Tag Archive | conservation

Jamaica’s Drought Tool Could Turn the Table on Climate Change

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by IPS on  January 13, 2016  
On a very dry November 2013, Jamaica’s Meteorological Service made its first official drought forecast when the newly developed Climate Predictability Tool (CPT) was used to predict a high probability of below average rainfall in the coming three months.

By February, the agency had officially declared a drought in the eastern and central parishes of the island based on the forecasts. July’s predictions indicated that drought conditions would continue until at least September.

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Parched cracked ground

Said to be the island’s worst in 30 years, the 2014 drought saw Jamaica’s eastern parishes averaging rainfall of between 2 and 12 per cent, well below normal levels. Agricultural data for the period shows that production fell by more than 30 per cent over 2013 and estimates are that losses due to crop failures and wild fires amounted to one billion dollars.

Jamaica’s agricultural sector accounts for roughly seven per cent of the island’s gross domestic product (GDP) and employs about 20 per cent of its workforce.

The Met Service’s, Glenroy Brown told IPS, “The CPT was the main tool used by our Minister (of Water, Land, Environment & Climate Change) Robert Pickersgill throughout 2015 to advise the nation on the status of drought across the island .”

It was also used but the National Water Commission (NWC) to guide its implementation of island-wide water restrictions.

A technician with Jamaica’s Met Service, Brown designed and implemented the tool in collaboration with Simon Mason, a climate scientist from Columbia University’s International Research Institute (IRI) for Climate and Society with funding from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

“The tool provides a Windows package for constructing a seasonal climate drought forecast model, producing forecasts with updated rainfall and sea surface temperature data,” he explained.

The innovation was one of the first steps in building resilience under Jamaica’s national climate policy. It provides drought-monitoring forecasts that allows farmers to plan their planting around dry periods and has been “tailored for producing seasonal climate forecasts from a general circulation model (GCM), or for producing forecasts using fields of sea-surface temperatures,” Brown said.

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater

Farmers in the Hills above Kingston depend on rainwater. Most small farms on the island are rain-fed.

The tool combines a number of applications including Google Earth and localised GIS maps, to generate one to five day forecasts that are country and location specific. The information is broken down and further simplified by way of colour-coded information and text messages for the not so tech-savvy user.

The tool designed by Brown and Mason also incorporated IRI’s own CPT (designed by Mason) that was already being used by Caribbean countries with small meteorological services and limited resources, to produce their own up-to-date seasonal climate forecasts. The new tool combined data on recent rainfall and rainfall predictions to provide a forecast that focused specifically on drought.

“It was important for us to design a system that addressed Jamaica’s needs upfront, but that would also be suitable for the rest of the region,” Mason noted.

The scientists explained, “Because impact of a drought is based on the duration of the rainfall” and not only the amount of rainfall, looking forward is not enough to predict droughts because of factors related to accumulation and intensification.

“What we’re doing is essentially putting a standard three-month rainfall forecast in context with recent rainfall measurements,” Mason, told USAID’s publication Frontlines last May. He noted that if below-normal rainfall activity was recorded during an unusually dry period, indications were there was a “fairly serious drought” ahead.

Sheldon Scott from Jamaica’s Rural Agricultural Development Authority (RADA) told IPS that farmers who used the SMS information were able to avoid the worse effects of the drought.

“The impacts were visible in relation to farmers who used the information and others who didn’t, because those who did were able to manage the mitigating factors more effectively,” he said.

During the period, more than 500 farmers received text alerts and about 700,000 bulletins were sent to agricultural extension officers.

Among the farmers who signed up for text messaging service, Melonie Risden told Frontlines, “The information we received from the Met office gave us drought forecasts in terms of probabilities. We still decided to plant because we were fortunate to have access to the river and could fill up water drums ahead of time in anticipation of the drought.”

Risden lost the corn she planted on the 13-acre property in Crooked River, Clarendon, one of the parishes hardest hit by the drought with only two per cent of normal rainfall, but was able to save much of the peas, beans and hot peppers.

Six months after Jamaica’s Met Service made its ground-breaking forecast, the CIMH presented the first region-wide drought outlook at the Caribbean Regional Climate Outlook Forum in Kingston. Now 23 other Caribbean and Central American countries are using the tool to encourage climate change resilience and inform decision-making.

“Regionally the tool is now a standard fixture across several countries within the region, including the Dominican Republic, Cuba and Haiti. This regional effort is coordinated by the CIMH,” Brown said.

