USAID Launches USD$12.5 mil­lion Caribbean Marine Bio­di­ver­sity Pro­gram in Car­ri­a­cou

The Star (St. Lucia) - - REGIONAL -

In an ef­fort to pro­tect crit­i­cal marine ecosys­tems and re­duce threats to the re­gion’s fish­eries and tourism sec­tors, the United States Agency for In­ter­na­tional De­vel­op­ment (USAID) has launched a USD$12.5 mil­lion Caribbean Marine Bio­di­ver­sity Pro­gram (CMBP), to pro­mote con­ser­va­tion in high pri­or­ity ar­eas across the Caribbean.

The five-year ini­tia­tive seeks to im­prove the man­age­ment of marine pro­tected ar­eas (MPAs); re­duce threats to the en­vi­ron­ment in­clud­ing coral reefs, man­groves, and sea grass beds; strengthen fish­eries man­age­ment, and pro­mote sus­tain­able liveli­hoods for coastal res­i­dents in four seascapes across five coun­tries.

Against the back­drop of the pic­turesque Grena­dine is­land of Car­ri­a­cou, United States Am­bas­sador to Bar­ba­dos, the Eastern Caribbean, and the Or­ga­ni­za­tion of Eastern Caribbean States Larry Palmer, on Au­gust 21, of­fi­cially launched the Grena­dine Bank com­po­nent of the CMBP. In re­it­er­at­ing the U.S. Gov­ern­ment’s com­mit­ment to pro­tect­ing the re­gion’s key marine ar­eas, Am­bas­sador Palmer em­pha­sized, “While we ap­pre­ci­ate the tremen­dous beauty of this Grena­dine seascape, we are very mind­ful that it is cur­rently un­der threat.”

He told his au­di­ence, which in­cluded gov­ern­ment Min­is­ters, en­vi­ron­men­tal­ists, and other key stake­hold­ers, that while the Caribbean re­gion had been de­scribed as one of the world’s most im­por­tant bio­di­ver­sity cen­ters, the re­gion’s bio­di­ver­sity was be­ing de­graded “at an alarm­ing rate,” with coral reef cov­er­age re­duced by nearly one-third since the 1980s.

“Sev­eral reef-build­ing species are acutely en­dan­gered or at risk of ex­tinc­tion. These changes have had an in­creas­ingly neg­a­tive im­pact on the abil­ity of the reefs to re­main healthy such as spawn­ing grounds and nat­u­ral bar­ri­ers that pro­tect against storm surges and sea level rise. Eco­nomic sec­tors like tourism and fish­eries, which de­pend heav­ily upon the qual­ity of the marine en­vi­ron­ment, are par­tic­u­larly af­fected,” noted Am­bas­sador Palmer.

The CMBP is pri­mar­ily funded through a USD$10 mil­lion in­vest­ment by USAID, with an ad­di­tional USD$2.5 mil­lion con­tri­bu­tion by The Na­ture Con­ser­vancy (TNC), which leads an NGO con­sor­tium charged with its im­ple­men­ta­tion. NGO part­ners will im­ple­ment var­i­ous ac­tiv­i­ties at the lo­cal and re­gional lev­els, with CARIBSAVE, and Sus­tain­able Gre­nadines work­ing in the Grena­dine Bank.

Ad­dress­ing the launch, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines’ Min­is­ter of Fish­eries, Saboto Cae­sar, said the ini­tia­tive sought to en­sure that “Mother Na­ture is pro­tected and that gen­er­a­tions to come can en­joy some of the re­sources that we en­joy to­day. In St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines we are mov­ing to­wards pri­vate/public sec­tor joint ven­ture en­ter­prises to en­sure that we fur­ther ex­plore our marine re­sources. But in our quest to de­velop as small multi-is­land states, we have to en­sure that we do not take the word ex­ploita­tion to il­log­i­cal con­clu­sions, it is very easy to do so.” he cau­tioned.

De­scrib­ing Car­ri­a­cou as “one of the few re­main­ing un­spoilt spots in the re­gion,” Gre­nada’s Fish­eries and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter, Roland Bhola, lamented that through our ev­ery­day ac­tiv­i­ties as hu­mans, we were “rapidly de­stroy­ing ” our nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment.

From left to right- Christo­pher Cush­ing, USAID Di­rec­tor; Saboto Cae­sar, St. Vin­cent and the Gre­nadines’ Min­is­ter of Agri­cul­ture, In­dus­try, Forestry, Fish­eries, and Ru­ral Trans­for­ma­tion; Roland Bhola, Gre­nada’s Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture, Lands, Forestry

and Fish­eries, and the En­vi­ron­ment; and U.S. Am­bas­sador to Bar­ba­dos, the Eastern Caribbean,

and the OECS, Larry Palmer.

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