Caribbean Governments Gain New Legal Weapon In Combat Against Marine Pollution

In the wake of the Deepwater Horizon disaster, the world’s largest accidental marine oil spill, countries from the States and Territories bordering the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico recently demonstrated their political commitment to the protection of the marine environment from land-based sources and activities, by bringing into force the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution Protocol, known as LBS.
Caribbean Governments Gain New Legal Weapon In Combat Against Marine Pollution

untreated sewage and garbage continue to enter the Caribbean Sea impacting negatively on human health

Montego Bay, Jamaica Oct 14, 2010

During the 14th Intergovernmental Meeting (IGM) of the Secretariat to the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention), held in Montego Bay, Jamaica from 6th to 9th October, the Government of the Bahamas announced that documents for accession to the Cartagena Convention, Oil Spills and the LBS Protocols had been deposited in Colombia on 11th June, bringing the total of countries which have ratified the LBS Protocol to 9, the number needed for entry into force.  Bahamas thus joins Trinidad and Tobago, Panama, United States, France, Belize, Saint Lucia, Antigua and Barbuda and Guyana as full Parties to the LBS Protocol.

Delegates in attendance from over 23 Wider Caribbean governments congratulated the Bahamas for ratifying the LBS Protocol, and thanked the Secretariat to the Convention, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP/CAR-RCU), for its tireless support to the efforts by countries to ratify the Convention and all of its Protocols.

The only regional legal framework for the protection and sustainable development of the Caribbean Sea, the Cartagena Convention includes the Oil Spills Protocol, which has been in force since 1996, the SPAW Protocol in force since 2000, and the LBS Protocol, adopted in 1999, but not in force until now.  The LBS Protocol provides guidance to prevent and reduce the staggering 80% of global marine pollution originating from land based sources and activities such as domestic sewage, and agricultural run-off.

The LBS Protocol provides the framework for addressing pollution based on national and regional needs and priorities, focusing on addressing the sources of pollution.  The main text of the Protocol lists general obligations for the Parties to the Protocol, including establishing legally binding effluent limitations for domestic sewage, and developing plans for the reduction and control of agricultural non-point sources.  

The recent announcement at the 14th IGM by the Government of the Bahamas not only sets the stage for the entry into force of the LBS Protocol, but also indicates a new phase of activity for the Cartagena Convention Secretariat.  UNEP/CAR-RCU’s activities will shift in focus from preparing countries for ratification to assisting countries with implementation of LBS.  On becoming a Party to the LBS Protocol, the member country can request the assistance of UNEP/CAR-RCU and other specialized agencies in the region to build national capacity.  Identifying financial and technical support for wastewater management, recreational water quality monitoring, and the revision of legislation and regulations on pollution prevention, reduction and control are just a few of the areas in which the Secretariat will provide support.

Speaking on behalf of the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention, Mr. Nelson Andrade Colmenares, who has been Coordinator of the Caribbean Environment Programme since 1996, affirmed: “Who can doubt the continuing importance of safeguarding the marine environment, when untreated sewage and garbage continue to enter the Caribbean Sea impacting negatively on human health, fisheries, tourism and the environment.  The Cartagena Convention and its Protocols continue to provide Governments of  the Wider Caribbean Region with a valuable legal framework within which to combat marine pollution and conserve biodiversity.  Having the LBS Protocol enter into force signals a new era of cooperation among all our member states, and a renewed strengthening of their commitment to preserving our Caribbean marine environment for future generations.  At the Secretariat, we join in this effort, and will continue to design and implement the most appropriate programmes, activities and initiatives to address the ever-increasing complexity of marine and coastal management in the Wider Caribbean.”

For further information, please contact:

Chris Corbin
Programme Officer
Assessment and Management of Environmental Pollution (AMEP)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU)
Tel: (876) 922-9267  Fax: (876) 922-9292
Mobile: (876) 363-3005


About UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP)

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) in 1976 under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme. It was developed on the importance and value of the Wider Caribbean Region’s fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems including an abundant and mainly endemic flora and fauna.

A Caribbean Action Plan was adopted by the Countries of the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) and that led to the development and adoption of the Cartagena Convention on 24 March 1983. This Convention is the first regionally binding treaty of its kind that seeks to protect and develop the marine environment of the WCR. Since its entry into force on 11 October 1986, 24 of the 28 WCR countries have become contracting parties.


The Convention is supported by three protocols:

  • Protocol concerning Cooperation in combating Oil Spills, which entered into force on October 11, 1986;

  • Protocol concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), which entered into force on June 18, 2000.

  • Protocol concerning Pollution from Land-based sources and activities, which will enter into force in 2010.


In addition, each Protocol is served by a Regional Activity Centre. These Centers are based in The Netherlands Antilles (Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Center for the Wider Caribbean, RAC/REMPEITC) for the Oil Spills Protocol; in Guadeloupe (RAC/SPAW) for the SPAW Protocol and in Cuba (Centre of Engineering and Environmental Management of Coasts and Bays) and Trinidad & Tobago (Institute of Marine Affairs) both for the LBS Protocol.

The Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP-CAR/RCU), established in 1986, serves as the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention and is based in Kingston, Jamaica. As they endeavour to protect the Caribbean Sea and sustain our future, we look forward to their continued effort to combat marine pollution by facilitating the implementation of the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols in the Wider Caribbean Region.