Back in Jamaica, the tool is being hailed “a game-changer” in the climate fight by Jeffery Spooner head of the Met Service, who described the CPT as “an extremely important tool in Climate Change forecasting and specifically for the agricultural – including fisheries- and water sectors for rainfall projection .”

The CPT is now also used to provide regular monthly bulletins that are published by the Meteorological Service on their web site http://www.jamaicaclimate.net. RADA has also continued to use the CPT in its extension service, to enhance the ability of farmers’ and other agricultural interests to improve water harvesting, planting and other activities.

Since most of the island’s small farms depend on rainfall, more farmers – including those with large holdings – are using the information to better manage water use and guide their activities, Scott said.

Local and intentional scientists have linked the extreme atmospheric conditions related to the droughts affecting Jamaica and the region to the persistent high-pressure systems that has prevented the formation of tropical cyclones to global warming and climate change.

Drought-map_-629x432

Image from the Jamaica Weather website shows areas likely to have less rainfall

Across the agricultural sector, Jamaica continues to feel the impacts of drought and the challenges are expected to increase with the climate change. In a 2013 agricultural sector support analysis, the Inter-American Development Bank estimated, low impact on extreme climate events on Jamaica’s agriculture sector by 2025 could reach 3.4 per cent of “baseline GDP” annually.

In fact, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change Synthesis Report (AR5) pointed to tools like the CPT to mitigate the impacts of climate change. Its importance to Jamaica’s and the region’s food security and water sector cannot be overlooked.

In addition to adaptation for the water sector, the CPT is being modified to provide early warning indicators for wind speeds and coral bleaching among among other applications, said the report.

And as showers of blessings cooled the land and brought much relief in the closing months of the year, CPT shows the drought could well be over.

(End)

 

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Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

The following was published by IPS on Dec 10, 2015

by Zadie Neufville

Jimmi Jones and wife Sandra Lee’s fish farm in Belize City is unique. His fish tanks supply the water and nutrients  his vegetable garden needs and the plants filter the water that is recycled back to the tanks.

Jones has been showing off the “JimSan Aquaponics” style of organic farming in meetings across the Caribbean to support efforts by the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) in promoting aquaculture as a food security option in combatting global climate change.

As global warming increases sea temperatures, wild catch fishery could decline by as much as 50 per cent, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has warned. Warming seas are expected to devastate regional fisheries by shifting the travel routes of pelagic fish and the distribution of high-value species while causing die offs of many other popular marine species.

A Sept 2015 study from the University of British Columbia noted that warmer seas could alter the distribution of many marine species and worsen the effects of pollution, over-fishing and degraded habitats, resulting in economic fallouts worldwide.

To ensure food security, the CRFM, the regional body responsible for the responsible use of regional resources, is promoting aquaculture as part of a range of initiatives to build climate-resilient fisheries. A five-year plan has been drafted by the Secretariat and a working group established to guide the process.

The CRFM strategy is among activities the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Cooperation (CTA) proposed to lessen the impacts of climate change on small-scale producers.

Jones’ aquaponics operation illustrates how aquaculture can help farmers, particularly small subsistence fish and food farmers, to boost their family income while providing adequate food and protein for the table.

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

Sandra Jones reaping vegetables for sale

With modifications, this method of aquaculture can be applied on large or small operations; it reduces water use by 90 per cent while allowing farmers to produce up to 10 times more vegetables than terrestrial plots within the same footprint, while eliminating the need for pesticides and other chemicals. The addition of renewable energy systems could further reduce production costs.

“In essence you feed the fish, they produce waste, the waste goes through a bacterial process that breaks it down from ammonia to nitrate, which is basically plant food, along with other processes that happen. You’re growing fish and vegetables using the same infrastructure; the water goes through a filtration system and you grow the plants without using soil,” Jones explained.

Despite what seems to be an easy enough undertaking, aquaculture has been on the decline in the Caribbean. In 2012, production plummeted from between 5,000 and 6,000 tonnes to 500 tonnes when the Jamaican fish-farming industry collapsed under pressure from cheap imports.

Aquaculture production in Jamaica, at one time the largest producer in the region, fell from around 11,000 tonnes in 2010, to just over 7,700 in 2011, falling even further in recent years.

