Today’s Green Antilles interview is with marine biologist Angelique Brathwaite. Angelique is from Barbados, and splits most of her working time these days between her home country and France. Her passion is working with coral reefs, from the science to management to training divers to showing how to conduct underwater crime scene investigations for corals.
Please tell Green Antilles readers a little about yourself, about how you work with the environment, and what that work involves.
My work has always revolved around coral reefs, starting as a lab assistant at the Bellairs Research Institute, to a Co-Pilot at Atlantis Submarines to Marine Biologist at the Barbados Coastal Zone Management Unit to Caribbean lead for the Blue finance project. The Blue finance project combines all my previously acquired skills, employing all of them to develop and implement projects aimed at providing sustainable financing for marine conservation.
What first sparked your interest in working with the environment?
I’ve always loved the sea (well as far back as I can remember) and I was half decent at biology so it seemed the sensible course of action for me.
What do you find most satisfying about your environment-related work?
It’s great to be able to make a living from something you love. Even a stressful water day cannot compare to a stressful office day. Honestly, recently that has been the most satisfying thing, as I’m pretty disappointed that we’re not doing what we need to, to protect coral reefs.
What do you think are some of the biggest challenges these days for the protection and sustainable management of the environment in the Caribbean?
Ignorance, apathy and money. Ignorance because many people are simply unaware of the importance of corals to their own lives (and humans are a fairly self-absorbed bunch) and even if the knowledge is there, short term benefits often outweigh the greater good. Apathy because even if there is knowledge…sometimes the problems seem so insurmountable that even making an initial step seems pointless… and this is false. Money because there is often insufficient financing for marine conservation, primarily as the economic benefits of coral reefs are usually not calculated and or transmitted to the powers that make decisions.
What do you think are some of the bright spots and opportunities for the Caribbean when it comes to the environment?
Bright spots, hmmmmm…
There’s an increase in the number of individuals working to protect our oceans, who don’t care so much about the money but about instigating change. I think it´s also good that it seems (at least to me) that we have a rising number of local scientists. The fact that increasing numbers of children are learning to swim gives me hope that this will kindle their interest in marine conservation.
What message would you like to leave with Green Antilles readers about why and how everyday people should help to protect the environment in the Caribbean?
Why should we protect our environment? Because our lives depend on it.
Thank you so much for the interview, Angie!
[Interview responses have been edited lightly for clarity/readability. Images courtesy of Angelique Brathwaite.]