Experts Explore New Ways to Protect Marine Mammals

Regional Experts Explore New Dimensions in Marine Mammal Conservation During a Three Day Consultation to Map Critical Marine Mammal Habitats.
Experts Explore New Ways to Protect Marine Mammals

Humpback Froggie

May 09, 2011

Miami, 9th May, 2011: Marine mammal and spatial planning experts gathered in Miami today for a three day consultation to map the critical habitats which serve as “stepping stones” in the migration routes of marine mammals along the north south corridor of the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR).  UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP), in collaboration with UNEP’s Division of Environmental Policy and Implementation, and the Regional Activity Center for the Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), convened a panel of experts in the region for the first phase of a biodiversity initiative funded by the Government of Spain.


Recognizing the importance of protected areas as a key tool for resource management and biodiversity conservation, the Government of Spain created an initiative in 2008 referred to as “LifeWeb”.  Within this framework, a strategic partnership was initiated with UNEP in 2009, with the key goal of improving the management of existing protected areas and extending the network to new areas.  The activities under this initiative in the Wider Caribbean will focus on: “Broad-Scale Marine Spatial Planning of Mammal Corridors and Protected Areas in the Wider Caribbean and Southeast and Northeast Pacific”.


As marine mammals travel across boundaries, there is a need to evaluate what tools/data sets/management strategies are needed to implement transboundary marine mammal management, and how these are distinct from those techniques used for traditional in-situ marine species conservation, while still using marine protected areas as an important management tool.


The present gathering of experts in Miami will integrate data currently available, and identify what gaps remain specific to essential habitats and regional-scale migration routes.  GIS analysis and mapping will record the key human uses and threats in these areas (fisheries impacts, shipping lanes, coastal and offshore infrastructure development, noise pollution, tourism-related activities such as whale watching, etc.), in order to enable the visualization of regional maps of marine mammal migration, critical habitats, area-based management measures and human pressures. 


This workshop responds to the priorities within the UNEP-CEP coordinated Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals in the WCR, which was adopted by Governments of the region in 2008. The partnership with LifeWeb aims to improve knowledge on marine mammals distribution and threats, as well as   the capacity, governance and sustainability of marine protected areas to help conserve these populations in the WCR.  This workshop will be followed by regional training and learning-exchanges on integrated marine management, policy framework development and institutional strengthening, and the elaboration of communication strategies for stakeholder outreach.


One strategy for “making the case” for trans boundary marine mammal management will be to apply integrated marine spatial planning and management approaches and tools in a demonstration project at the Silver Bank Whale Sanctuary in the Dominican Republic.  Building on work in the Dominican Republic protecting humpback whale habitats as part of a regional corridor, this pilot will involve local planners, scientists and decision-makers from relevant line-ministries in the management of critical marine mammal habitats and migration routes across jurisdictional boundaries.


Explaining the relevance of the workshop, Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Senior Programme Officer of the Caribbean Environment Programme’s SPAW sub-programme said: “this activity is the first major attempt to compile, analyze and map existing data and information on marine mammals   in the region, in order to identify critical habitats which must be protected to assist with the conservation of some of the most vulnerable populations. Given their highly migratory patterns, their endangered status, their dependency on very specific breeding and feeding habitats, as well as the important economic contribution of the whale-watching activity to some of our countries,   this type of analysis and outreach is critical for their long-term conservation”


For further information, please contact:


Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri
Programme Officer
Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW)
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP)
Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit (CAR/RCU)
Tel: (876) 922-9267  Fax: (876) 922-9292 



About UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP)

Recognizing the importance and value for the sustainable development of the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) of its fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems, including an abundant and mainly endemic flora and fauna, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) in 1976 under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme.


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 only regionally binding treaty of its kind that seeks to protect and develop sustainably the marine environment of the WCR. Since its entry into force on 11 October 1986, 25 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 (LBS), which entered into force on August 13, 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. UNEP-CAR/RCU focuses on combating marine pollution and protecting biodiversity by facilitating the implementation of the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols in the Wider Caribbean Region.