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Designation as “special areas” in the Caribbean

The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) has the greatest concentration of plant and animal species in the Atlantic Ocean Basin.  Yet these precious, and often irreplaceable, natural resources are disappearing at an astounding rate. The vast majority of all species are threatened by habitat loss or modification in addition to unsustainable practices such as over-fishing, unplanned coastal development and pollution. These same habitats are often the main source of food and income for many coastal communities.

The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) of the Cartagena Convention, is a regional agreement for biodiversity management and conservation in the Wider Caribbean Region, in existence since 1990. It is managed by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) and it became international law in 2000.  It aims to protect critical marine and coastal ecosystems while promoting regional co-operation and sustainable development.

To date, sixteen countries from the region have ratified the Protocol: The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France (through its Departments of Guadeloupe, Guyane, Martinique, Saint-Barthélémy and Saint-Martin), Grenada, Guyana, The Netherlands (Aruba, Bonaire, Curaçao, Saba, Sint-Eustatius and Sint Maarten), Panama, Saint-Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, United States, and Venezuela.

Since 2012 SPAW has created a regional network of protected areas (PAs) or key conservation sites listed by the member governments under the Protocol. Under this network these sites benefit from a cooperation programme supported by SPAW, which includes: increased recognition and awareness as places of importance locally, regionally and globally; increased local and national pride resulting in national responsibility to support management; higher visibility with the possible result of increases in employment opportunities and income due to increased tourism marketing of the area; grants and technical assistance provided through SPAW; opportunities for enhancing capacity, management, protection and sustainability; and, opportunities for support  of species conservation, pollution control and sustainable finance.

Countries which are party to the Protocol are invited to apply for their protected areas to be so listed using online forms.  To be selected, sites must satisfy a rigorous set of ecological as well as cultural and socio-economic criteria.  Applications are reviewed by the UN SPAW secretariat as well as by external experts prior to their approval by the Protocol’s scientific committee and it’s biennial Conference of Parties (COP). On 9th December 2014, in Cartagena, Colombia, the Protocol’s Eighth COP approved thirteen new protected areas:

  • The Regional Natural Park of wetlands between the Rivers León and Suriquí, Colombia
  • The Saba National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Man O War Shoal Marine Park (Sin t Maarten), the Kingdom of the Netherlands
  • The Reserve “Etang des Salines”, Martinique, France
  • The Reserve “Versants Nord de la Montagne Pelée, Martinique, France
  • The Port Honduras Marine Reserve, Belize
  • La Caleta Submarine Park, Dominican Republic
  • National Park Jaragua, Dominican Republic
  • Reserve “Los Haitises”, Dominican Republic
  • National Park “Sierra de Bahoruco”, Dominican Republic
  • Tobago Cays Marine Park, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines
  • “Molinière Beauséjour” Marine Protected Area, Grenada

These protected areas vary greatly in description and characteristics.  However they all meet the criteria for listing under SPAW.  These include ecological value, and cultural and socio-economic benefits.  A quick look at two of the areas listed illustrates this.

The Saint Eustatius National Marine Park, established in 1996 in the Eastern Caribbean, is only 27.5 square kilometres in area and extends around the entire island of Saint Eustatius, from the high water line to 30 metre depth contour. It protects a variety of habitats, including pristine coral reefs and 18th century shipwrecks. It includes two no-take zones (reserves) as well as general use zones and designated anchoring zones for large commercial ships.  There is high biodiversity in its coral reefs and a wide variety of tropical reef creatures resides in and around these reefs as well, including the commercially important lobster and conch, key predators such as sharks and the endangered Sea Horses.  Three species of sea turtles (all of them are endangered or critically endangered species) nest regularly on the island’s Zeelandia Beach – the leatherback, the greenand the hawksbill. Dolphins and large whales regularly visit and can often be heard as they migrate through the Marine Park between January and April.   A number of birds live almost exclusively in the open ocean environment, using St Eustatius as a breeding ground or migratory stop over, such as the Audubon’s Shearwater Puffins and Red Billed Tropicbirds.

St Eustatius is also site of Statia Terminals, an oil transhipment facility, including one of the deepest mooring stations for super tankers in the world, located immediately south of the northern marine reserve on the West coast and which has been in operation since 1982 and expanded in 1993. It employs 10 per cent of the island’s population.  During the 18th century, this was one of the busiest ports in the world, hence the presence of shipwrecks within the marine park up to today.