Jamaican fish farmer Vincent Wright pointed to government policies that have made it difficult for them to compete. “The global economic downturn, high cost of energy, theft and a lack of adequate and suitable water supplies have made things even harder,” he said.

Executive Director of CRFM Milton Haughton has challenged regional governments to implement systems and regulations that will help investors to “overcome the impediments” aquaculture farmers face.

“We do need to provide the necessary legislative and regulatory framework, the policy support and the incentives to our fish farmers and private sector investors, so that they can grow the sector and increase production, not only for local consumption but also for exports,” he said.

In the last year or so, the CTA and the CRFM partnered to review the development aquaculture in region and in bid to identify the challenges, find solutions and guide the re-development of the industry, Haughton said. Among the improvements, policies regarding the development and distribution of land and water, as well as the production of brood stock and food.

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Jimmi gives a tour of the farm

Wright, who is also a scientist, said most Jamaican fish farms are built on marginal lands that are prone to flooding and with limited access to water. Given the locations and the existing conditions of local farms, climate changes will likely cause increased flooding, and disease, while reducing the availability of water for farms during periods of drought, he said.

The admission of Martinique and Guadeloupe to the CRFM family in 2014 is making up for the lack of research in the industry through Martinique-based French Research Institute for Exploitation of the Sea (Ifremer) , an organisation with decades of research and development experience in tropical fish culture, nutrition, disease and mortality in farmed species.

The Centre also draws on the expertise of the national research capabilities of the French Republic. Before now, the 18-member states of the CRFM were short on aquaculture research. Now Ifremer is committed to helping the region develop its research capabilities. Useful as climate change is predicted to have serious economic effects on world wild catch fisheries.

But while scientists predict heavy losses for the Caribbean, they also suggest there is sufficient information for governments to begin to develop policies to help the industry adapt to the expected changes.

Jones sees aquaculture as a way of adaptation to climate change. This year he expanded the 111.5 square metre (1,200 square feet) green house to 557 sq metres (6,000 square feet), to double production in the short term with the possibility of a five-fold increase at peak agricultural production periods.

Jamaica and across the Caribbean were affected by extended droughts in the last two years and forced Wright and his counterparts to cut back production, but Jones’ green house and fish tanks were not affected. The system lost roughly one per cent, between 379 litres and 750 litres (100 and 200 gallons), from roughly 53,000 litres (14,000 gallons) of water running through the system at any one time, he said.

“Aquaculture is the way to go if we are to provide adequate protein for our people,” he said.

In fact, the position is supported by the findings of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) in its 2014 State of Fisheries and Aquaculture report.

“Based on its dynamic performance over the last 30 years, with the fairly stable catches from capture fisheries, it is likely that the future growth of the fisheries sector will come mainly from aquaculture,” the report said.

According to the FAO, between 1990 and 2000, global production of food fish production grew 9.5 per cent per year from 32.2 million to 66.6 million tonnes at an average of 6.2 per cent per year between 2000 and 2012.

Regional growth has, however, remained static.

Regardless of the methods used, aquaculture “offers the region the best opportunities to provide a healthy, safe, guaranteed supply of food for our people,” Jones said.

Source: Caribbean Looks to Aquaculture Food Security to Combat Climate Change

US funded Programme to protect Caribbean marine resources launched

by Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by SCiDEv.NET on September 17, 2015
A $ 12. 5 million Programme will help to Improve the conservation and management of marine areas of the Caribbean and to protect the livelihoods of millions People Who depend on the marine ecosystem of the region.

The Caribbean Marine Biodiversity Programme (HMPC), funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) (US $ 10 million) and the The Nature Conservancy (US $ 2.5 million) was Launched on August 21 in Grenada.

“The overall objective is to reduce CMBP of Threats to marine-coastal biodiversity in priority areas Including Such high biodiversity ecosystems as coral reefs, mangroves, and seagrass beds in order to Achieve sustained biodiversity conservation; Maintain critical ecosystem services, and Realise tangible improvements in human wellbeing for Communities adjacent to marine protected areas, “Sheldon Cohen, Chief of Party for the project Said to SciDev.Net.

Birds flock to fishermen's boats at landing of Pedro Bank, Jamaica.  CHECK WITH MACR FOR USAGE RIGHTS

Birds flock to fishermen’s boats at landing of Pedro Bank, Jamaica. CHECK WITH MACR FOR USAGE RIGHTS

One of The most biologically diverse in the world, Caribbean ecosystems degraded at a rate Have you Placed That many of the region’s Most Traded and Consumed species on the Threatened and endangered lists.

