Protect Your Coastlines and Seas from Pollution, Experts Urge Regional Governments

Living as we do on our respective islands and countries bordering the Caribbean Sea, we must realize by now the importance of protecting our vulnerable coastlines. We may not be always aware of our marine biodiversity, however – the incredible variety of species that live beneath the waves and are less visible;  but their fate is closely linked to our ability (or lack of it) to control pollution. Two recent and very important scientific meetings in Miami discussed the issues of both pollution and biodiversity. Here is the press release from the United Nations Environment Program/Caribbean Environment Program, which serves as the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Caribbean Sea. It outlines the experts’ recommendations to governments of the Wider Caribbean Region, going forward. PLEASE NOTE: I have included a link to the full UN report on Marine Debris, launched three days ago at the UN Biodiversity Conference, below.

United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Environment Programme.
United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) Caribbean Environment Programme.

December 8, 2016

Joint Meeting of Pollution and Biodiversity Experts from Latin America and the Caribbean highlight importance of protecting the region’s coastal and marine resources

  • Governments encouraged to intensify efforts to prevent pollution and reduce marine biodiversity loss in the Wider Caribbean Region.
  • Marine Litter, Sewage and Agrochemical run-off identified as the major pollutants impacting human health and the environment
  • Countries to submit proposals of marine protected areas and species for inclusion in future marine conservation efforts

    Kingston, Jamaica:  Experts representing the Pollution and Marine Biodiversity sub-programmes of the Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention encouraged Regional Governments to prevent pollution and reduce marine biodiversity loss.The most recent United Nations Report notes previous research that places the cost of pollution caused by marine debris at US$13 billion. Pollution of the Caribbean Sea from land-based sources and activities is negatively impacting human health and job security by poisoning and killing fish; damaging mangroves and coral reefs. Ultimately, it is affecting the development of the Wider Caribbean Region, which is heavily dependent on tourism.

  • Pollution and biodiversity experts meeting in Miami to find ways to protect the Caribbean Sea. (Photo: UNEP)
    Pollution and biodiversity experts meeting in Miami to find ways to protect the Caribbean Sea. (Photo: UNEP)

     

     

    Over 60 scientific and technical experts from the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) met in Miami, Florida at the Third Meeting of the Scientific Committee to the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources (LBS STAC3, 31st October – 2nd November) and the Seventh Meeting of the Scientific Committee to the Protocol concerning Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW STAC7, 2nd – 4th November). The meetings were convened by the UN Environment Caribbean Environmental Programme (CEP) as Secretariat to the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Development of the Caribbean Sea. They were both hosted by the Government of the United States of America and received financial support from the Global Environment Facility funded projects, Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems Project (“the UNDP/GEF CLME+ Project”, 2015-2020) and the Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management (CReW)’.

    “The opportunity to have both pollution and biodiversity experts share their experiences in the first joint technical meeting of their respective protocols will assist countries in meeting the UN Sustainable Development Goals related to Oceans in a more integrated manner,” said Dr. Lorna Inniss, Coordinator of the Caribbean Environment Programme based in Jamaica. She expressed gratitude to all the Governments of the Wider Caribbean Region for their financial contributions to the work of the Secretariat. A total of US$1,053,574.00 was paid to the Caribbean Trust Fund representing 30% of the total contributions from 33 countries and territories at the end of 2015. The financial contributions are critical for the Secretariat to continue to provide countries with financial and technical support for protecting the Caribbean Sea and its resources.

The meeting identified marine litter, sewage and agricultural run-off – including pesticides and fertilizers – as three of the major pollutants negatively impacting human health and the environment. The need for further research on microplastics and their impacts on human health and the environment was particularly highlighted.

Plastic debris comes in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimeters in length are called “microplastics.” They come from a variety of sources, including from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. In addition, microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny pieces are entering the marine ecosystem, being ingested by fish and other creatures.
Plastic debris comes in all shapes and sizes, but those that are less than five millimeters in length are called “microplastics.” They often come from larger plastic debris that degrades into smaller and smaller pieces. Microbeads, a type of microplastic, are very tiny pieces of manufactured polyethylene plastic that are added as exfoliants to health and beauty products, such as some cleansers and toothpastes. These tiny pieces are entering the marine ecosystem, being ingested by fish and other creatures.

