Regional Pollution and Biodiversity Experts help the UN Caribbean Environment Programme develop its 2017-2018 Work Programme for protecting the Caribbean Sea

3rd LBS STAC & 7th SPAW STAC-31 Oct-Nov 4, 2016

Over 60 scientific and technical experts from the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR), representing Governments, Research Institutions, Intergovernmental and Non-Governmental Organizations, and the Private Sector, will meet in Miami, Florida from October 31st  - November 4th to discuss current and emerging pollution and biodiversity issues impacting the Caribbean Sea.

A series of two meetings, hosted by the Government of the United States - the Third Meeting of the Scientific Committee to the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources (LBS) (31st October - 2nd  November) and the Seventh Meeting of the Scientific Committee to the Protocol concerning Protected  Areas  and  Wildlife (SPAW)  (2nd   –  4th   November)  will  be  convened  by  UN  Environment (UNEP’s) Caribbean  Environmental Programme  in  its  capacity  as  Secretariat  to  the  Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Caribbean Sea.

These technical advisory meetings are convened every two years by the Jamaica-based Secretariat to evaluate its work over the previous biennium, review achievements and challenges, and develop the Secretariat’s next Work Plan and Budget.

According to Dr. Lorna Inniss, Coordinator of the Caribbean Environment Programme, “the region’s continued economic  development  relies  on the  sustainable  use  and  management  of  its  vulnerable coastal and marine resources, which are the basis for tourism, fisheries and coastal protection.” According to Dr. Inniss, “while the region had made some progress in pollution prevention and biodiversity protection, much more needs to be done in the area of oceans governance if we are to fully benefit from emerging blue growth opportunities”.

Financial support for these meetings has been provided by the Government of the United States and the Global Environment Facility funded Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems Project (“the UNDP/GEF CLME+ Project”, 2015-2020).  The support from the UNDP/GEF CLME+ project in particular has enabled the CEP Secretariat, for the first time, to have pollution and biodiversity experts from the region meeting together to foster more integrated management approaches and management solutions to more complex environmental challenges.

Habitat degradation, pollution and unsustainable fisheries and fishing practices, exacerbated by climate change are the main challenges for coastal and marine resources managers and are at the core for sustainable livelihoods in the region. To address these issues, more integrated approaches have been articulated in the 10-year Strategic Action Programme (“the CLME+ SAP”, 2015-2025) and its vision of having “a healthy marine environment that provides benefits and livelihoods for the well-being of its people”. This SAP has been politically endorsed by 25 countries and is being directly supported by the work of UNEP CEP along with several other regional partner agencies.

According to Mr. Christopher Corbin, Programme Officer with responsibility for the Pollution sub- programme of UNEP CEP, “the development of regional platforms for reducing pollution from solid waste and marine litter, nutrients from poor agricultural practices, and untreated wastewater has been one of the main achievements for the sub-programme”.  While expressing disappointment that Jamaica was the only new country to ratify the Pollution (LBS) Protocol during the last biennium, bringing the total number of Contracting Parties to 12 out of a total of 28, several other countries have indicated a commitment to sign.   The LBS Protocol calls on countries to reduce the negative environmental and human health impacts of land-based pollution including solid waste and sewage.

Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Programme Officer, Mrs. Alessandra Vanzella–Khouri, emphasized that “many of the pollutants from land and sea, as well as poor practices, are directly impacting on coastal and  marine  ecosystems  such  as  coral  reefs  and  mangroves.  These  sustain many  of  the  countries’ economies by providing services for tourism, fisheries and coastal protection”. Poor land use practices, overfishing and destruction of marine habitats underscores the critical need for integrated ecosystem- based approaches.   According to Mrs. Vanzella-Khouri, “such approaches are already showing direct benefits in countries like The Bahamas,   Belize, Colombia, Grenada and the USA where management and conservation tools like Marine Protected Areas and networks are effectively being implemented.” Additional countries also need to join Cartagena’s biodiversity treaty (SPAW Protocol) to ensure that regional cooperation efforts for the sustainable management of marine resources are not undermined but rather integrated and enhanced.

The 2017-2018 work plan and budget for CEP’s pollution and biodiversity sub-programmes is an ambitious one with a total budget of over USD18 million. According to Dr. Inniss, the Secretariat has already been successful in mobilizing over 60% of the resources required for implementation.  With the additional  demands  being  placed  on  Governments to  achieve  the  Sustainable  Development  Goals (SDGs) in particular Goal 14 on Oceans, the Secretariat is well placed to expand on its technical and capacity building support to its Contracting Parties and Member States and to  continue to  foster regional collaboration for the betterment of all the peoples of the Wider Caribbean Region.