Sat | Aug 19, 2017

State of Marine Environment Report coming for the Caribbean

Published:Thursday | September 1, 2016 | 9:00 AM
Chris Corbin

The United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) is working to develop the Caribbean's first State of the Marine Environment Report, which should inform the response to pollution that threatens to devastate coastal and marine resources and jeopardise livelihoods.

The entity recently hosted a meeting of more than 30 national, regional and international experts from governments, research institutions and specialised agencies to flesh out the approach to and substance of the report.

The experts, who shared experiences and lessons learnt from developing similar assessment reports, met at The Knutsford Court Hotel in Kingston between August 15 and 17.

In addition to lessons learnt, they also discussed the likely methodology as well as the work plan for the development of the report.

"This meeting marked a significant advancement of efforts to assess the sources and impacts of pollution on the Caribbean Sea," noted Christopher Corbin, UNEP's programme officer with responsibility for the pollution sub-programme at the Jamaica-based secretariat.

The meeting received financial support from two regional projects funded by the Global Environment Facility - Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystem Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWEco) and the follow on Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME+).

"Both projects recognised the importance of establishing a baseline of the major types, quantities and sources of pollutants, as well as their impacts on human health, the environment and economic industries, such as fishing, tourism and maritime transportation in the region," Corbin noted.

News of the report comes at a time when more than 80 per cent of the pollution of the Caribbean Sea comes from activities on land. Those activities include deforestation, agricultural chemicals and farm waste, in addition to industrial, toxic waste, oil spills and siltation, littering and animal waste.

 

DESTRUCTIVE EFFECTS

 

"This has destructive effects on the coastal and marine environment," UNEP said in a release to the media. "Coral reefs are also at risk of pollution in the Caribbean as they have diminished by 90 per cent in recent times."

Still, despite the loss suffered, coral reefs provide US$375 million in goods and services annually to coastal economies through activities, such as tourism, fisheries and maritime transportation.

"Understanding the quantities, types and sources of pollutants will be critical to inform new policies, legislation and regulations; and ensure that negative impacts on human health and the environment are minimised," UNEP noted.

"It will also support efforts to track the region's achievement of the recently adopted Sustainable Development Goals, and in particular, Goal 6 on protecting oceans and seas," the entity added.

UNEP Caribbean Environment Programme, as Secretariat for the Cartagena Convention and Protocol on Land Based-Sources of Marine Pollution, works with Governments of the Wider Caribbean to prevent, reduce and/or control marine pollution.

The LBS Protocol has been signed by 12 countries. The recent meeting was also expected to have helped raise awareness of the importance of ratification of the protocol by other countries in the wider Caribbean region.

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