Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine and Coastal Ecosystems
Caribbean marine and coastal ecosystems, which include coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, are threatened by a number of factors including unsustainable development and fishing practices. One of the most holistic approaches to protecting marine and coastal ecosystems is Ecosystem-Based Management (EBM), recognizes the need to protect entire ecosystems instead of individual species.
The main objectives of this SPAW programme element are to:
- Assist with the management of marine and coastal ecosystems of the region on a sustainable basis, particularly through sustainable practices;
- Mobilize the political will and action of governments and other partners for the conservation and sustainable use of coral reefs and associated ecosystems such as mangroves and seagrass beds;
- Effectively communicate the value and importance of coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass beds, including their ecosystem services, the threats to their sustainability, and the actions needed to protect them; and
- Promote the ecosystem management approach and the principles and values of good governance for the conservation and management of marine ecosystems in the region.
The SPAW programme is a participant in the GEF/UNDP/UNESCO-IOCARIBE Project, “The Sustainable Management of the Shared Marine Resources of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem and Adjacent Regions (the CLME Project)”. The project’s overall goal is the sustainable management of the shared living marine resources through an integrated management approach. Two main pilot projects were included in phase 1 of the project and concluded in December 2013:
- Sub-regional management of the Spiny Lobster fisheries.
- Management and conservation of the reef biodiversity and reef fisheries.
The SPAW sub-programme was responsible for the management of the reef biodiversity and reef fisheries pilot project. The Pilot Project was implemented between January 2011 and December 2013. Its overall objective was to demonstrate the ability to maintain the functional and structural integrity and biodiversity of these targeted coral reef ecosystems while ensuring economic and social benefits for local communities and for the region as a whole. The Pilot Project promoted an ecosystem-based approach for the conservation and effective management of coral reef ecosystems and their biological and physical resources.
The Pilot Project was implemented around the Wider Caribbean and had three site-specific projects at the following targeted locations:
- Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, Colombia
- Pedro Bank, Jamaica
- Montecristi National Park, Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) and linkages to the trans-boundary site, Caracol Bay in Haiti.
For updates progress on the project:
Figure 1: Map showing location of
San Andres Archipelago in Colombia
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The Seaflower Biosphere Reserve in the San Andres Archipelago, Colombia, was designated a pilot site within the framework of the “Management and Conservation of Reef Biodiversity and Reef Fisheries Pilot Project.” It shares similar issues with other designated sites in the management of extensive marine ecosystems and serves as a model to improve the regional knowledge base through sharing of lessons learnt. The focus of this demonstration project was the development of requirements needed to protect and maintain the ecological integrity of productive reef areas that are subject to significant fishing pressures. An ecosystem-based, integrated sustainable development approach was utilized to counteract over-exploitation, habitat degradation, and pollution problems, with a focus on adaptive management of marine biodiversity.
This pilot project, managed by CORALINA, focused on improving enforcement practices and adaptive, ecosystem-based management in the Seaflower MPA in order to maintain its coral reef biodiversity and long-term productivity. The general objective of this pilot project is to strengthen the ecosystem-based approach to improve conservation and effective management of coral reef ecosystems and their associated resources in order to maintain their functional and structural integrity and biodiversity, and to ensure economic and social benefits for local communities and the region as a whole.The project will do this by improving management and enforcement, promoting compliance and community participation, and enhancing governance by building capacity, sharing and adapting best practices learnt from across the region.
- Creation and installation of erosion abatement structures
- Enactment of new regulations governing the MPA
- Launch of public education and awareness campaign
- Development of a programme whereby persons could obtain a technical degree in tropical coastal and marine resource management with a graduating class of eighteen students, five employed through CORALINA
Figure 2: Map showing location of
Pedro Bank in Jamaica
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This project was based in Pedro Bank in Jamaica, which is located approximately 80 kilometers south-southwest of the island of Jamaica, and is one of the biggest offshore banks in the Caribbean Basin. The Bank is composed of a variety of marine habitats such as sand, coral reefs, deep reefs, sea grass beds, and three coral cays known as the Pedro. Due to its size and distance from mainland Jamaica, it is one of the country's last remaining healthy marine ecosystems. In July 2004 the Bank was declared an underwater cultural heritage site by the Jamaica National Heritage Trust and in 2011, it was declared a Fish Sanctuary. The Pedro Cays are regionally important seabird nesting and roosting areas (e.g. masked boobies and roseate terns) and also provide several endangered turtle species such as hawksbills and loggerheads with nesting grounds. Pedro Bank also serves as one of the primary harvesting areas for Queen Conch in the Caribbean.
