Sandals Resorts International (SRI) is making it easy for visitors to celebrate World Oceans Day on June 8 and all year long.
Through its not-for-profit arm Sandals Foundation, guests of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts throughout the Caribbean can help hatch turtles, learn to rebuild dying reefs and curtail invasive marine species.
“As guests return to enjoy our beautiful Caribbean, World Oceans Day is a reminder that its beauty and health is our responsibility,” says SRI Executive Chairman and The Sandals Foundation Founder and President Adam Stewart. “Over the next ten years, we [The Sandals Foundation] have promised to develop and implement conservation efforts, engaging more than 100,000 people in educational efforts, planting 30,000 coral fragments and seeing thousands of turtle hatchlings to the sea.”
According to Stewart, a sixth-generation Jamaican, preservation of the Caribbean is personal.
“The Caribbean is our home and the sea, the centre of our lives. Inviting visitors to join in our efforts to preserve and protect all that it offers is a privilege and an opportunity to share why we are so passionate about it and take it very seriously," he said.
How to participate
From May to December, endangered sea turtles come ashore to lay their eggs along Caribbean beaches.
With locally based partners such as the Oracabessa Foundation in Jamaica, visitors can take part in the Sandals Foundation and SRI’s efforts to reduce the loss of turtle nests due to predators and unfavourable weather conditions and once hatched, help vulnerable baby turtles make their way to the sea.
Last year, SRI and the Sandals Foundation assisted in the release of 18,940 hatchlings.
This year, Sandals plans to see anywhere from 16,000 to 23,000 hatchlings venture into the Caribbean Sea, and invites visitors to take part in Island Routes' Turtle Watching Experience, where visitors of Sandals Resorts and Beaches Resorts in Ocho Rios work with local turtle conservation authorities and help monitor thousands of fresh hatchlings as they journey into the sea.
Rebuild the reefs
Across the world's oceans and seas, coral reefs, which are essential to maintaining biodiversity and standing as a protective coastal barrier, are dying.
In the Caribbean, The Sandals Foundation has partnered with CARIBSAVE and Coral Restoration Foundation International to help build Caribbean coral nurseries and support one of the most valuable preservation methods: coral outplanting.
Once familiarized with the basic skills and knowledge required to successfully propagate corals in underwater nurseries, PADI certified guests can take their new learnings into the sea on a specialized dive to put their new skills to work saving Caribbean coral reefs.
Additionally, coral fragment planting by Sandals team members and guests in St. Lucia has already contributed to the three new nurseries in the Caribbean, each of which will grow up to 2,000 corals per year to be replanted into dying reefs.
Curtail invasive lionfish population
The lionfish population, while strikingly beautiful, is invasive and highly destructive to the biodiversity of Caribbean waters. With no natural predators and the ability to consume marine life twice its size, lionfish destroy coral reefs and prey on more than 70 species of fish.
The Sandals Foundation Marine Wardens and Watersports Team, an authorized and highly educated task force, consistently removes invasive species from marine sanctuaries for conservation purposes.
Divers vacationing at Sandals Resorts or Beaches Resorts, can join a special lionfish hunting dive and earn a PADI certification in lionfish removal through an Invasive Species Tracker specialty certification course.
Additionally, Sandals Resorts International sponsors lionfish tournaments to reduce populations and increase awareness of consumption.
Guests taking part in a lionfish hunt can have their catch transformed by SRI chefs into a specially prepared lionfish dish.
Stewart says that while World Oceans Day happens only once a year, SRI and the Sandals Foundation support ocean sustainability through strategic on land and on sea programming all year long.
In fact, through its ongoing partnership with the nonprofit Oceanic Global Foundation, SRI was the first all-inclusive resort company to eliminate single-use plastic straws and stirrers in 2018 and has continued to work with Oceanic Global to eliminate all single use plastics throughout the organization.
“Working to preserve and improve the quality, beauty and bounty of our oceans is an imperative that has direct implications for the livelihood of Caribbean people and of course, the visitors who grace our shores. We really all are in this together,” said Stewart.
As part of its standard operating procedure, SRI sources goods and services from companies that share their values concerning ethics and environmental and social responsibility.
This includes contracting with fishers who are committed to sustainable catch methods and partnering with companies committed to the health of marine ecosystems.
On land, the company employs extensive freshwater, waste management and energy conservation programs; has eliminated hazardous substances, reduced greenhouse gas emissions and is focused on community development and educational programs.
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