Regional Governments set new agenda for protection of the Caribbean Sea

#CEPIGM17, Cayenne, French Guiana

Meeting Background

French Guiana will, for the first time, host a meeting of Contracting  Parties  to  the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development  of  the  Marine  Environment  of the Wider Caribbean Region from 15th-17th March 2017. This  Convention  is  the  only legally binding environmental treaty for protecting the Caribbean Sea. It is supported by two other regional agreements on marine biodiversity and land-based pollution.

Over 50 experts, representing Governments, Non-Governmental Organisations, donors and regional technical agencies, are expected to attend. Participants will review the activities of the Jamaica- based Cartagena Convention Secretariat and make decisions on priorities and future strategic directions.

Reducing Pollution of the Caribbean Sea

Pollution from land-based sources and activities continues to negatively impact human health, the environment and economic opportunities in the region.   Many Governments have taken positive steps to address marine pollution:

  • The Governments of Jamaica and Costa Rica ratified the pollution agreement or LBS Protocol of the Cartagena Convention in 2015 and 2016 respectively, bringing the total number of Contracting Parties to 13.

  • The Governments of Panama, Costa Rica, Saint Lucia, Grenada and France – all Contracting Parties to the LBS Protocol, made commitments under the #CleanSeas Campaign to eliminate marine litter.

  • The Governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana, and Aruba committed to ban, reduce and/or restrict items such as single-use plastics, styrofoam and used tyres.

Despite these efforts, the Caribbean Sea continues to be polluted by run-off of agro-chemicals, solid waste and sewage.  Ocean acidification and new contaminants such as hormones, microplastics, pharmaceuticals and sunscreen lotions will require urgent attention.

Protecting our Natural Assets

Caribbean reefs will be lost within 20 years without protection.”   Headlines such as this are unfortunately  being  featured  with  increased  frequency.    The  marine  biodiversity  agreement  or SPAW Protocol of the Cartagena Convention highlights the need to sustainably use marine resources on which Caribbean economies depend. Coral reefs, for example, are vital for coastal tourism and fisheries. The biodiversity Protocol assists regional governments to protect marine ecosystems and wildlife while ensuring sustainable economic development.

The SPAW Protocol has provided assistance not only to protect marine wildlife but also to respond to new issues such as the recent massive influx of  the Sargassum seaweed which has affected tourism and fisheries throughout the region.

Caribbean governments have taken some very important steps in recent years under the SPAW Protocol including:

  • Protecting four species of corals through a regional cooperation mechanism;

  • Strengthening marine protected areas and including 32 of them within a regional cooperation programme;

  • Establishing sanctuaries for marine mammals  and  participating in a sister sanctuary programme;and

  • Developing tools to support decision-making for a more integrated approach to marine ecosystems management.

Improving Sewage Management

When the pollution Protocol was signed in 1999, regional  governments identified untreated or partially treated sewage as the number one source of pollution to the Caribbean Sea. Almost 20 years later, the management of sewage remains a significant challenge for regional governments.

The   Global   Environment   Facility   (GEF)   funded   Caribbean   Regional   Fund   for   Wastewater Management (CReW)  Project is an integrated and innovative approach to reducing wastewater challenges in the region. It was developed by the Inter-American Development Bank and UN Environment and its regional implementation agency is the Cartagena Convention Secretariat. The project served 13 countries in the Wider Caribbean Region and will complete all activities by mid-2017.

Some of the CReW project’s main achievements include:

  • New wastewater policies, laws and regulations;
  • New sustainable financing mechanisms;
  • Upgraded wastewater treatment systems;
  • Improved technical capacity in the wastewater sector; and
  • Increased awareness of the importance of wastewater management.

These and other achievements will be showcased during one of the side-events in French Guiana.

Ministerial Commitments

Worldwide, Governments and UN Organizations have recently adopted several commitments including: 

  • Sustainable Development Goal 14 on Oceans,

  • Sustainable Development Goal 6 on Water and Sanitation,

  • Improving Oceans Management and Reducing Pollution as part of the UN Environment #CleanSeas Campaign.

The Government of France will convene a High Level Meeting of Ministers from the Wider Caribbean Region in recognition of these and other global commitments. This meeting, the first of its kind to be held in association with the Conference of Contracting Parties, is expected to help gain additional political support for ratification and implementation of the Cartagena Convention and its Protocols. This Ministerial Session will take place on March 17th in French Guiana.

This press release can be downloaded here.