Eastern Caribbean Countries to Protect 100,000 Hectares of Fragile Marine Ecosystems

Press Release / Washington, August 4, 2011 — The Global Environment Facility (GEF) has given US$8.75 million grant to ensure the long-term conservation and sustainable management of fragile marine ecosystems in the Eastern Caribbean, including the protection of over 100,000 hectares of marine habitat.

The Sustainable Financing and Management of Eastern Caribbean Marine Ecosystem Project establish conservation trust funds to provide reliable and consistent sources of funding for biodiversity preservation. It will also promote collaboration among participating countries (including governments, communities, NGOs, and the private sector) to facilitate marine and coastal conservation, protect near shore areas, and support a regional monitoring and information network.

The project will benefit Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines. This initiative is part of a larger regional effort called the Caribbean Challenge launched in 2008 by the Caribbean countries, which seeks to legally protect 20 percent of near shore areas by 2020.

“Eastern Caribbean countries recognize the importance of protected areas as a means to conserve biodiversity,” said E. Crispin d'Auvergne, Chief Sustainable Development & Environment Officer for the Government of Saint Lucia. “This project will provide the countries with predictable long-term financing, minimizing disruptions in the planning and management of these important habitats.”

The Eastern Caribbean is among the top five global biodiversity hot spots in the world due to its marine and coastal ecosystems. While these ecosystems are essential to the tourism and agriculture sector and the overall economy of the Eastern Caribbean, they are overexploited and under-protected. Key threats include increases in exotic invasive species, poorly planned and regulated coastal development, solid and liquid waste dumping by cruise ships/hotels/resorts, and unsustainable extraction of natural resources such as overfishing and sand harvesting for construction.

Specifically, the project will:

  • Facilitate the establishment and capitalization of a regional biodiversity fund (the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund) as well as national level trust fund for protected areas.
  • Demarcate over 100,000 hectares of marine habitat, thus contributing to the participating governments’ ambitious goal of legally protecting 20 percent of near shore areas by 2020.
  • Implement a regional monitoring and information system to facilitate regional monitoring of biophysical and social economic indicators in protected areas.

The project has a total cost of US$18.87 million, including co-financing from the Governments of Grenada, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, the OECS Secretariat, The Nature Conservancy, the German Development Bank, and the GEF. The GEF has provided this grant through the World Bank. The project will be executed by The Nature Conservancy on behalf of the participating countries.