Head of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) Milton Haughton NOTED That the five-year CMBP is significant, as it would Provide the resources needed for the region “to address some of the pressing needs in respect of marine resource conservation and management”.

TNC will work in collaboration With non-governmental organization in Five Countries of the Caribbean (Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to Promote conservation, Improve monitoring, management and protection of fish sanctuaries and other protected areas .

“This is good for sustainability and the rebuilding of the fish stocks,” Veteran fisherman and former president of the Jamaica Fishermen’s Cooperative Union Havelon Honeyghan Noting Said His community of Whitehouse, St Elizabeth urgently needs help.

“There are no fish left in Whitehouse. We are proposing That They Also install artificial reef some inshore and offshore Because the situation here is getting worse, “I Said.

Head of C-CAM Ingrid Parchment SciDev Told That the Programme would help Jamaica to design and Implement effective management strategies, Establish a sanctuary and reduces the Threats to the marine environment around the Pedro Cays (Peter Banks).

Pedro Banks is the main fishing gound for the CONHC Strombus gigas

Pedro Banks is the main fishing gound for the CONHC Strombus gigas

These are a group of cays and islets offshore Jamaica’s south coast, and the Whitehouse fishing village. It is Jamaica’s largest and MOST lucrative fishing community and the main harvesting ground for the Queen Conch ( Strombus gigas ).

Said Cohen, the project will work Also With the “national Governments of the targetted Countries as well as the CRFM,” the CARICOM institution responsible for the regional management of marine resources.

The hope is to build “more sustainable fish stocks, coral reef and related ecosystems healthier Establish trust funds to finance marine conservation activities into the future,” He Said.

 

SPANISH
launch program to protect marine resources in the Caribbean

A program of US $ 12. 5 million will help improve conservation and management of marine areas of the Caribbean and protect the livelihoods of millions of people in the region who depend on marine ecosystems.

The Marine Biodiversity for the Caribbean Program, funded by USAID (US $ 10 million) and Conservation (US $ 2.5 million), was announced on August 21 in Granada.

“The overall objective of the program is to reduce threats to marine biodiversity in priority areas of the Caribbean, including high biodiversity and coral reefs, mangroves and seagrass ecosystems; maintain essential ecosystem services, and achieve tangible improvements in welfare and communities adjacent to MPAs “sums Sheldon Cohen, director of the project, SciDev.Net .

The Caribbean is one of the most biologically diverse regions of the world, but their ecosystems are so degraded that many of the most marketable and locally consumed species on the list of threatened and endangered species.

Milton Haughton, head of Regional Fisheries Mechanism in the Caribbean, said that the 5-year program is important because the region will provide the resources necessary “to address some pressing needs of conservation and management of marine resources.”

Conservation work in partnership with NGOs in five Caribbean countries (Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Granada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines) to promote conservation and improve the monitoring, management and protection of fisheries and sanctuaries other areas.

“This is good for the sustainability and reconstruction of fisheries resources,” he told SciDev.Net Havelon Honeyghan, former president of the Fishermen’s Cooperative Union of Jamaica. It adds that, for example, community, St Elizabeth Whitehouse, requires urgent help.

Peter Banks

Peter Banks

“There are no fish in Whitehouse. We are also proposing that some artificial reefs installed in the onshore and offshore because the situation here is getting worse, “he stresses.

The head of C-CAM, Ingrid Parchment, told SciDev.Net that in Jamaica, the program will help to design and implement effective management strategies, establish a sanctuary and reduce threats to the marine environment around the cays of Pedro (Pedro Banks ).

This is a group of cays and islets offshore of the south coast of Jamaica, and the fishing village of Whitehouse. It is the largest and most profitable fishing community of the country and the main point of harvest of queen conch ( Strombus gigas ).

The project will also work with the national governments of the countries to which it is addressed, as well as the Regional Fisheries Mechanism, Caribbean Community institution responsible for managing the regional marine resources, reports Caribbean Cohen.

