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Ocean preservation key to Caribbean resilience - World Bank report

Published:Thursday | September 15, 2016 | 12:00 AM

A new World Bank report examines how the Caribbean's transition to a 'blue economy' can generate growth while helping countries gain greater resilience with better ocean preservation.

"The Caribbean Sea represents a tremendous economic asset for the region not only in terms of high-value natural resources such as fish stocks, oil, and gas, but also as a global hotspot for marine diversity and tourism," said Pawan Patil, World Bank senior economist and co-author of the report.

"Maintaining ocean health is synonymous with growing ocean wealth, and finding this balance is how we'll be able to better invest in the Caribbean blue economy," he added.

The report, Toward a Blue Economy: A Promise for Sustainable Growth in the Caribbean, estimates that Caribbean waters generated US$407 billion in 2012, which represents more than 17 per cent of Caribbean GDP, including mainland countries.

This amount mainly comes from cargo shipped through Caribbean waters, tourism, and oil and gas production. In recent years, revenues from aquaculture have risen but declined for open sea capture fisheries.

The promise of growth is accompanied by increasing threats to the ocean environment.




About 166 million people in the Caribbean live within 100km of the sea. Tourists come to the region largely for its beautiful beaches and sea attractions, which puts tremendous pressure on the very coastal ecosystems that drive economies.

Some 75 per cent of the region's coral reef is considered to be at risk from human activity and 85 per cent of wastewater enters the Caribbean Sea untreated.

"The report highlights the opportunities offered by the Caribbean blue economy and identifies priority areas for action that can generate blue growth and opportunities for all Caribbean people, while ensuring that oceans and marine ecosystems are sustainably managed and used," said Sophie Sirtaine, World Bank country director for the Caribbean.

The authors highlight 10 principles for investments in a Caribbean blue economy and provide a framework for policymakers to set smart policy and measure economic and environmental benefits.

Report recommendations include eco labels to promote sustainable fishing practices and aquaculture; offshore winds and other marine renewable energy systems; and environmentally friendly coastal hotels.

In the Eastern Caribbean, Grenada is the first country to develop a vision for blue growth as the country's future and has become a leader in the fight against climate change. It has successfully developed a high-value seafood export business to the US and nearby Martinique.

The report also suggests key priorities to help countries move towards a blue economy and broaden opportunities for the Caribbean people, while improving ocean health. They include:

- Strengthening regional and national policies to better coordinate and monitor coastal and ocean management across sectors such as fisheries, tourism, transport, energy, and environment; and

- Implementing smart policies to promote a healthy, resilient, and productive marine environment, as well as build resilient infrastructure.

The analysis was conducted in collaboration with The Commonwealth Secretariat, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States, and the Nicholas Institute for Environmental Policy Solutions at Duke University.