The Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve (SSMR) is located on the south-western tip of the island of Dominica. The entire Reserve encompasses the villages of Scott’s Head and Soufriere up to Anse bateau, near the village of Pointe Michel. It is the most picturesque bay on the island, both below and above the water. The area is dominated by the Scott’s Head or Cashacrou Peninsula – separating the calmer Caribbean Sea from the wilder Atlantic Ocean.
During the island’s turbulent past the headland was home to English and French soldiers depending on the period of English or French occupation. Warning cannon shots were fired when the enemy fleets approached from the south where the island of Martinique is located. There is still an old gun emplacement there with a commanding view across the bay to Roseau – the capital city of Dominica, and across the channel to Martinique.
The Bay is an extinct volcanic crater plummeting to indeterminate depths as a lava chute. There are many Carib or Kalinago (Dominica’s indigenous people) myths and legends associated with the area adding to its mystery and grandeur.
Within the SSMR there are four zones. Each set aside for its own particular activity.
For the purposes of the Tentative List submission it is Section No. 1 – the Fish Nursery area, which is the site being proposed for inclusion on Dominica’s Tentative List.
The Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve is one of the most pristine dive environments in the Caribbean. It is a vast submerged volcanic crater. It has some amazing dive sites; dramatic dop-offs and walls; huge pinnacles rising from the sea bed, active underwater fumeroles and expansive coral reefs – all of which are full of life.The Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve has consistently been rated among the top ten diving destinations in the world. Dive sites such as Crater’s Edge, Scott’s Head Pinnacles, L’Abym, Dangleben’s and Champagne have helped consistently to place the Scott’s Head-Soufriere Marine Reserve in that category. The Reserve attracts scuba divers from around the world.
The Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve was established under the Fisheries Act #11 of 1987 and by the Statutory Rules and Orders (SRO) #18 of 1998. Due to increasing demand placed upon a limited resource by various users, a protection and management plan had to be implemented.
The Reserve was ratified for the following reasons :To reduce user conflicts
A Local Management Authority (LAMA) was established under SRO #17 of 1998. This legal authority is made up of various stakeholders relating to the enterprise, namely: fishermen, village councillors, the hospitality industry, Dominica Watersports Association, Dominica Coast Guard and the Fisheries Division.
LAMA is charged with managing the affairs of the SSMR in keeping with its rules and regulations. Wardens are empowered by law to collect user fees, maintain the moorings, monitor the reefs and maintain the infrastructure. User fees go straight back into maintaining the SSMR and its resources.
The bay at the Soufriere-Scott’s Head Marine Reserve (SSMR) is an extinct volcano crater whose walls drop to an uncharted depth within a lava chute. There are submerged pinnacles which rise from the depths, just offshore, providing another type of dive habitat. In other areas, gently sloping shelves extend from shore to the depths of the middle of the bay. At one particular site, pockets of air are warmed within the rock formation by the latent volcanic activity of the island and as they expand are squeezed out through cracks, giving the effect of diving, swimming and snorkelling through a glass of champagne.
Due to the nature of the reef, the SSMR is home to many rare and unusual creatures which are found in relative abundance in the area. This makes the area a delight for those who have just discovered it, and brings back those who have already found and enjoyed this place. Professional and amateur underwater divers and photographers frequently return to the area time and time again.
The SSMR has been listed several times by various international magazines as being one of the top dive sites in the world. The SSMR has been compared to sites like Blue Corner Wall in Palau, Micronesia; Richelieu Rock, near the Surin Islands in Thailand; the Gordon Rocks in the Galapagos Islands; the Great Blue Hole in Belize; the Tiputa Pass in Rangiroa in the Phillipines; the Antons in Sodwana Bay in South Africa and Kailua Kona in Hawaii.