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The Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration: Managing coral reefs in a changing climate

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the region is seeking to turn the tide.

Warming seas brought forth by climate change have contributed to corals being “bleached” – a state where the tiny polyps that build the reefs die. This is particularly problematic as coral reefs are showcases of biodiversity, centrepieces of cultural identity and sources of sustainable economic opportunity. Loss of reefs is a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism.

These realities are the basis for the Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration: Managing coral reefs in a changing climate. The two year programme (2012-2014) seeks to bring together coral reef managers and policymakers from across the world to improve the outlook for the Caribbean’s coral reefs in the face of climate change by:

  • Developing a Regional Plan of Action for reducing coral reef vulnerability amidst a changing climate,
  • Enhancing knowledge exchange between Australia and the Caribbean region through Collaborative Projects
  • Providing a platform for engagement and capacity building across the region through a Climate Change Adaptation Resource Portal
Regional Plan of Action

The Regional Plan of Action will provide a regional vision for building resilience of coral reefs to climate change and identify key needs and opportunities for national and international initiatives. The programme will also establish a framework for mainstreaming adaptation strategies for coral reefs into Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states’ sustainable development agenda, in a manner that advances the implementation of the landmark  Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change (2009-2015).

Resource portal

A dedicated Climate Change Adaptation Resource Portal is also being developed to provide a one-stop shop for coral reef managers and policymakers seeking the latest and best concepts, tools and resources for managing coral reefs in a changing climate.

Collaborative projects

Five collaborative projects are being implemented to enhance knowledge exchange between Australia and the Caribbean region, especially in priority areas such as biodiversity conservation, integration of social and economic considerations, strategic coastal management, stewardship and reef health assessment.

Project activities are being coordinated with existing activities and organisations within the region to ensure integration and sustainability of project benefits.

The projects include:
Marine biodiversity offsetstoward no net loss of biodiversity in a changing climate
Outlook reporting: Building climate change into integrated coastal management
Monitoring multi-tool for managersA monitoring protocol for meeting the information needs of decision-makers
Building social resilience into reef management: guidance to help managers integrate social and economic considerations into decisions
Reef stewardship: A Caribbean program for harnessing people power for reef management
Development Partners

The Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration is supported by the Australian Government through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID). Implementation of the program is being led by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) in partnership with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5Cs) under the auspices of the Caribbean Community Secretariat (CARICOM).

Key project partners include:

Program activities are coordinated with other important regional programs and initiatives, including:

We’re working to improve agriculture amids a changing and variable climate

Barbados Photo

The Caribbean Community Climate Change (CCCCC), with support from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITR), has been working to boost the Caribbean’s capacity to cope with agricultural risks amidst climate variability and climate change.

Changing weather patterns, more frequent occurrences of weather extremes (floods and droughts ) , increased intensity of hurricanes, rising temperatures and projected sea level rise are predicted to have devastating impacts on the regional agricultural sector and the region’s food security. The region is already experiencing some of the projected negative impacts on the sector.

Institutional Development

Training of regional meteorological officers in statistics in Applied Climatology.

Building the climate monitoring capacity of the regional research network.

As such, the Centre leveraged UNITR’s support to build the capacity of the region’s premier institutions: the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) and the Caribbean Agriculture Research and Development Institute (CARDI), as well as regional meteorological organizations, to provide timely and user friendly climate information to the farming community in the region.

Under the UNITR-funded CCCCC executed project, regional meteorological officers were trained to carry out statistical analyses on regional weather data and to use these outputs to be in a better position to warn the farming community of oncoming conditions for their operations. This allows the farming community to make the necessary operational adjustments and avoid the usual experience of loss of investment and livelihoods.

To ensure the training delivered was effectively utilized, eleven automatic Agrio-Meterological Stations (weather stations) were installed at CARDI’s premises in ten Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries:

Antigua and Barbuda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Jamaica and Belize.

St. Kitts Photo

This network of weather stations has tremendously boosted the organization’s research capability, which is highly dependent on its ability to constantly measure and monitor critical weather parameters.

Previous UNITAR support to CARDI has resulted in improved capacity to carry out impact studies on the sector using biophysical models coupled with climate change scenarios generated from the regional climate modeling exercises in the region. This places the region in a position to take proactive action to avoid deleterious consequences which are projected to be experienced in the agriculture sector as a result of climate change.