In contrast, the Port Honduras Marine Reserve (PHMR), established in 2000, in Belize is 405 square kilometres in area and has three adjacent and nearby human settlements: Monkey River, Punta Negra and Punta Gorda.  It is unique along the coast of Central America in lagoon system size and the number of in-shore mangrove islands. It is in relatively pristine condition and includes coastal and tidal wetlands, marine lagoons, and mangrove islands with associated shallow banks and fringing coral reefs. Almost all of the coastal and island vegetation, including mangroves, is intact.  Maintaining coastal ecosystem functions and natural resource values, including water quality and nursery habitats of the area, is important in order to protect biodiversity and traditional fishers’ livelihoods.  It is a major breeding and nursery area for juveniles of many species. Threats are expected to increase as the area is attracting more visitors for fly-fishing and sailing.

The SPAW Protocol and the listing of Marine Protected Areas is driven by the need to first recognize sites of great regional and international ecological and socio-economic value and then put measures in place to protect and conserve these areas.  The Caribbean’s rich and beautiful natural heritage deserves our best efforts while also protecting the sustainable livelihoods of coastal communities.

To find out more about the SPAW Protocol and the work of the Caribbean Environment Programme see: www.cep.unep.org and www.car-spaw-rac.org

For further information: 
 Alejandro Laguna - Comunication and Information Officer
 United Nations Environment Programme, Regional Office for Latin America and the Caribbean
 Clayton, Ciudad del Saber - Alberto Tejada, Building 103; Ancon - Panama City, Panama.
 Phone.: 305 3100
 alex.laguna@unep.org

Credit: UNEP Environment for Development

Caribbean Energy Security Summit Commits to Energy Transition

Twenty-six countries, together with seven regional and international organizations, have released a joint statement in support of the transformation of the energy systems of Caribbean countries. The signatories of the statement, signed during the Caribbean Energy Security Summit, commit to pursuing comprehensive approaches to an energy transition toward “clean sustainable energy for all” and reforms that support the creation of favourable policy and regulatory environments for sustainable energy.

The Summit, which was co-hosted by the US Department of State, the Council of the Americas and the Atlantic Council, brought together finance and private sector leaders from the US and the Caribbean, and representatives of the international community. The event showcased the initiatives under the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative (CESI) in the areas of improved governance, access to finance and donor coordination, and featured discussions by partner countries on comprehensive energy diversification strategies.

During the event, the US Government announced enhanced support for technical assistance and capacity-building programs in the Caribbean, through the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas (ECPA) initiative, among others, with the aim of promoting a cleaner and more secure energy future in the region. Caribbean leaders agreed to pursue comprehensive energy diversification programs and facilitate the deployment of clean energy.

Furthermore, presentations and updates were provided by, inter alia: Caribbean leaders on energy sector goals; the World Bank on a proposed Caribbean Energy Investment Network for improved coordination and communication among partners; and the US Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) on a new focus on clean energy project development in the Caribbean, which includes US$43 million in financing for a 34 MW wind energy project in Jamaica.

Highlighting the role of the Organization of American States (OAS) in supporting the transition to sustainable energy in the Caribbean, OAS Secretary General José Miguel Insulza said the past five years had seen an “unprecedented push” in the Caribbean toward the development of the region’s renewable energy sources, noting this was “doubly impressive” “in a time of low oil prices.”

The Summit, which took place on 26 January 2015, in Washington, DC, US, is part of CESI, launched by US Vice President Joseph Biden in June 2014. The regional and international organizations signing the statement were the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, the Caribbean Development Bank, the EU, the Inter-American Development Bank (IADB), the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the OAS and the World Bank.

The joint statement was also signed by the Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Aruba, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Canada, Colombia, Curacao, Dominica, Dominican Republic, France, Germany, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Mexico, New Zealand, Spain, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United Kingdom, and the United States.

Credit: SIDS Policy & Practice IISD

Belize Fights to Save a Crucial Barrier Reef

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

The humble CREWS buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. Credit: Aaron Humes/IPS

Home to the second longest barrier reef in the world and the largest in the Western Hemisphere, which provides jobs in fishing, tourism and other industries which feed the lifeblood of the economy, Belize has long been acutely aware of the need to protect its marine resources from both human and natural activities.

However, there has been a recent decline in the production and export of marine products including conch, lobster, and fish, even as tourism figures continue to increase.

“What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers.” — Dr. Kenrick Leslie

The decline is not helped by overfishing and the harvest of immature conch and lobster outside of the standard fishing season. But the primary reason for less conch and lobster in Belize’s waters, according to local experts, is excess ocean acidity which is making it difficult for popular crustacean species such as conch and lobster, which depend on their hard, spiny shells to survive, to grow and mature.

According to the executive director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Center (CCCCC), Dr. Kenrick Leslie, acidification is as important and as detrimental to the sustainability of the Barrier Reef and the ocean generally as warming of the atmosphere and other factors generally associated with climate change.

