Conservation of Threatened and Endangered Species
The Wider Caribbean Region is home to a diverse range of species including marine mammals, sea turtles and coral species, many of which are considered threatened or endangered.Threats currently facing coastal and marine species include unsustainable fishing practices and gear use, coastal developments and pollution.
Aware of the crucial importance of species, Articles 10, 11 and 21 of the SPAW Protocol call for the implementation of programmes in order to protect the species listed under Annexes I, II and III.
The main objectives of this programme element are to:
- Build consensus in the region on priorities for the conservation and management of threatened and endangered species, including migratory species, as well as those species not yet threatened but requiring action to prevent them from being threatened and endangered;
- Implement priority activities of existing species recovery and management plans developed under the framework of SPAW;
- Develop, as appropriate, adequate management plans and programmes for priority species of regional concern, including those of economic importance; and
- Address the growing threat of invasive alien species (IAS) that could negatively impact on SPAW species and WCR habitats, especially marine or coastal IAS.
In keeping with the SPAW Protocol and Contracting Parties’ decisions, specific attention is currently being paid to the following species, or groups of species:
In 2008 the Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals in the Wider Caribbean Region (MMAP) was adopted by CEP Member Governments. It aims to manage human interactions and use, as well as protect marine mammal species including whales, manatees and dolphins. The central goal is to generate knowledge and consensus among governments on which to base their policies for marine mammal conservation. Activities include capacity building and education, policy formulation, regulatory and protective measures, scientific research, improving laws and their application and public awareness. Recommendations are provided on the following issues:
- fisheries interactions;
- habitat degradation from coastal and watershed development;
- pollution and marine mammal health;
- protected areas and other management regimes for population recovery;
- marine mammal watching in the wild and associated activities;
- marine mammal strandings;
- marine mammals in captivity;
- acoustic disturbance/underwater noise;
- vessel strikes; and
- climate change.
The SPAW sub-programme plans to complete the following in 2015-2016:
Conservation of marine mammals
- Increased preparedness and response to marine mammal entanglement in the WCR;
- Region-wide entanglement response network established;
- Increased knowledge on marine mammal critical habitat areas and increased support for transboundary protection;
- Regional repository on marine mammal stranding data across the WCR;
- Improved strategies to encourage the sustainability of marine mammal watching in the WCR;
- Increased knowledge on contaminants and pollutants harmful to marine mammal health;
- MoC with the IWC Scientific Committee partnerships to promote the implementation of the MMAP.
A major SPAW project related to the protection of marine mammals in the region is Protecting Habitats and Migration Corridors for Marine Mammals in the South and Northeast Pacific and the Wider Caribbean through Marine Protected Area Networks (LifeWeb Project). The goal of the project, funded by the Government of Spain, was to contribute towards the establishment of a comprehensive, effectively managed and ecologically representative regional system of MPAs for the conservation of marine mammals in Latin America and the Caribbean and through the application of an Ecosystem Based Management approach and spatial planning.
Accomplishments of the LifeWeb Project include development of marine spatial planning and scenario building for marine mammals’ corridors in order to enhance trans-boundary management. This process included regional training information integration and mapping, and networking together with specific demonstration activities, bringing together national planners, managers and experts, and institutions in a range of mutually supporting activities. This resulted in integrated maps of marine mammal (MM) species richness, distribution, threats and socio-economic aspects in the Wider Caribbean Region; and database for over 25 species of Marine Mammals and Management Plan for the Marine Mammal Sanctuary of the Dominican Republic (SMMRD) in the Silver and Navidad Banks.
In collaboration with the Wider Caribbean Sea Turtle Conservation Network (WIDECAST), the conservation of sea turtles is primarily accomplished through the development of, and by providing support for the implementation of Sea Turtle Recovery Action Plans (STRAPs). Currently 14 STRAPs have been produced for:
- Antigua and Barbuda
- British Virgin Islands
- Netherlands Antilles
- St. Kitts and Nevis
- St. Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- Trinidad and Tobago
Additional activities for 2015-2016 will ensure:
- Funding secured for existing STRAPS towards their expansion and further development;
- Training in relevant STRAP components provided for key personnel at the national level in each jurisdiction;
- Standard guidelines and criteria for Index Site monitoring at sea turtle foraging grounds in the WCR disseminated;
- Standard guidelines and criteria translated and made available in Spanish and French.
Article 12 of the SPAW Protocol addresses the topic of Invasive Alien Species and states that “all appropriate measures will be taken to regulate or prohibit intentional or accidental introduction of non-indigenous or genetically altered species to the wild that may cause harmful impacts to the natural flora, fauna, or other features of the WCR”. This has been a growing area of involvement for the SPAW sub-programme since IAS represents an increasing threat to marine and coastal species and their ecosystems. The SPAW sub-programme continues to attempt to curb the spread of IAS particularly through the control of the lionfish by:
- The implementation of the Regional Lionfish Strategy to tackle the issue of invasive alien species both at national and regional scale and encourage the development of local and national strategies under this framework; and
- A web-tool developed for the dissemination of information on the lionfish invasion and best strategies and tools for its control.