This is really a Christmas gift from the Government for all those (including myself!) who campaigned for years for Goat Islands to be rescued from the threat of a transhipment port. I remember my heart sinking when former Transport Minister Omar Davies stood in Parliament and referred dismissively to “two likkle lizards.” The Government’s application for the Portland Bight Protected Area, in which Goat Islands is located, to be considered as a UNESCO Biosphere area was meanwhile deferred in December 2013 by then Environment Minister Robert Pickersgill. I am thrilled to hear that this might be back on the table.
This is also a special gift for the Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) team, and Founder/CEO Diana McCaulay, who led the campaign fearlessly and steadfastly – and is stepping down later this month. A great time, too, for the new CEO Suzanne Stanley to take up the reins as JET’s new CEO. Advocates must always have reason for optimism.
Most of all, it is a victory for Jamaica’s environment, in particular the Jamaican Iguana – once considered extinct – which remains endangered and continues to be bred in captivity at Hope Zoo, before being released into the wild.
Here is JET’s press release:
December 14, 2017
Goat Islands to Be Declared a Wildlife Sanctuary; JET Celebrates
The Jamaica Environment Trust (JET) is celebrating the decision by the Urban Development Corporation (UDC) to establish the Goat Islands in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) as a wildlife sanctuary for endemic and endangered species, including the critically endangered endemic Jamaican Iguana (Cyclura collei). The decision was communicated in a letter from the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) to JET dated December 13, 2017.
NEPA has entered into a co-management arrangement with the UDC to manage the Goat Islands, which they also wish to establish as a Biosphere Reserve under UNESCO’s Biosphere Programme. In its letter to JET, NEPA also welcomes the decision by the UDC and states its intention to engage with JET and other stakeholders in developing and implementing its plans for Goat Islands, which include its development as an Ecotourism attraction.
In 2014 Goat Islands came under threat following the announcement that the Government of Jamaica (GOJ) had signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Chinese interests to construct a transhipment port at the site, which is in the PBPA. JET, along with managers of the PBPA, the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation (C-CAM), and other stakeholders launched a Save Goat Islands campaign objecting to the GOJ proposal and calling for the decision to be revoked. Then, in 2016, Jamaican Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness announced that the Goat Islands was no longer being considered for the transhipment port, and committed to protecting the area.
“We are elated to hear this news,” said Suzanne Stanley, incoming CEO of JET. “The Save Goat Islands campaign has been one of JET’s greatest successes to date under Diana’s leadership, and this is a great note on which to celebrate her retirement.”
Meanwhile, Diana McCaulay, who retires as JET’s CEO at the end of this month said, “The two Goat Islands are a very special part of our Jamaican heritage, as is the Jamaican Iguana.” She continued, “I look forward to visiting Jamaica’s newest Wildlife Sanctuary in the near future, and congratulate the Government of Jamaica for this long-awaited decision.”
Diana McCaulay – Cell: 469-1315
Suzanne Stanley – Cell: 470-4780
Jamaica Environment Trust
123 Constant Spring Road, Unit 5, Kingston 8, Jamaica