Mr. Christopher Corbin, Programme Officer with responsibility for the Pollution sub-programme of UNEP CEP said: “The recent ratification of the Land Based Sources of Marine Pollution Protocol by the Government of Jamaica in 2015 reflected the continued political commitment to control, reduce and prevent marine pollution by countries.” However, given that only 12 out of 28 countries have ratified to date, experts recommended that Regional Governments should make ratification a high priority to enhance regional cooperation efforts for addressing pollution.

Coastal and Marine Biodiversity Programme Officer, Mrs. Alessandra Vanzella–Khouri encouraged countries to submit proposals for any new marine protected areas and species that should be conserved. Regional experts recommended that certain species of sharks, rays and the Nassau grouper in particular be conserved. Another key recommendation was the need to mainstream biodiversity and pollution within existing Government policies, programmes and plans.

The meeting recommendations will be presented to the next Conference of Parties to the Cartagena Convention and the Pollution and Biodiversity Protocols scheduled to take place in March 2017 for approval. These meetings are also expected to approve the draft 2017-2018 work plan and budget for the Cartagena Convention Secretariat and set the strategic direction and priorities for the next two years.

Tractor tyre washed up on a beach in Belize. A baby mangrove has started to grown on it. (Photo: UNEP)
Tractor tyre washed up on a beach in Belize. A baby mangrove has started to grown on it. (Photo: UNEP)

UN Environment –CaribbeanEnvironment Programme (CEP)

The UN Environment established the Caribbean Environment Programme (CEP) in 1981 under the framework of its Regional Seas Programme. It was developed taking into consideration the importance and value of the Wider Caribbean Region’s fragile and vulnerable coastal and marine ecosystems, including an abundance of mainly endemic flora and fauna. 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 first and only regionally binding treaty of its kind in the Caribbean that seeks to protect and develop the marine environment of the WCR. Since its entry into force on 11 October 1986, 25 of the 28 Wider Caribbean Region 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 Marine Biodiversity/ 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.

    Each Protocol is supported by a technical Regional Activity Centre (RAC). These centres are based in Curacao (Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre for the Wider Caribbean, RAC/REMPEITC) for the Oil Spills Protocol; in Guadeloupe (SPAW RAC for the SPAW Protocol; and in Cuba, Centre of Engineering and Environmental Management of Coasts and Bays and Trinidad & Tobago, the 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 the Caribbean Environment Programmeand is based in Kingston, Jamaica.

    For more information: http://www.cep.unep.org

    CLME+ Project

    The UNDP/GEF CLME+ Project is a 5-year project (2015-2020) implemented by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and co-financed by the Global Environment Facility (GEF). The CLME+ Project is executed by the United Nations Office for Project Services (UNOPS), in close collaboration with a large number of global, regional and national-level partners. The regional Project Coordination Unit is located within the IOCARIBE Offices of the IOC of UNESCO, in Cartagena, Colombia.

    For more information: http://www.clmeplus.org; http://www.undp.org; http://www.thegef.org

    CONTACT INFORMATION

    To find out more about the work of UNEP CAR-RCU, the Cartagena Convention and its Oil Spills, SPAW and LBS Protocols, please visit our website at http://www.cep.unep.org.

    We are also on Facebook at: https://www.facebook.com/UNEP-Caribbean-Environment-Programme, Twitter at: https://twitter.com/UNEP_CEP, and Youtube at: https://www.youtube.com/user/CEPUNEP/featured

    For more information, please contact:

    Mr. Christopher Corbin
    Officer in Charge of Communications UNEP CAR/RCU
    14-20 Port Royal Street
    Kingston, JAMAICA
    Telephone: 1(876) 922-9267-9, Fax:1 (876)922-9292, Email: cjc@cep.unep.org

Solid waste pollution in Rae Town, Kingston Harbour. (My photo from 2014)
Solid waste pollution in Rae Town, Kingston Harbour. (My photo from 2014)

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