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Tuesday, 27 May 2014 15:18

Action plan to save the region’s ‘five-billion-dollar’ coral reefs Featured

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Dr. Kenneth Darroux, Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries and First Secretary, High Commission Australia Lydia Bezeruk after signing off on the plan. Dr. Kenneth Darroux, Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries and First Secretary, High Commission Australia Lydia Bezeruk after signing off on the plan. CRFM

ROSEAU, Dominica, May 24 (CRFM)--Caribbean fisheries ministers have agreed on an urgent action plan by CARICOM’s Climate Change and Fisheries agencies to save Caribbean coral reefs – worth an estimated five billion dollars – in a bid to stem more than 100 million dollars in annual losses to the region's economy.

The ministers and officials on the Ministerial Council of the 17-nation Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) on Friday, May 23, 2014, endorsed a Regional Coral Reef Plan of Action at the council’s eighth meeting held here at the Fort Young Hotel.

diversMore than three-quarters of Caribbean coral reefs are either severely stressed or are close to dying, due to local threats, including pollution and sediment runoff, which make them less resilient to climate change and warming waters.

Research indicates that failure to reverse the current trend will lead to annual losses of US$95 - $140 million as more reefs lose the battle to provide a home for fisheries to spawn, protect shores from waves and storm surges, and provide tourist attractions.

It is estimated that the Caribbean’s coral reefs offer the region benefits totalling US$3.1 - $4.6 billion dollars annually.

star fishThe aim of the plan is to strengthen coordinated action to protect, conserve and manage the region’s important ecosystems, said CRFM’s executive director Milton Haughton.

Haughton told ministers and other senior government representatives from Anguilla, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Jamaica, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and host country Dominica, that healthy coral reef ecosystems are critical to both the tourism and fisheries sectors and by extension, the livelihoods and well-being of coastal Caribbean communities and societies.

The preparation of the Regional Plan of Action was coordinated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, with funding and technical assistance provided by the Government of Australia and Australian Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Speaking ahead of the signing of the plan of action by Chairman of the Belize-based CRFM, Haughton said: “The overall intention of these initiatives is to ensure that the living marine resources of the region are managed and protected in such a way that they are able to make optimum sustainable contribution to the region’s economic and social development.”

Speaking at the signing, Lydia Bezeruk, First Secretary in Development Cooperation with the Trinidad-based Australian High Commission, stressed the importance of engaging stakeholders and primary users of the reef.

“It is very difficult to convince someone who has responsibility for family, who may be poor, that it’s better to save something for the future,” she said. “So it’s really a case of trying to bring about the awareness and education but also providing them with alternative livelihoods. That was a particular strategy noted in the plan as well.”

The next stage of the plan is execution and Mr. Haughton said the current challenge is funding and capacity for implementation.

“The regional Climate Change Centre has been engaged with the Germans and we’re hoping to get some initial seed funding from them to begin implementing some aspects of this plan,” he said.

Immediate past chairman of the Ministerial Council, Barbados’ Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, suggested that the CRFM needs to reposition itself in order to cushion the impact of the current economic crisis facing the Caribbean.

“The challenge to the CRFM is to make sure it adapts to its present environment in order to succeed,” he said. “This will require thinking outside the box and hence adapting to this new environment will require change in the present structure and processes in order to be successful.”

Estwick suggested that the organisation embraces current technology to cut down on the cost of communications, build and reinforce partnerships, form and develop new linkages, source more funding for training, develop appropriate infrastructures, be more flexible, act as a change agent and be part of the decision-making process.

Dominica’s Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries, Dr. Kenneth Darroux, who has succeeded Dr. Estwick as chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council, lauded the CRFM for its work.

“I must commend the CRFM Secretariat for doing a tremendous job,” he said.

 (Photos of divers and starfish courtesy ACP Fish II)

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