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Caribbean Coral Reef Leaders Complete Intensive Fellowship at the Great Barrier Reef

Credits: Environmental Graffiti

Photo Credit: Environmental Graffiti

Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. The loss of reefs is also a serious economic problem in the region, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the Caribbean is seeking to turn the tide through partnerships. A group of five coral reef managers from across the Caribbean recently participated in an intensive three week Coral Reef Management Fellowship programme at the Great Barrier Reef, Australia – the best managed reef in the world.

The Caribbean contingent was among a group of 12 fellows, including their peers from the Pacific and Indian Oceans. The Caribbean fellows are: Roland Baldeo (Grenada), Andrea Donaldson and Christine O’Sullivan (Jamaica), Michelle Kalamandeen (Guyana) and Andrew Lockhart (St. Vincent and the Grenadines).

The fellows visited government departments, research stations, farms, schools and other reef-associated operations. They experienced the Great Barrier Reef and many facets of catchment to reef management through direct interactions with a diversity of land and sea habitats, scientists, managers, farmers, educators, media, volunteers and industry leaders. The Fellowship also included home-stays with local marine scientists as part of a cultural exchange.

This was a rare and valuable experience as it brought together coral reef managers from diverse locations to gain and share expertise. Dr Kenrick Leslie, Executive Director of the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, welcomed the successful completion of the fellowship, noting:

“This is an excellent programme to boost understanding of marine protected areas and the role it can play in sustainable development. It gives our people an opportunity to see how effective coral reef management is done in another community. Importantly, they are gaining insights from the major work being done to rectify some of the issues with the world’s longest barrier reef. It’s a unique experience.”

Citing the fellows’ exposure to an intensive leadership course at Orpheus Island Research Station, which included theory and exercises to plan, problem solve and teamwork, Dr Leslie urged the fellows to be agents of change across the Caribbean.

“At this point in our development it is important that we ensure that whatever we do, we do not make the assumption that resources are unlimited and that all our actions are resilient and our environment is protected,” Dr Leslie added.

The Caribbean and Pacific fellows are part of an Australia Awards Fellowship programme funded by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, titled Improving coral reef management for sustainable development in the Caribbean and Pacific. Australia Awards are prestigious international Scholarships and Fellowships funded by the Australian Government to build capacity and strengthen partnerships. The programme supports short-term study, research and professional development opportunities in Australia for mid-career professionals and emerging leaders.

The fellowship programme was organised and hosted by Reef Ecologic, an environmental consulting company with expertise on coral reef management, which was founded by former Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority employees Dr Adam Smith and Dr Paul Marshall.

“We have observed the decline of coral reefs globally and we recognized that training of future leaders is essential for turning the tide towards a more sustainable future. Australia is the world leader in coral reef conservation and marine resource management. This Fellowship is a chance to share Australia’s expertise with the world,” said Dr Marshall.

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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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:

Australia and the Caribbean Collaborate on Climate Change and Coral Reefs

Development resilient to climate change
The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) have agreed to a two-year program led by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA). The programme is designed to share Australia’s expertise in climate change adaptation and coral reef management to address some of the key challenges identified in Climate Change and the Caribbean: A regional framework for achieving development resilient to Climate Change (2009-2015) (and the associated Implementation Plan), landmark regional documents developed by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC).

Collaborating to reduce vulnerability
The Centre’s Senior Programme Development Specialist, Keith Nichols, says the partnership allows for valuable expertise and knowledge to be shared and will make a real difference to the region’s marine environment. He says the program will enable work with the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and CARICOM countries to develop a regional framework for reducing the climate change vulnerability of coral reefs and building the resilience of reef-dependent communities and industries. The program will also support the capacity of coral reef and natural resource managers to deal with the implications of climate change through development of an adaptation toolkit and facilitation of international collaboration.

This program follows a successful scoping mission last year and workshops in Belize and Barbados, which identified priority strategies for reducing coral reef vulnerability to climate change, key experts and organizations and mapped other Regional initiatives and programs to optimize the contribution of the AusAID-GBRMPA-CCCCC program.

Coral reefs are important to the Region’s future
Coral reefs provide benefits to the Caribbean valued at over $4 billion annually. The reefs of the Caribbean are of great importance in providing shoreline protection, habitat for healthy fisheries and an essential attraction for the tourism sector.  They are also internationally significant, representing unique biodiversity and totalling approximately 10% of the world’s reef area. However, like all reefs around the world, Caribbean coral reefs are under unprecedented pressure. Local stresses such as unsustainable fishing, pollution and coastal development are combining with the global impacts of climate change and ocean acidification to threaten the range of ecosystem services provided by coral reefs. Understanding these risks, and developing strategies to deal with them, is crucial to the sustainable development of the Caribbean region.

Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre. Learn more about CARICOM-Australia relationship.

Via CMC

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