Conservation and Sustainable Use of Marine and Coastal Ecosystems

Ecosystem-Based Management

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 was 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. 

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.

See Pilot Projects details below

Proposed activities to be implemented during the 2015-2016 biennium will continue to focus on:

  • Coral reef ecosystems, the CLME+ (“Catalysing Implementation of the Strategic Action Programme (SAP) for the Sustainable Management of shared Living Marine Resources in the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems) project, and reengaging with the tourism sector. The GEF co-funded CLME+ Project (2015-2019) will contribute to creating the enabling conditions for improved and sustainable sLMR governance and management in the CLME+ region during the first 5 years of SAP implementation. (Recent outcomes of the CLMEand the Reef Biodiversity and Reef Fisheries Pilot Projects)
  • Application of the EBM principles - in collaboration with UNEP’s DEPI and the Global Capacity Building Programme on Marine & Coastal Ecosystem-based Management across Regional Seas, collaboration will be explored to develop and implement integrated marine and coastal environment and resource management solutions to maintain ecosystem services, protect biodiversity and ecosystem-based adaptation.

Main activity - a four day interactive training workshop will be held on marine and coastal ecosystem-based management, including the application of marine spatial planning frameworks and cross-sectoral engagement across environment, fisheries, energy, tourism and other sectors.  The workshop will include lectures and plenary discussion introducing EBM principles and solutions, synthesis of good practices from practical experiences, scenario-building exercises and the design of follow-up training activities and EBM demonstration projects. 

  • Conservation of mangroves - the Secretariat aims to fundraise, in coordination with UNEP-DEPI, the Ramsar Convention and other relevant organizations, to promote and develop activities relating to the conservation and sustainable use of mangroves through:
    1. Support of the development of a recommended standard mangrove sampling methodology in order to enhance the effectiveness of regional mangrove studies and pilot project.
    2. Improved country-level data on mangrove resources by SPAW Parties.
    3. Promoting mangrove conservation in the region through financial mechanisms and incentives in coordination with international policy agendas such as the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). This will include restoration of carbon credit, Blue Carbon analysis, and promote Payment for Ecosystem Services (PES).
    4. Promoting management and protection of mangroves, in particular within SPAW listed sites.
  • Sharing data across the Region and research on Sargassum

    Following the recommendation made by Contracting Parties to the SPAW Protocol during the last Conference of the Parties (2014) to ''support more research on origins, impacts and ways to control the brown algae, as well as to improve the development of models in response to the increasing incidence of such events which affect the marine environment, biodiversity and health in the region”, work and research is now on-going to address this matter through the SPAW-RAC. This is being facilitated through a number of regional initiatives in order to enhance regional cooperation and encourage collaboration and group discussions. Efforts are also being made to support more research on origins, impacts and ways to control Sargassum, as well as to improve the development of models in response to the increasing incidence of such events which affect the marine environment, biodiversity and health in the region.

    Several organizations are currently actively involved in communication and research on the issue. In particular, the University of Southern Mississippi has been monitoring Sargassum arrivals in the region since the beginning of the phenomenon through a reporting site for stranding observations. The Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute (GCFI) also released a fact sheet on the topic and also facilitated discussions and presentations on Sargassum at the 68th GCFI annual meeting in Panama City (2015).

    There is currently a Sargassum forum being maintained by the SPAW-RAC where countries can share any information on their Sargassum issue, and in particular, how it is handled locally and at the governmental level.

Progress updates from the CLME project are below:

The GEF Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) Reef Biodiversity and Reef Fisheries Pilot Project; An Update of its Major Achievements:

CLME Pilot Reef Fisheries of Biodiversity Best Practices and Lessons Learnt

CLME Pilot Reef Fisheries of Biodiversity: Final Report

CLME Caracol Joint Meeting #1

Conservation Measures Framework and Monitoring and Evaluation Plan for The Pedro Bank Management Programme - January 2013

Preparation of a Management Plan for the Pedro Cays & Surrounding Water - Final Report 

Click here for additional output on the CLME Project

Below are details on the Pilot Sites:

SeaFlower Biosphere Reserve, Colombia

   Figure 1: Map showing location of
   San Andres
Archipelago in Colombia
   Image Source Page

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.

 Project Milestones:

  • 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

Pedro Bank, Jamaica


   Figure 2: Map showing location of
   Pedro Bank in Jamaica


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.

Project Milestones:

  • 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


Montecristi National Park, Dominican Republic (Hispaniola) 


      Map showing location of Montecristi,
      Dominican Republic

      Image Source Page

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

Project Milestones:

  • 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

Additional Support

In addition to the Pilot Project, continued support to coral reef conservation is also provided by the SPAW subprogramme in collaboration with:

    1. 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.

    2. 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.

    3. 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.
    4. 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.

CLME Fact Sheets


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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 Species Annexes I, II, III 1991

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  • SPAW Factsheet

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  • SPAW Brochure

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  • SPAW Benefits Sheet

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  • Guildines for Marine Mammal Watching in the WCR
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  • Ratification Map

      Ratification Map