Here is a letter from the Jamaica Environment Trust in response to media reports (which I commented on last Wednesday in this blog) related to a visit to Little Goat Island (only) led by Dr. Fritz Pinnock, who heads the Caribbean Maritime Institute. Below I have also posted a few photographs, to remind you of how beautiful and unspoiled the islands are.
By the way, I wrote about eco-tourism following our visit to Goat Islands last September. Our short-sighted politicians only see smoking coal chimneys and environmental destruction as “progress” and “development.” There ARE other ways. Costa Rica earned well over US$2.5 billion from eco-tourism in 2012.
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) wishes to clarify statements made recently in the Jamaica Observer and The Gleaner following a boat tour arranged by the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce along with Caribbean Maritime Institute on Sunday, June 8, 2014.
We note from articles published in both newspapers that the tour was limited to a visit to Little Goat Island and did not include Great Goat Island. It is well-known that Little Goat Island, some 300 acres in size, was the site of a US naval base. Great Goat Island, however, is about twice the size of the Little Goat Island, standing at approximately 600 acres and 100 metres in height. It is the largest island in the Portland Bight Protected Area and has never been developed. The waters surrounding Goat Islands are home to several endangered and protected species including the American Crocodile, the West Indian Manatee and sea turtles.
Environmental groups have never stated or implied that goats or iguanas currently live on Goat Island. The critically endangered Jamaican Iguana inhabited Great Goat Island until the 1940s when it was thought they became extinct. A small surviving iguana population was discovered in the 1990s in the nearby Hellshire Hills in the same Portland Bight Protected Area. Great Goat Island was designated as a proposed special conservation area for the relocation of the iguana. The island was seen as ideal due to its remote location which would protect these animals from predators. Local and international scientists, in collaboration with the University of the West Indies, the National Environment and Planning Agency and the Urban Development Corporation, have been working towards this goal for the last 10 years with substantial national and international funding. In fact, it was through this collaboration that the goats who used to roam the island were removed a few years ago.
For the last 10 years environmental groups such as the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation and the Jamaican Iguana Recovery Group have been working to establish eco-tourism attractions, conservation and regenerate Jamaica’s depleted fish stocks in this area. Little Goat Island was earmarked for development as a visitor’s and interpretation centre, not only for Great Goat Island but for the entire Portland Bight Protected Area, attracting hundreds of nature lovers and eco-tourists and providing substantial job opportunities for Jamaicans through transportation, guided tours and restaurants. Galleon Harbour, one of Jamaica’s 14 special fisheries conservation areas (formerly fish sanctuaries) declared in 2010, encompasses the mangroves that form part of the Goat Islands. CCAM has established a fisheries management programme to ensure that the area will lead to greater fish stocks for the fishermen in the area.
JET supports the establishment of a logistics hub and trans-shipment port in Jamaica. However, we question why the Government has decided that the best location for the port is Goat Islands given its protected status and designation for other uses. We support the creation of a trans-shipment port in Kingston Harbour, which is presently under expansion. We also support the call for more information to be provided to the public, in particular, about the exact scope, details and arrangements for the port and logistics hub, the type of jobs to be provided, and how many of these jobs will go to Jamaicans. The stated benefits of the port: the $1.5 billion in investment and 10,000 jobs can still be obtained if the port is built in another location.
More information is needed in order to further public debate on this issue and to evaluate suitable alternative locations and the purported benefits of the logistics hub to Jamaicans.
Jamaica Environment Trust