Monday, 19 September 2011

For the Future of the Caribbean Marine Environment

[San Pedro] (September 12, 2011) Environmental managers, park rangers and marine biologists from eight Caribbean countries meet this week in Belize to train together and share experiences in the management of marine protected areas (MPAs).


An initiative of the Caribbean Environment Programme of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP) and the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM), the ‘CaMPAM Training of Trainers Course’ will run for two weeks at Hol Chan Marine Reserve on the
Belize Barrier Reef. The course is funded by the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs in support of the ‘Caribbean Challenge’ initiative and to assist the establishment of a fully ecologically-representative, climate change resilient, and functional network of marine protected areas in the Caribbean.

According to the Regional Coordinator of UNEP-CEP, Mr Nelson Andrade, “Although coastal and marine ecosystems are among the most productive in the world, they are at the same time the most threatened.”

“Protecting coastal and marine resources is critical for the sustainable development of the countries of the Wider Caribbean, where an estimated 70% of the 80 million inhabitants live in coastal areas” he commented.

Indeed, the coasts, marine environment, and especially the coral reefs of the Caribbean are essential for local livelihoods, for food security, for protection from natural hazards and for national economies that depend in large part upon coastal tourism.

“If we are to maintain the marine resources and the biodiversity upon which growing communities depend, then these resources must be managed in a sustainable manner,” Mr Andrade explains.

Protecting key ecologically-connected marine areas is one such approach. Marine protected areas seek to conserve marine biodiversity, ensure protection of valuable fisheries resources, and provide the basis for sustainable alternative livelihoods for coastal communities.

“Those who work in the region’s marine protected areas have a vitally important, but often daunting job to do” affirms Dr Georgina Bustamante, Coordinator of CaMPAM, who lists the major threats to the coastal and marine environment as being uncontrolled development, over-fishing, pollution, poaching and climate change.

Hope for the future of the coastal and marine environment of the Caribbean comes from this important investment in environmental management capacity in the region, made possible with support from the Directorate General of International Development Cooperation of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Additional support is being provided by the Belize Fisheries Department, the Protected Areas Conservation Trust, and Hol Chan Marine Reserve.

Dr Bustamante describes the local success story “Once a depleted fishing area, Hol Chan Marine Reserve started as a local community initiative, and has now allowed fish and other species to regenerate, providing an important refuge for marine life and an outstanding underwater experience for visitors.”

In the spirit of sharing knowledge across borders, the 20 participants in the course will work with invited experts and guest speakers from the Belize conservation community and beyond, to share management strategies and discuss the lessons they have learned about achieving conservation and community benefits through effectively managed marine protected areas.

To receive a blog from the course coordinator, Mr. Rich Wilson, via CaMPAM’s mailing list, go to http://gcfi.org/Forms/CaMAPMLSubscribEng.php. For more information on the course please contact Dr Georgina Bustamante at gbustamante@gcfi.org. Information on this and CaMPAM’s other activities can also be found at http://campam.gcfi.org/campam.php.