C-FISH Initiative funds patrol boats for Jamaican fish sanctuaries

The Caribbean Fish Sanctuary Partnership Initiative (C-FISH) is a project aimed at strengthening community-based fish sanctuaries by providing resources, training and alternative livelihood opportunities in 5 Countries across the Caribbean. The C-FISH Initiative (£2.1 million) is funded by the UK’s Department For International Development (DFID) through the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and is coordinated by The CARIBSAVE Partnership. The C-FISH Initiative was launched in November 2012 at the Belmont Fishing Beach Jamaica, where approximately USD$500,000 was committed in grants as part of the C-FISH Initiative’s objective to provide financial and technical support for the management of community-based fish sanctuaries.

With this funding, three organisations (BREDS, BBFFS, C-CAM), which manage a total of five fish sanctuaries across the Island, were able to procure vessels that were much needed to improve the management and enforcement of their sanctuary.

Portland Bight

The Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation which has the mandate to manage three sanctuaries in the Portland Bight Protected Area – Salt Harbour, Galleon Harbour and Three Bays – had been previously relying on a fishing canoe to conduct their patrols.

“(For example,) we don’t have a boat. We don’t own a boat and how can you properly monitor fish sanctuaries without a boat? So we are trying to get a boat and hoping that somebody will give us the funds to do it or will actually give us a boat or an engine so that would allow us to do that,” (Ingrid) Parchment (Executive Director of C-CAM Foundation) reported in a 2011 article in the Jamaica Gleaner. Since then, CARIBSAVE has provided enough funding for them to purchase a more adequate and fully equipped patrol boat.

The acquisition of this new patrol boat has been one of the most important enhancements to our enforcement capabilities since we began. The new vessel is a great improvement on the fishing canoe we were using before and has allowed the team greater speed, comfort and safety. The state of the art navigation and tracking equipment has enabled us to finally be able to safely access all three sanctuaries 24 hrs per day if necessary. We are looking forward in the next few weeks to getting a newer engine which will significantly improve the fuel efficiency and reliability of the vessel
~Brandon Hay, Chief Scientific Officer, C-CAM Foundation
 May 2013

Bluefield’s Bay


Members of the BBFFS and Marine Police on patrol. PHOTO: Bluefield’s Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society

In January 2013, the Bluefield’s Bay Fishermen’s Friendly Society (BBFFS) which manages and enforces the Bluefield’s Bay fish sanctuary, purchased a patrol boat with equipment and two engines with funding provided through the C-FISH Grant. Prior to this, the wardens were renting a fishermen’s canoe for patrol purposes. Since patrols began with the new boat, enforcement has been considerably more effective with the following arrests made:

  • Five spear fishermen were arrested and charged for fishing in the sanctuary.
  • One man in a kayak was arrested, his boat confiscated (and later returned) and fined $10,000 JMD.
  • Two men were arrested, their net equipment confiscated (and later returned) and fined $3,000 JMD each.
With a faster boat, the numbers of daily patrols have increased. The game wardens are especially grateful for the style of boat purchased since it has made performing the task of monitoring the sanctuary easier and more comfortable at all hours of the day and night. We have been able to catch significantly more fishers illegally fishing in the Bluefields Bay Special Fishery Conservation Area (BBSFCA) since January 2013. Additionally, the BBFFS hosted a fishers workshop, funded by the Environmental Foundation of Jamaica, on March 22, 2013 to educate local fishers about the importance and the laws surrounding the BBSFCA. Many of the fishers in attendance expressed the desire for the BBSFCA to be increased since they are now seeing an increase in their catch. Between the purchase of the new patrol boat and increased outreach, the game wardens are observing a greater level of compliance in the BBSFCA.
 ~Wolde Kristos, President, BBFFS May 2013
Galleon, St. Elizabeth

The BREDS: Treasure Beach Foundation, which is responsible for the Galleon, St. Elizabeth fish sanctuary was approved for funding to construct a platform for enforcement and educational purposes. This locally-designed vessel is built upon two identical fishing canoes and will be placed mid-way in the sanctuary to give the wardens a floating base that provides full visual coverage of the entire sanctuary, thereby increasing enforcement effectiveness and reducing fuel costs. In addition to this, the platform can be used for educational tours of the sanctuary by schools, tourists and other visitors, allowing for more interesting and exciting learning opportunities, and greater awareness of the sanctuary. The new boat will also allow BREDS to undertake some income-generating activities, essential for the financial sustainability of the fish sanctuary.