The main objectives for this Pilot Project were the:
1. Habitat restoration and threat reduction (eg. overfishing and destructive fishing practices);
2. Establishment of Jamaica’s first offshore marine protected area(s), and training to provide new sources of income in light of overfishing and likely climate change impacts on harvesting;
3. Capacity-building of government agencies and the fishing community; and
4. Development and implementation of a system of collaborative enforcement, and technical (physical, ecological, socioeconomic) and community-based monitoring.
The pilot project was managed by The Nature Conservancy (TNC) and incorporated a multi-stakeholder and sectoral process by involving a number of stakeholders from all levels, from government to community-based organizations and the civil sector. The Jamaica Defense Force (JDF) and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) assisted the program through enforcement.
This project gave aid to local fishermen by (1) establishing no-fishing areas that, over time, will increase fish stocks and consequently fish catch and (2) investigating feasible supplemental/alternative livelihoods; the Pedro Bank project aimed to contribute towards poverty alleviation among the Pedro Bank fishing community. In addition, two to four fishers will be hired to function as community wardens, thereby providing stable employment for a number of community members who, it is hoped, will have a positive effect on others within the community.
- Pedro Cays Biodiversity and Conservation Management and Zoning Plan developed
- Pedro Bank Field and Research Station fully equipped and staffed
- Pedro Cays Fish Sanctuary established
Map showing location of Montecristi,
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The Montecristi National Park is located on the north western coast of the Dominican Republic and was chosen in part as a potential pilot site for trans-boundary collaborations with the Republic of Haiti. The project, named ‘Ridge to Reef’, focused on developing guidelines that protect and maintain the ecological integrity of productive reef areas that are subject to significant fishing pressures. An ecosystem-based, integrated sustainable development approach was used to counteract over-exploitation, habitat degradation, and pollution problems, with a focus on adaptive management of marine biodiversity.
In addition to serving as a model for similar MPA’s in the region, the Montecristi National Park Pilot project has had an impact on the area in the following ways:
- Improved environmental aspects of salt production in the National Park,
- Increased the number of illegal fishing reports by a ten-fold margin, improved the health of the Luis Cacata Lake resulting in a rise in the fish population,
- Increased the yields of rice farmers in the area by 60% while lowering the use of pesticides by 67%,
- Mapped boundaries of the fishing community in order to establish community-based fishery and conservation districts,
- Conducted fifteen three-day training sessions on responsible fishing practices, and
- Developed relationships with local businesses to develop a seafood value chain in order to develop sustainability and boost income for the community
- Development of a draft zoning and fishing management plan
- Development of management information system
- Development of a manual of good practices for coral reef ecosystems
- Launch of training programme for fishers
In addition to the Pilot Project, continued support to coral reef conservation is also provided by the SPAW subprogramme in collaboration with:
- International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI). ICRI is a partnership among governments, international organizations and NGOs. It strives to preserve coral reefs and related ecosystems, such as estuaries, temperate and tropical wetlands (including mangroves), seagrass beds and other spawning and nursery areas. CEP continues to serve as regional contact point for ICRI and in this context provides assistance to countries as appropriate for participation in ICRI activities and objectives.
- Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (GCRMN). GCRMN is a network that works to improve the management and conservation of coral reefs by providing manuals, equipment, databases, training, problem solving and helps with finding funds for reef monitoring – all coordinated in a global network. CEP continues to provide assistance to countries as appropriate for participation in GCRMN, through targeted coral reef monitoring, development of subregional and regional reef monitoring agencies, Reef Check, Atlantic and Gulf Rapid Reef Assessment (AGRRA) and others.
- Reefs at Risk. This initiative, funded by the UN Foundation and USAID, is a global, map-based analysis that evaluates human pressure on coral reef worldwide and provides information and tools to better manage coral habitats. Through the SPAW Programme, assistance has been provided to WRI and Caribbean countries to support the assessment “Reefs at Risk in the Caribbean” and for contracting in depth economic valuations of their coral reefs. Economic valuation coastal studies of coral reefs and mangroves have so far been conducted in Trinidad and Tobago, St. Lucia, Belize, the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Based on these studies, WRI has with broad partnership, developed a Coastal Capital Guidebook.
- Reef Check. The SPAW sub-programme has partnered with this initiative that seeks to have local divers receive training on how to evaluate Reef Health. This allows for continuous supervision of local reefs and raises awareness of threats to coral reefs. A main partner in the Wider Caribbean is Reef Check-Dominican Republic.