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:

Marine Mammals

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;
  • research;
  • 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 2013-2014 in pursuit of the goals outlined in the MMAP:

  • A regional workshop in collaboration with the IWC on management of ship strikes in the WCR, including training on the collection and submission of data and cooperation amongst stakeholders;
  • Steps towards standardization of data collection on ship strikes and creation of a regional repository;
  • Training on marine mammal entanglement response in the WCR and steps towards establishment of a region-wide network for this purpose established
  • Increasing knowledge on marine mammal critical habitat areas, support for trans-boundary management and development of marine spatial planning scenarios for marine mammal corridors (see UNEP-SPAIN LifeWeb Project)
  • Creation of a regional depository on marine mammal stranding data and provide stranding training equipment across the WCR
  • Improvement and support strategies for sustainable marine mammal watching in the WCR;
  • Planning a regional workshop on contaminants and pollutants harmful to marine mammal health;
  • Develop a MOC with the IWC and partnership with its Scientific Commission to promote the implementation of the SPAW Marine Mammal Action  Plan; and
  • Development and implementation of a regional cooperation to increase educational exchange among governments and relevant national, regional, and international organizations through the above mentioned activities.

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 conjunction with Mote Marine Laboratory and the U.S. Marine Mammal Commission, the Regional Management Plan for the West Indian Manatee (Trichechus manatus) (Donwload: English, Spanish) has recently been revised. The West Indian manatee has been identified by governments and experts from the region as a priority endangered species requiring protection.The management plan assesses the manatee’s current status and distribution, threats and impediments to conservation, socio-economic significance and the legislation and conservation measures in each of the manatee’s range states. The SPAW subprogramme aims to assist countries with the implementation of the priorities identified in the revised Action Plan.

Sea Turtles

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:

  1. Antigua and Barbuda
  2. Aruba
  3. Barbados
  4. Belize
  5. British Virgin Islands
  6. Jamaica
  7. Netherlands Antilles
  8. Panama
  9. St. Kitts and Nevis
  10. St. Lucia
  11. St. Vincent and the Grenadines
  12. Suriname
  13. Trinidad and Tobago
  14. Venezuela


Additional activities include:

  • In collaboration with WIDECAST, SPAW aims to develop STRAPs for The Bahamas, Cuba, Grenada and Guyana in addition to revising the STRAPs for Barbados, Belize, the Dutch West Indies and St. Lucia for the 2013-2014 period;
  • Supporting the Index Monitoring Sites for Critically Endangered Hawksbill Sea Turtles, best practices and a spatial database;
  • Exploring the feasibility of Index Monitoring Sites for Green Turtles; and
  • Exploring the feasibility of using tagging data to compile regional maps of sea turtle movements and the use of critical habitats in the Caribbean.


In collaboration with the Society for the Conservation and Study of Caribbean Birds (SCSCB), BirdLife International and SPAW RAC, activities aimed at protecting the avian population include:

  • Continuing to support the capacity-building efforts on monitoring, conservation and management of endangered waterbird species through training activities and education;
  • Supporting cooperation to promote Important Bird Areas and examine linkages between the conservation status of bird species and their inclusion in SPAW Annexes; and
  • Exploring collaborations on the development and implementation of action plans for threatened bird species.
  • Printing of the Caribbean Waterbird Census Manual Mapping to compare marine Important Bird Areas (IBA’s) in the region and MPAs to identify protection gaps and development of national profiles/briefing documents with recommendations for new/amended MPAs
  • Development of a new monitoring framework for marine IBA’s and MPAs in the Bahamas, to serve as a model for other sites across the WCR;
  • Case studies on existing MPAs in the Bahamas, with the incorporation of terrestrial biodiversity, with recommendations for adaptive management; and
  • Development of action plans for the white-crowned pigeon in Cuba and the Grenada Dove.

Invasive Alien Species (IAS)

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 by:

  • Collaborating with CABI on the further development of the GEF Project Proposal: “Mitigating the Threats of Invasive Alien Species in the Insular Caribbean”. This GEF project aimed to establish an extensive framework for addressing alien invasive species that threaten aquatic and terrestrial ecosystems and their biodiversity within the insular Caribbean. The project helped to revise or create national and regional strategies, raised awareness through a magazine on, aided St. Lucia in keeping two offshore islands free of IAS to give the critically endangered whiptail lizard a chance to recover and trained representatives from Trinidad and Tobago to identify major diseases of cocoa.
  • Collaboration with CABI, the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI), the SPAW RAC, the Governments of Mexico, France and the USA and other interested partners to develop a regional strategy to control the lionfish (Pterois volitans, P. miles) in the WCR region. This strategy has been completed and the SPAW sub-programme has been encouraging the broad dissemination of the manual “Invasive Lionfish: A Guide to Control and Management” and developing corresponding training workshops in the WCR to address the lionfish issue in the Caribbean. This guide will serve as a crucial tool for managers in assisting with the control of the lionfish invasion and its impacts by providing practical solutions and recommendations.
  • Continue to coordinate with CEP sub-programme Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution(AMEP) on the UNEP/International Marine Organization(IMO) Ballast Water Project in the Wider Caribbean, focusing on the transfer of invasive marine species in ships’ ballast water.


  • Marine Mammal Factsheet 
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  • LifeWeb Factsheet
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SPAW Protocol Documents

    • SPAW Protocol (text only)
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  • Final Act, Resolutions 1990
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  • Final Act, Resolution, Appendix, and Annex 1991
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  • SPAW Factsheet
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  • SPAW Brochure
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  • SPAW Benefits Sheet
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  • Ratification Map
      Ratification Map