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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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org
Credit: UNEP Environment for Development
Sustainable Grenadines (SusGren) Inc, an integrated development and biodiversity conservation NGO operating the Grenadines Islands, recently trained staff from six marine protected areas from Grenada and St Vincent and the Grenadines were in lionfish capture and handling. The training exercise was conducted August 28 – 30, 2013 during a Networking Meeting in Carriacou – Grenada.
The lionfish is an invasive species that poses a threat to native reef fish in the Caribbean Sea. Their voracious appetites, coupled with their rapid reproductive rate, are making lionfish a major obstacle in marine conservation.
Their management is necessary for the health of the fisheries and tourism industries, which are the basis of livelihoods for many people in Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
To help address this threat, rangers/wardens from the two countries had the opportunity to get hands-on experience in the capture and handling of lionfish. The marine protected areas that were represented from St. Vincent and the Grenadines included the Tobago Cays Marine Park, Mustique Marine Conservation Area and the South Coast Marine Conservation Area. On the Grenada end, the Sandy Island/Oyster Bed, Woburn/Clark’s Court and Moliniere-Beausjour Marine Protected Areas were represented.
This was the third annual networking meeting for the marine protected areas of the Grenadines, a group which was originally established in 2011.
Other areas of focus during the three-day meeting were the sharing of best management practices for coral reef conservation, the importance of mangrove ecosystems and marine law enforcement. On the last day of the event, some 20 local school children took part with the rangers/wardens in a series of outdoor marine education activities organized in association with the KIDO Foundation.
Woburn/Clark’s Court Marine Protected Area and the South Coast Marine Conservation Area became the newest members to join the Network of Marine Protected Areas of the Grenada Bank, pledging to collaborate with the network to ensure effective marine protected area management and to promote the conservation and sustainable use of marine and coastal resources.
This initiative is made possible by The Ocean Foundation and the Western Hemisphere Migratory Species Initiative of the Organization of American States.
The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) and the German Financial Cooperation (KfW) signed a wide-ranging aide–mémoire last Friday evening, paving the way for the development of a €12.27 million programme, which will seek to reduce the climate change induced risks facing the Caribbean’s coastal population.
The approximately six year Ecosystem-Based Approaches for Climate Change Adaptation in Coastal Zones of Small Island Developing States in the Caribbean (EBACC) programme, which is slated to start later this year, will be implemented in Saint Lucia, Saint. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Jamaica.
The programme will have two main components: (i) Investments in sustainable improvements of coastal ecosystems relevant for climate change adaptation, and (ii) knowledge management, project support and monitoring. Under the first component, the programme aims to invest in measures related to protection and sustainable management, rehabilitation or substitution, and monitoring of coastal ecosystems in an effort to assist the participating countries to mitigate climate change induced risks to livelihoods and development prospects. Investments under this component will include, among others, the purchase of equipment directly related to marine protected areas (MPAs) management, reforestation, slope stabilization, coral reef restoration, construction of artificial reefs and break water.
Under Component 2 of the programme, assistance will be provided to the countries in the preparation and implementation of the local adaptation measures, monitoring of project goals and impacts, and the systematization and dissemination of project experiences. The Centre’s Resource Senior Economist and Head, Programme Development and Management Unit, Dr. Mark Bynoe, who along with Senior Programme Development Specialist Keith Nichols led the Centre’s engagement with KfW, notes that the “measures to be pursued under this component will include the harmonization of monitoring methods and the implementation of a monitoring system for the project that will complement the overall monitoring, evaluation and reporting system being developed for the IP”.
Dr. Bynoe notes that “these four participating countries were selected because the programme seeks to establish synergies with the Caribbean’s Pilot Programme for Climate Resilience (PPCR). However, mainly because of the limited financing not all the participating Caribbean PPCR countries will be involved in EBACC. The KfW and CCCCC were advised by the consultants conducting the diagnostic studies for this programme, that the greatest net returns on investments are likely to be gained through investing in the countries selected.” Dr. Bynoe adds that the programme’s focus complements priority areas within the Implementation Plan of the Regional Framework for Achieving Development Resilient to Climate Change that was approved by CARICOM Heads of Government in Match 2012 in Suriname.
Specifically, it will address Strategic Elements 2 and 4 in the IP that seeks to “promote the implementation of specific adaptation measures to address key vulnerabilities in the region” and “encouraging action to reduce the vulnerability of natural and human systems in CARICOM countries to the impacts of a changing climate” respectively.
Executive Director of the CCCCC, Dr. Kenrick Leslie, says “the EBACC programme is part of the implementing phase of the landmarkRegional Strategic Framework to address climate change”. The programme, which will be funded by the German government to the tune of €10.8 million and €1.47 million from the Centre and participating countries through a mix of in-kind and financial support, will operate under a facility approach. This arrangement will allow both governmental and non-governmental institutions in the four participating countries to seek funding for Local Adaptation Measures (LAM).
The agreement signed by the Centre’s Executive Director Dr. Kenrick Leslie, CBE and KfW’s Sector Economist Dr. Josef Haider marks the successful conclusion of KfW’s appraisal mission (March 7-March 17, 2013), which included meetings in Jamaica and St. Lucia with government officials and non-governmental leaders who are directly engaged in climate change adaptation initiatives.