Treasure beach

The platform being constructed for the Galleon, St. Elizabeth fish sanctuary. It will be placed strategically to improve enforcement, and can be used for educational and income generating activities. PHOTO: S. Lee | The CARIBSAVE Partnership.

Additionally, The C-FISH Initiative is providing funds to the Sandy Island Oyster Bed Marine Protected Area (MPA) in Carriacou, Grenada, to employ local boat builders to design and construct a new and much needed patrol boat for their MPA. The C-FISH Initiative will also fund the construction of a catamaran-style platform for use in and around the Bluefields Bay fish sanctuary. That is, a total of 5 large boats provided towards strengthening the overall management as well as to facilitate income generating activities for sustainable financing of these community-based MPAs.

Visit the C-FISH Initiative’s website to learn more about the project.

The Caribbean Climate Change Risk Management Project

In a region already characterized by high variability in the current climate, climate change represents additional risks for society, economic sectors and the environment. This changing risk profile will have an effect on the outcome of a wide range of decisions affecting individual, societal and economic well-being. In order to plan effectively, decision-makers must assess and be aware of these changing risks.

As our understanding of climate change improves it is becoming possible to gain increasing confidence about some of the expected changes, such as increasing temperatures.  However, our knowledge of the climate system is not perfect, resulting in uncertainty around the precise extent of future climate change. Furthermore, we cannot know how future emissions of GHGs will change. Uncertainty also stems from our incomplete understanding of the impacts of future climate on society, the environment, and economies.

Workshop participants...

Participants at a Caribbean Climate Change Risk Management consultation in Belize

Despite these uncertainties and regardless of the effectiveness of emissions reductions efforts worldwide, Caribbean governments must continue to make decisions to plan for the future. The Regional Framework is founded upon the principle of using risk management processes and tools to aid decision-making.   Decision-making based on subjective value judgments given the challenges and uncertainties we face, will compromise resilience building. Risk management assists in the selection of optimal cost-effective strategies for reducing vulnerability, using a systematic and transparent process. Policies or initiatives that aim to reduce this vulnerability can be designed to complement and support the goals of poverty reduction, sustainable development, disaster preparedness and environmental protection. The Implementation Plan developed by the Centre to guide the operationalization of the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change highlights as a priority challenge the need to utilize risk management tools and processes to aid decision makers.

The Caribbean Risk Management Project builds on the work started by the Region in 2003 in the development of Risk Management Guidelines for decision makers, but is intended to be more attuned to the needs and special circumstances of the Region given the prevailing conditions. It will also incorporate the development of new tools and risk management methodologies. The Project will be executed in a phased approach. Phase 1 will be the development of a risk management, web-based tool to guide decision making.  Phase 2 will provide in-depth training for country decision-makers.  Phase 3 will undertake detailed risk assessments in selected countries.  The overall objective is to embed risk assessment into decision-making and management systems across the region in finance and planning.

Proposed Aim & Objectives:

  • Support climate compatible development in the Caribbean by enabling the implementation of key activities outlined in the IP
  • Embed considerations of climate change across the Caribbean, through the development of regional approach to risk management and the creation of a risk ethic in decision making.

The key tasks to be undertaken in this project are set out below:

1 Initial consultation and scoping phase including workshops and in-country meetings in three pilot countries together with a review of existing approaches to risk management in the Caribbean.

2 Review CARICOM Climate Risk Management Guidelines.  Develop a revised risk management framework for the Caribbean taking into account the latest developments in climate risk management techniques. This will be fully supported by existing resources and materials and will link into the latest information on climate science, vulnerability assessments and impact modelling, together with economic, environmental and social system baseline data. The new framework will link into the CCCCC information clearing house.

3 Working with the CCCCC to secure CARICOM approval to the revised Caribbean Risk Management Framework.

4 Launch Caribbean Risk Management Framework at a high profile event.

5 Develop an on-line version of the Caribbean Risk Management Framework with full guidance and links to other tools and techniques.

6 Develop an online ‘stress-test/screening’ tool to enable all organisations (including donors and development banks) operating at regional and national levels to take a high-level view of policies and decisions against the potential impacts of a changing climate.

7 Working with the CCCCC to provide assistance and support in implementing the communications plan aimed at raising awareness in the Caribbean regarding a risk based approach to decision making.

8 Develop an M&E programme to assess the effectiveness of the Caribbean Risk Management Framework

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