Caribbean Coral Reefs - Protecting a Vital Resource
The Honourable Dr Kenneth Darroux, Minister of the Environment, Natural Resources, Physical Planning and Fisheries of Dominica and Ms Lydia Bezeruk, First Secretary Development, Australian High Commission after signing off on the Coral Reef Action Plan
Caribbean coral reefs are valuable natural resources that contain a wealth of biodiversity including over 60 species of coral and 1,500 different species of fish – many of which are found nowhere else on earth. It has been estimated that coral reefs provide benefits to the region valued at between $3-5 billion annually through coastal protection, habitat for healthy fisheries as well as supporting the economically vital tourism sector. Coastal and marine ecosystems are integral to the sustainable future of the Caribbean.
But coral reefs are under threat, both globally as well as in the Caribbean: environmentally unsustainable tourism and coastal development, pollutants in the water and overfishing have taken their toll. Unfortunately, the situation is likely to deteriorate further with the accelerating effects of climate change and ocean acidification. Coral bleaching and disease outbreaks are becoming more prevalent as the world’s oceans warm and the pH of seawater decreases.
An example of coral reef bleachign in the Caribbean
The Australia-Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration was established to assist the region develop strategies to address the challenges facing coral reefs. The resultant "Improving the Outlook for Coral Reefs: A Regional Plan of Action," has been a partnership effort funded by the Australian Government with technical expertise provided by Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority (GBRMPA) and coordinated by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (5C's) in collaboration with the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).
The Regional Plan of Action was endorsed by the Ministerial Council of the 17-nation CRFM on 23 May 2014 at the Council’s 8th meeting held in Dominica.
The aim of the plan is to strengthen coordinated action to protect, conserve and manage the region’s important ecosystems. It provides a roadmap for navigating the challenges of coral reef management, including strengthening the ability of communities that are dependent on the reefs for ecosystem goods and services to protect those reefs. The ultimate goal is to achieve development which is resilient to climate change.
At the signing ceremony, Ms Lydia Bezeruk, First Secretary Development of the 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 while it’s about awareness and education, it is also about providing people with alternative livelihoods. That was a particular strategy noted in the plan.”
Strengthening the capacity of Caribbean coral reef managers, local communities and other stakeholders to tackle the issues is essential to the future of Caribbean reefs and the economic and social wellbeing that they support. The Regional Plan of Action is an important step in this effort.
For more information on the CRFM Secretariat, click here.
The Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration: Managing Coral Reefs in a Changing Climate
Coral reefs in the Caribbean are amongst the most at risk globally. Having lost 80% of its corals over the last half century, mainly due to a changing and variable climate, coastal development and pollution, the region is seeking to turn the tide.
Warming seas brought forth by climate change have contributed to corals being “bleached” – a state where the tiny polyps that build the reefs die. This is particularly problematic as coral reefs are showcases of biodiversity, centrepieces of cultural identity and sources of sustainable economic opportunity. Loss of reefs is a serious economic problem in the Caribbean, where large populations depend on fishing and tourism.
These realities are the basis for the Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration: Managing coral reefs in a changing climate. The two year programme (2012-2014) seeks to bring together coral reef managers and policymakers from across the world to improve the outlook for the Caribbean’s coral reefs.
For more information, please click here.
28th General Meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI)
The 28th General Meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative (ICRI) was held during 14-17 October 2013 in Belize City, Belize.
Australia is one of the founding members of ICRI and is the 2012-2013 co-host together with Belize . In this regard, Ambassador Ross Tysoe, AO and First Secretary Mrs Lydia Bezeruk attended the three-day workshop and conference.
A major focus of the conference was ICRI’s Call to Action: to raise global awareness of the continuing decline in the health of the world’s coral reefs.
A review of this text was conducted by the ICRI Ad Hoc Committee. The outcomes of this review, shared during the conference, led to the adoption of the “Continuing Call to Action and its associated Framework for Action. These will now guide the work of the ICRI Secretariat and Membership as they continue to address the emerging and ongoing challenges facing the sustainability of coral reefs and related ecosystems.
Framework for Action
The updated Framework is aimed at identifying mechanisms by which the Continuing Call for Action can be implemented at the local, regional and global level. These mechanisms are:
• Integrated Management
• Capacity Building
• Science and Monitoring
• Review (Periodic Assessment)
ICRI and the UN
Another key highlight of the conference was the agreement of the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) to partner with ICRI through UNEP’s Regional Seas Programme. The partnership will use coral reefs as a flagship ecosystem catalysing, enabling and supporting an ecosystem based approach to management of coastal and marine areas for food security, livelihoods and biodiversity.
Activities borne out of this partnership however will remain consistent with the ICRI all to Action and Framework for Action.
Key reports coming out of the conference and workshop include:
• The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network on Caribbean Monitoring including the involvement of Community based monitoring
• The Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network on East Asia; and
• The Report on the Dutch Caribbean which included an introduction to the Lionfish Reporting App.
On the Community based side of the workshop and conference, discussions about the management and co-management of the monitoring processes envisages with ICRI new and continuing partners dominated.
The Australian High Commission in Port of Spain takes this opportunity to thank the organising committee, country partners, international organisations present and participants for the success of this the 28th General Meeting of the International Coral Reef Initiative.
Australia Caribbean Coral Reef Collaboration here.
Regional Plan of Action here.
Collaborative Projects here.
Resources Portal here.
ICRI Report on the 28th GM here.
Additional Resources on Climate Change in the Region
Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) here.