Carbon dioxide which is emitted in the atmosphere from greenhouse gases is absorbed into the ocean as carbonic acid, which interacts with the calcium present in the shells of conch and lobster to form calcium carbonate, dissolving those shells and reducing their numbers. Belize also faces continuous difficulties with coral bleaching, which has attacked several key sections of the reef in recent years.

Dr. Leslie told IPS that activities on Belize’s terrestrial land mass are also contributing to the problems under Belize’s waters. “What happens on the land will eventually reach the sea, via our rivers,” he noted.

To fight these new problems, there is need for more research and accurate, up to the minute data.

Last month, the European Union (EU), as part of its Global Climate Change Alliance Caribbean Support Project handed over to the government of Belize and specifically the Ministry of Forestry, Fisheries and Sustainable Development for its continued usage a Coral Reef Early Warning System (CREWS) buoy based at South Water Caye off the Stann Creek District in southern Belize.

Developed by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), it has been adopted by the CCCCC as a centrepiece of the effort to obtain reliable data as a basis for strategies for fighting climate change.

Dr. Leslie says the CREWS system represents a leap forward in research technology on climate change. The humble buoy hosts several instruments designed to measure conditions above and below the water, and keep track of these developing threats. The data collected on atmospheric and oceanic conditions such as oceanic turbidity, levels of carbon dioxide and other harmful elements and others are monitored from the Centre’s office in Belmopan and the data sent along to international scientists who can more concretely analyse it.

The South Water Caye CREWS station is one of two in Belize; the other is located at the University of Belize’s Environmental Research Institute (ERI) on Calabash Caye in the Turneffe Atoll range. Other stations are located in Jamaica, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago, and the Dominican Republic, with more planned in other key areas.

According to the CEO of the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), Vincent Gillet, this is an example of the kind of work that needs to be done to keep the coastal zone healthy and safeguard resources for Belize’s future generations.

A report released at the start of Coastal Awareness Week in Belize City urges greater awareness of the effects of climate change and the participation of the local managers of the coastal zone in a policy to combat those effects. Several recommendations were made, including empowering the Authority with more legislative heft, revising the land distribution policy and bringing more people into the discussion.

The report was the work of over 30 local and international scientists who contributed to and prepared it.

In receiving the CREWS equipment, the Ministry’s CEO, Dr. Adele Catzim-Sanchez, sought to remind that the problem of climate change is real and unless it is addressed, Belizeans may be contributing to their own demise.

The European Union’s Ambassador to Belize, Paola Amadei, reported that the Union may soon be able to offer even more help with the planned negotiations in Paris, France, in 2015 for a global initiative on climate change, with emphasis on smaller states. Belize already benefits from separate but concurrent projects, the latter of which aims to give Belize a sustainable development plan and specific strategy to address climate change.

In addition, Dr. Leslie is pushing for even more monitoring equipment, including current metres to study the effect of terrestrial activity such as mining and construction material gathering as well as deforestation on the sea, where the residue of such activities inevitably ends up.

Credit: IPS News Agency

Track the 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress Underway in France…

The 3rd International Marine Protected Areas Congress (IMPAC) is underway in Marseille, France this week (October 21-25). Organized by IUCN with the French Marine Protected Areas Agency, IMPAC gathers major marine specialists and other stakeholders every four years to assist in the conservation and sustainable development of the oceans.

For the congress, a Web TV has been launched, which features films about oceans in general and marine protected areas (MPA) in particular. More than 90 films from contributors from all over the world have been uploaded so far, but none from the Caribbean.  As you follow this event, we’d like to recommend “Lionfish infestation in Atlantic Ocean a growing epidemic” by Shanta King, Project Manager at the Ministry of Finance in St. Lucia. The film was shared with us by Dr Horst Michael Vogel, Head of Programme, Caribbean Aqua-Terrestrial Solutions.

Dr Vogel notes that the film, which looks at the escalation of lionfish infestation in the Caribbean, ties in well with a new research study by the James Cook University that suggests the “ghostliness” of lionfish is one reason for their incredible success in the Caribbean. You may download the open access research paper titled Ultimate Predators: Lionfish Have Evolved to Circumvent Prey Risk Assessment Abilities for more details.

Also peruse the Catch Share Design Center's comprehensive collection of research-driven materials on improving fisheries management, including a fisheries toolkit.

Global biodiversity awareness tops 75% for the first time

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The Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity, which is within the United Nations Environment Programme, says 75% of consumers surveyed worldwide are aware of biodiversity, while 48% can give a correct definition of the term biodiversity. These are some of the findings contained in the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer report launched today in Paris by the Union for Ethical BioTrade (UEBT). Consumers in Brazil, China and France, according to the study, show a particular awareness about biodiversity.

