our people to appreciate our reefs, see how we impact them and recognize how we need to sustain them.

Collecting 360 degree imagery at Speyside, Tobago

The project meshes state-of-the-art 360-degree photography, Google Street View, cell phone technology and videography, to allow anyone – child, Trinbagonian or visitor – to view Trinidad and Tobago’s unique underwater world. We are building an underwater collection of Tobago’s coral reefs for awareness, engagement and education to instil a sense of stewardship for these fragile marine ecosystems. This imagery will form the basis of Trinidad and Tobago’s first online coral reef collection and provide the baseline record for scientific and management comparison thereafter.

The Full Picture
Tobago’s location results in unique coral reefs compared to the rest of the Caribbean. This is influenced by many variable environmental conditions producing different coral reef communities in each bay area around the island. These reefs are hosts to a diverse array of marine residents, such as the sponge communities in nutrient rich waters, as well as visiting marine turtles and eagle rays. The Buccoo Reef off southwest Tobago, is the only “marine protected area” in Trinidad and Tobago, unfortunately with little enforcement of the protection and management plan. The coral reefs in northeast Tobago (Speyside, Charlotteville, Roxborough) are currently being considered for designation as another marine protected area. This Collection will showcase coral reefs throughout Tobago, give an identity to these coral reefs and reinforce the need for active management.

While the scientific evidence is clear on the threats that affect our reefs and the need to protect them, images of coral reefs reveal their beauty and demise, and will be powerful tools to speak to the hearts and minds of people in order to make changes.

Panorama of coral reefs off of Little Tobago, Speyside. Photo courtesy The Maritime Ocean Collection

The Future
We are currently experiencing the impacts of climate change for about 40 years: Tobago reefs have undergone mass coral bleaching events in 1997, 2005 and 2010. Climate change scenarios predict that with warmer surface temperatures, coral bleaching events are expected to become more severe and more frequent so that there will be limited time to recover.

In addition to warming temperatures, sea level rise and ocean acidification compound the challenges. Hurricane events are expected to intensify and add to the stress levels of Caribbean coral reefs. Without active protection and management, the value of our coral reef services, such as coastal protection and habitat for fish and marine stocks, will continue to decline. We hope to communicate the importance of protecting this important asset – our coral reefs – through the use of powerful underwater imagery and visual technology. By providing a resource package for education and science, this project is expected to encourage advocates for coral reef conservation and climate change initiatives in Trinidad and Tobago.

Meet the partners

The Maritime Financial Group – Sole funder and collection host

The Maritime Financial Group is an insurance company operating in Trinidad and Tobago for over 50 years, providing life and general insurance solutions to individuals and organizations throughout the country. Maritime is committed to improving the lives of children in Trinidad and Tobago. These efforts focus on social and environmental issues that are both critical to the development of young people and relevant to the business. Maritime will use this programme to mesh responsibility for the marine environment with education, in the hope that raising awareness will foster environmental stewardship within this and future generations. As a progressive insurance company, aware of the impacts of climate change on marine environments, Maritime and its partners will work together to mitigate impacts on jobs, health, coastal communities and our planet.

Underwater Earth – International communicators of marine conservation

Underwater Earth is an Australian non-profit, established in 2010, with a global focus – to reveal the ocean to the world using creative storytelling combined with innovative technology. Underwater Earth pioneered the technology to bring coral reefs to our homes, through online platforms such as Google Street View. They developed the SVII, a unique underwater mapping camera and scooter unit capable of taking 360-degree imagery of the reefscape or any marine habitat and collecting images of the reef continuously for large spatial scales (http://www.google.com/streetview/ – oceans). This camera system was used in the broadscale-mapping project known as the XL Catlin Seaview Survey.

Understanding the power of these images, Underwater Earth also developed the SVX (Seaview X) camera unit; an underwater camera unit system and post-processing package that can be used to take 360-degree imagery of reefs of iconic and notable locations, and uploaded on to Google Street View. Through the Trusted Seaview Partnership Programme, they make this novel technology available to countries and conservation organizations that do not have the resources.

SpeSeas – Project operator

Under our banner – “To use science, education and advocacy to enhance the integrity and resilience of coastal and marine ecosystems by influencing human behaviour.”

SpeSeas will oversee all operations and communications of the 360 imagery collection of marine ecosystem across Trinidad and Tobago in the year of the Trusted Seaview Photographer Programme. SpeSeas will aim to highlight both the beauty and destruction of our coral reefs with the hope to instil stewardship for the protection of our precious marine environments.