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Best Kept Environmental Practices in the Portland Bight

Published:Monday | March 2, 2015 | 12:00 AMKeisha Hill
The pristine and untapped areas of the Portland Bight Protected Area are important for the habitat of some of the island’s indigenous species including, manatees and varying species of birds and fish.
Students and environmentalists learning about the wetlands in the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) hike along the boardwalk constructed at the Wetlands Interpretation Centre in the Salt River area in Clarendon. The project is being guided by the Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation, which has responsibility for the PBPA.

Goat Islands, a cay located less than a mile off the coast of Jamaica and southwest of the Hellshire Hills, is a part of the Portland Bight Protected Area (PBPA) that is home to the biodiversity found only in Jamaica.

The PBPA is located in St Catherine and Clarendon with 520 square kilometres of land and 1,356 square kilometres of marine space - a total of 1,876 square kilometres. During a recent tour of sections of the PBPA, starting at Salt River in Clarendon, visitors observed the serene untouched habitat, seagrass beds, fish and bird sanctuaries and even caught a brief glimpse of a manatee. Just on the outskirts of the Goat Islands, and some 25 feet below sea level, was the sunken Careening Islands that went under the sea following the passage of Hurricane Ivan in 2004.

Of major concern over the years has been pollution of both freshwater and marine ecosystems in the area. However, according to Dr Olivier Langrand, executive director of the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), the pristine ecosystems indicate that the necessary work has been done to ensure conservation and sustainability.

great commitment

"There is a great commitment here for conserving the natural habitats here. Everyone is informed and a pragmatic approach has been applied and directed to getting results on the ground. This is important value not only for Jamaica but, by extension, the Caribbean. There are challenges, but we have to ensure that we reconcile development and conservation needs and find a working solution for all," Langrand said.

In just over 15 years, the CEPF has invested more than US$180 million in 80 different countries. Seven institutions, including the World Bank, Global Environmental Facility (GEF), Conservation International, the governments of Japan and France, the European Union and the McArthur Institute, have pooled resources to conserve biodiversity and natural ecosystems in biodiversity hotspots around the world.


There are 34 such hotspots in the world and the islands of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Haiti, The Bahamas, and Antigua and Barbuda. Langard and a team, including a representative of the World Bank, were among the delegates on the tour that was aimed at assessing how the money the CEPF and its donors invested in the Caribbean is being used by the NGOs.

A budget of US$6.9 million has been allocated to the Caribbean since 2010 with work being conducted in nine countries in the region, including three major areas - Jamaica, the Dominican Republic and Haiti.

"Our analysis found that these three countries have the most biodiversity in the entire Caribbean. The findings also showed that these biodiversity also have important value for the development of these countries, including generating water, protecting the shore from storm surges, and protecting the rivers and the mangroves," said Michelle Zador, grant director at the CEPF. The Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation also promotes sustainable development and conservation of the natural environment in the PBPA.