“The Biodiversity Barometer is an important source of information on global trends in biodiversity awareness. The results not only demonstrate a growing consciousness, they also show that respecting biodiversity provides tremendous opportunities for business around the world” said Braulio Ferreira de Souza Dias, Executive Secretary for the Convention on Biological Diversity.

Very high biodiversity awareness in China
This year’s special focus on China reveals interesting results: Apart from a very high biodiversity awareness (94%), Chinese consumers surveyed also show high knowledge of biodiversity: 64% could define correctly what biodiversity means. “The survey results do not come as a surprise. In recent years, the government as well as civil society organizations in China has undertaken tremendous activities for communicating and raising awareness of biodiversity issues” says Zhang Wenguo, Ministry of Environmental Protection of the People’s Republic of China.

Biodiversity offers branding opportunities
Responses to the question “What are the three brands you consider are making the most efforts to respect biodiversity?” were manifold and often country-specific: In Brazil, there is a clear leader with Natural (49%). In the USA, most mentioned food brands, including Kraft, Starbucks and Ben & Jerry’s. UK has two leading companies: Bodyshop and CO-OP (23% and 20%). In France Yves Rocher, Nestle and Danone top the list, while in China the perceived leaders are Yili, Mengliu and Amway. “There are clear opportunities for brands to position themselves around the issue of biodiversity, and anticipate increasing consumer interest on this issue” concludes Rémy Oudghiri, Director of Trends and Insights at IPSOS.

Biodiversity reporting is growing, but still weak
“Today 32 of the top 100 beauty companies in the world refer to biodiversity in their corporate communications such as sustainability reporting and websites. This is considerably higher than in 2009, but much lower than what we found in the top 100 food companies” says Rik Kutsch Lojenga, Executive Director of UEBT. In 2013, 87% of consumers say they want to be better informed about how companies source their natural ingredients, and a large majority of consumers say they would to boycott brands that do not take good care of environmental or ethical trade practices in its sourcing and production processes.

Youth is the future of biodiversity
For brands interested in reaching consumers on biodiversity, the 2013 Biodiversity Barometer offers the following insights: Young people tend to have the highest awareness of biodiversity (80%), as well as more affluent and well-educated people. Traditional media remain by and large the key sources of awareness: 51% of all surveyed consumers learned about biodiversity through television, 33% through newspapers and magazines.

On the UEBT Biodiversity Barometer
The UEBT Barometer provides insights on evolving biodiversity awareness among consumers and how the beauty industry reports on biodiversity. It also illustrates the progress towards achieving the targets of the Strategic Plan of the United Nations Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), and its results will be reflected in the next edition of the Global Biodiversity Outlook as a midway point analysis of the achievement of those targets. Since its first edition in 2009, the global research organisation IPSOS, on behalf of UEBT, has interviewed 31,000 consumers in 11 countries (Brazil, China, France, Germany, India, Japan, Peru, South Korea, Switzerland, UK and USA). In 2013, the biodiversity barometer survey was conducted among 6,000 consumers in six countries – Brazil, China, France, Germany, UK and USA.

The Union for Ethical BioTrade
The Union for Ethical BioTrade is a non-profit association that promotes the ‘Sourcing with Respect’ of ingredients that come from biodiversity. Members, which include many beauty companies, commit to gradually ensuring that their sourcing practices promote the conservation of biodiversity, respect traditional knowledge, and assure the equitable sharing of benefits all along the supply chain.

The Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD)
Opened for signature at the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro in 1992, and entering into force in December 1993, the Convention on Biological Diversity is an international treaty for the conservation of biodiversity, the sustainable use of the components of biodiversity and the equitable sharing of the benefits derived from the use of genetic resources. With 193 Parties, the Convention has near universal participation among countries. The Convention seeks to address all threats to biodiversity and ecosystem services, including threats from climate change, through scientific assessments, the development of tools, incentives and processes, the transfer of technologies and good practices and the full and active involvement of relevant stakeholders including indigenous and local communities, youth, NGOs, women and the business community. The Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety is a subsidiary agreement to the Convention. It seeks to protect biological diversity from the potential risks posed by living modified organisms resulting from modern biotechnology.To date, 163 countries plus the European Union have ratified the Cartagena Protocol.

The Secretariat of the Convention and its Cartagena Protocol is located in Montreal.

For more information visit: http://www.cbd.int.For more information, please visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org. You may also visit: http://www.ethicalbiotrade.org and contact Union for Ethical BioTrade bia phone at +31-20-223-4567 or email using info@ethicalbiotrade.org
*** From the Secretariat of the Convention on Biological Diversity

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