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Here in the U.S. Virgin Islands, like all over the Caribbean, we depend on our reefs for tourism, to protect our coastlines, beaches and favorite marine creatures, and to support recreational and commercial fisheries. However, the list of threats to coral reefs continues to grow. Climate change, pollution, run off, over-fishing, and vessel groundings continue to put pressure on our coral reef ecosystems.
But there are simple steps we can all take to help reduce threats and keep coral reefs healthy. No matter where you call home, try these 10 simple ways to help Caribbean coral reefs today:
- Conserve Energy: fossil fuel emissions contribute to global climate change, warming oceans and ocean acidification; so walk, ride your bike or ride the bus whenever possible. Use energy efficient appliances and lightbulbs or consider alternative energy like solar or wind.
- Avoid or find natural alternatives to chemical pesticides and fertilizers: even if you don’t live near the ocean, rain can carry these and other runoff all the way to the sea, harming corals directly or spurring the growth of algae which can smother coral. Support local and organic agriculture to encourage natural alternatives.
- Get informed about coral reefs and the life it supports: the more you know the better you’ll be able to pass on the message. Tell your friends how important reefs are and how they can help.
- Shop wisely: Avoid buying coral as jewelry or décor. Support reef-friendly businesses—ask your fishing, boating, diving, and hotel operators how they are contributing to coral reef conservation.
- Don’t touch or anchor on the reef! When boating, swimming, snorkeling or diving: keep your snorkel fins and gear up off the bottom, even stirred up sand can smother coral animals. Use established boat moorings and if you have to anchor, find a big sandy area.
- Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: especially plastics! Cut down on what gets thrown away and properly dispose of trash when at the beach or on the water. Carry away what others leave behind.
- Choose sustainable seafood: get informed about what types of seafood are sustainable, in season and managed. For instance, here in the Virgin Islands, we have a Reef Responsible Seafood Campaign.
- Vote for conservation: Encourage your government officials to protect coral reefs with effective management plans for our coastlines and fisheries. Ask them to take action to stop pollution and expand marine protected areas.
- Support conservation organizations: either with your time or money – your contribution will make a difference!
- Volunteer to help with beach clean ups, wetland restoration, reef monitoring, coral restoration projects and more! Check out our BleachWatch and Coral Restoration volunteer opportunities at www.reefconnect.org. Don’t live near the ocean? Volunteer to help plant trees which reduces run-off and can help lessen the effects of global climate change.
Credit: Caribbean Journal
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is partnering with a number of governments as it strives to help boost the resilience of member states to climate change.
The CARICOM region, with its 15 islands, is considered one of the world’s most important areas of biodiversity. The region is now moving fast towards the sustainable management of both marine areas and coastal resources.
A new partnership between CARICOM and the German government involves the protection of these precious resources from the impacts of climate change.
“Our story is about how we were able to set the boundaries in terms of the fisheries reserve. You realise now as ecotourism, as the product developed, we have more users of the area. We need to protect the reef. We need to protect the fisheries industry,” says Anthony Charles, representative of the Soufriere Marine Management Agency. That body is responsible for protecting over 12 kilometres of rich biodiversity, including mountains, rivers, active volcanoes and coral reefs.
Charles says partnerships with friendly governments are crucial in continuing efforts to combat the challenges posed to these resources, particularly diminishing fish stocks.
“The generation of fisher(s) that we had 15 years ago is completely different to what we have today and clearly education, advocacy is very important because we realise it’s not just the matter of the fishing industry, it’s the protection and the sustainable use of our resources,” he said.
Representative of the German government Michael Freudenberg says the partnership with CARICOM is based on a commitment to develop renewable energy and energy efficiency.
“The Caribbean is particularly vulnerable to the observed and projected impacts of climate change because of its geographic location and reliance on natural resources for economic activities and livelihoods … Germany supports regional cooperation as a tool to combine our efforts for the countries affected by climate change and under-development. Saint Lucia can bear witness, I think, to climate-related disasters and the effects of national resilience and national solidarity,” he said.
The experts say climate change is negatively impacting on the sustainability and resilience of the marine ecosystem, diminishing erosion protection and natural barriers that protect against storm surges and rising sea levels. This is impacting sectors like tourism and fisheries, which directly depend upon the quality of the marine environment.
The coastal and marine ecosystems of the Caribbean are among the most threatened in the world. CARICOM is hoping that by strengthening relations with friendly governments, it can ensure the prudent management and use of those resources.
The Australian High Commissioner to CARICOM Ross Tysoe AO says “impressive work” is being carried out by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which he experienced first-hand during a recent visit.
The envoy cited the Centre’s effective management of Australia’s technical and cooperation assistance in supporting Belize’s Barrier Reef Marine System, adding that Australia is pleased to have contributed to this project which included a coral reef early warning station. The Ambassador said the project is a “fantastic example” of CARICOM-Australia cooperation. Speaking on Thursday, April 04, 2013 following the formal acceptance of his letter of credence by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the envoy said he is convinced Australia’s aid programmes are “in safe hands”.
Cooperation between CARICOM and Australia was formalised in November 2009 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, between the leaders of CARICOM and Australia. At that meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, paving the way for Australia to make some $60 million (AUS) available over four years to CARICOM for cooperation in areas of special mutual interest.
The areas of cooperation include climate change, disaster risk reduction and emergency management; regional integration, including trade facilitation; education, including in the fields of science and technology, provision of scholarships and training of diplomats; university co-operation; food security and agricultural co-operation; renewable energy, microfinance; border security and sport, youth and culture.
Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre.