CARICOM Secretariat on the occasion of World Oceans Day, June 8th 2019
Article by the CARICOM Secretariat’s Sustainable Development Unit
The International Community will mark World Oceans Day on June 8th under the theme “Together we can protect and restore our oceans”.
This theme resonates with the spirit of the Revised Treaty of collective effort for the benefit of all Caribbean people. Ocean management should be no different. The importance of the Caribbean marine environment has been exemplified on several occasions globally through United Nations General Assembly resolutions, widespread adoption of the Cartagena Convention, MARPOL Special Area designation and more recently with the establishment of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem projects.
CARICOM Member States have begun to focus their attention beyond their coasts and across their EEZ for growth and development opportunities. It is a way of transforming typical small island disadvantages into large ocean-space opportunities. These opportunities include further developing fisheries, alternative energy production, nature tourism, oil and gas, and increasing benefits from other coastal and ocean services such as carbon sequestration.
Existing initiatives such as the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME+) Project and the Eastern Caribbean Regional Ocean Policy that seek to strategize and harmonizing ocean for collective ocean management to address transboundary threats to its productivity and its valuable services are to be commended. In coming months, stakeholders from across Latin America and the Caribbean will deliberate over a governance framework for the management of the Caribbean Sea and North Brazil Shelf, a framework that is balanced and inclusive.
Credit must also be given to the recent articulation of a strategic work programme for the harmonized input and efforts of civil society groups in managing our coasts and oceans. These initiatives exemplify the theme of “together we can”.
It is evident that a concerted effort at the regional and national levels will be needed to provide greater buy-in to address the issues identified. Of note is the regional – Integrating Water, Land and Ecosystems Management in Caribbean Small Island Developing States (IWECO) Project is advancing regional measures to improve ridge-to-reef approaches to management. Importantly, it has a large component of national projects planned and executed by Member States.
While these initiatives are positive, we are still concerned by the data which informs us that five trillion plastic bags are used each year and one million plastic bottles are bought each minute. Recent studies have comprehensively examined the negative impacts to the oceans globally and in the Caribbean Sea. The priority areas to address for the region include habitat degradation, overfishing and marine pollution. Alarming statistics about land-based sources of plastic pollution have sparked policy and legislative changes across the Caribbean.
There is still much work to be done and cooperation at the regional, hemispheric and international level is needed more than ever. Opportunities such as World Oceans Day are important in catalyzing and reigniting public discourse, public awareness and concrete actions across society to protect our Caribbean Sea as the source of our Caribbean livelihoods and as a tremendous influence on our cultural identity.
CARICOM Secretariat, Sustainable Development Unit
8 June 2019