Working to help Caribbean Countries improve Life Below Water

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14

Our coastal and marine resources play an essential role in our well-being and social and economic development worldwide. The services provided for by our ecosystems are vital for maintaining livelihoods, especially for people living in coastal communities.  Livelihoods are often linked to fisheries, coastal tourism, aquaculture, marine transportation and export services.Pollution, biodiversity loss and environmental degradation continue to threaten life below water, thereby threatening the services provided by our ecosystems.

Over 80% of pollution of the Caribbean Sea comes  from  land-based  sources  harming our vital tourism, maritime and fishing industries. The Sustainable Development Goals (particularly  goal  14) is one of the most significant for Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) as they seek “to conserve and sustainably use the world’s oceans, seas and marine resources” and develop marine-based or blue economies.

The UN Environment’s Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) through the only  legally  binding    regional treaty - the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) and its three Protocols/Agreements on  Oil  Spills, Pollution & Marine Biodiversity has been supporting  countries in  the  Wider Caribbean Region since 1981 to:

  • Prevent, reduce  and control land- based and marine-based pollution;
  • Protect and preserve rare or fragile coastal and marine ecosystems; and
  • Protect vulnerable coastal and marine habitats for threatened and endangered species within the Caribbean.
  • Strengthening  policies, laws and regulations on the management of coastal and marine resources;
Map of the two Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystems

Ongoing support by UN Environment CEP to the region for SDG 14 include:

  • Improving  national    capacity    for research and monitoring of the coastal  and  marine environment;
  • Mobilizing technical  and  financial support from regional and international donors; and
  • Enabling  collaboration on transboundary issues such as Pollution, Sargassum, Marine Mammals, Fisheries, Ballast Water and Invasive Species.

The Wider Caribbean Region is one of four biodiversity hot spots with over 50% of species which are unique. According to the World Resources Institute, the value of shoreline protection services provided  by  Caribbean reefs is  between $700  million  and  $2.2  billion  per   year.  Within the next 50 years, continuing coral degradation and death could lead to losses totaling $140 million to $420 million annually.  We have worked through our regional Marine Biodiversity Agreement (Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife - SPAW Protocol) to reduce the loss of coastal and marine biological diversity and the degradation of coastal and marine habitats.

The “Biodiversity for Sustainable Development in the Caribbean Through Ecosystem-Based Management” project is one such activity that is set to conclude in 2018.  Through this project, financed by the Government of Italy, we are assisting countries to strengthen their capacity for data and information management.

Diver inspects coral reefs within the
Wider Caribbean Region

This will enable more informed decision making on managing the use of fragile coastal and marine resources initially along the north coast of the Dominican Republic. It is expected that the lessons learned in improving the management of marine protected  areas  (MPAs)  will be disseminated to other Caribbean countries in support of SDG14.

At the regional level, UN Environment CEP has worked with Caribbean Governments and regional partners to establish and designate  Marine  Protected  Areas  (MPAs) in a further effort to ensure improved management  of the region's  vital  coastal and marine resources.  Thirty-two (32) protected areas have been designated  under the Marine  Biodiversity Protocol with the most recent being the Cayos San Felipe National Park in Cuba in early 2017.

Over 50,000 square kilometers of marine protected areas have been designated throughout the Caribbean and over 50 small financial grants provided  to  local community or non-governmental organizations to improve management of marine protected areas. With a growing need for information exchange and the sharing of best practices among marine protected area managers in the region, the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network (CaMPAM) developed through UN Environment CEP facilitates training, provision of technical assistance, information sharing, collaboration, and  networking  among marine protected area managers.

This support assists Caribbean Governments to  prioritize  the conservation  and sustainable management of our oceans as a precious resource for the survival of our marine  ecosystems  and  by  extension, our future.