Is expected to create “more sustainable fish stocks, healthier corals and related ecosystems, establishing trust funds for marine conservation activities in the future,” he remarks.

http://www.scidev.net/america-latina/pesquerias/noticias/lanzan-programa-para-proteger-recursos-marinos-del-caribe.html http://www.lighthouse-foundation.org/fileadmin/LHF/PDF/SusGren_Accomplishment_Flyer_2008.pdf

Jamaica’s Coral Gardens Give New Hope for Dying Reefs

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was published by InterPress Service on July 13, 2015
With time running out for Jamaica’s coral reefs, local marine scientists are taking things into their own hands, rebuilding the island’s reefs and coastal defences one tiny fragment at a time – a step authorities say is critical to the country’s climate change and disaster mitigation plans.

Coral farming

Diver placing fragments of coral on a ‘tree’

Five years ago, local hoteliers turned to experimental coral gardening in a desperate bid to improve their diving attractions, protect their properties from frequent storms surges and arrest beach erosion.

In 2014, their efforts were boosted when the Centre for Marine Science (CMS) at the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona scored a 350,000-dollar grant from the International Development Bank (IDB) for the Coral Reef Restoration Project.

Project director and coastal ecologist Dale Webber told IPS that his team will carry out genetic research, attempt to crack the secrets of coral spawning and re-grow coral at several locations across the island and at the centre’s Discovery Bay site. The project will also share the research findings with other islands as well as another IDB project, Belize’s Fragments of Hope.

The reefs of Discovery Bay have been studied for more than 40 years, and are the centre of reef research in Jamaica. It is also home to several species of both fast and slow growing corals that Webber says are particularly resilient.

“They have tolerated disease, global warming, sea level rise, bleaching, etc. – all man and the environment have thrown at them – and are still flourishing. So they have naturally selected based on their resilience,” he explains.

A total of 60 fragments from five species of corals have been placed on the trees in the coral nursery. The five species are Orbicella annularis; Orbicella faveolata; Siderastrea siderea; Acropora palmata and Undaria agaricites. These fragments are being monitored as they grow and will be planted on the reefs.

Jamaica’s reefs – which make up more than 50 per cent of the 1022 kilometres of coastline, have over the years been battered by pollution, overfishing and improper development.  Finally in 1980 Hurricane Allen smashed them.

Many hoped the reefs would regenerate, but sluggish growth caused by, among other things, frequent severe weather events and an increase in bleaching incidences due to climatic changes sent stakeholders searching for options.

A massive Caribbean-wide bleaching event in 2005 resulted in widespread coral death and focussed attention on continuing sand loss at some of the island’s most valuable beaches. But aside from the devastation caused by the hurricane, scientists say the poor condition of the reefs are also the result of a die-off of the sea urchin population in 1982 and the continued capture of juvenile reef fish and the parrot.

erosion

Sediment from land slides and agricultural run offs smother the reefs

Predictions are that the region could lose all its coral in 20 years. Some reports say that only about eight per cent of Jamaican corals are alive. However, new surveys conducted by the UWI at several sites across the island show coral cover of between 12 and 20 per cent.

Along Jamaica’s north coast from Oracabessa in St. Mary to Montego Bay, coral recovery projects have yielded varying levels of success. The Golden Eye Beach Club, the Oracabessa Fish Sanctuary and Montego Bay Marine Park are among those that have experimented with coral gardening.

The process is tedious, as divers must tend the nurseries/gardens, removing algae from the fragments of corals as they grow. The pieces are then fixed to the reefs. The results are encouraging and many see this is an expensive but sure way to repopulate dying reefs. A combination of techniques, management measures and regeneration have boosted coral cover at Discovery Bay from five percent to 14 per cent in recent years.

“We hope to supplement this and get it growing faster,” Webber who also heads UWI’s Centre for Marine Sciences says.

At the Centre’s newest Alligator Head location in the east of the island, the aim is to increase the coral cover from the existing 40 per cent. The nurseries have also been set up at the site in Portland to compare the differences in growth rate between sites.

At the NGO-operated Montego Bay Marine Park, where an artificial reef and coral nursery was established in the fish sanctuary, outreach officer Joshua Bailey reports:  “There have been moderate successes. New corals are spawning and attracting fish.”

He cautioned that the impact of “urban stressors” on the park and in surrounding communities – high human population density and high levels of run-off – makes it difficult to judge the success of the restoration.

One of the most recent projects proposed the construction of an artificial reef off the shore of Sandals Resorts International Negril, as one of many solutions to reduce beach erosion along the famous ‘Seven Mile’ stretch of the Negril coast. The National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) approved the construction of an artificial reef in 1.2 metres of water offshore the Resort’s Negril bay property.

Andrew Ross is responsible for the Sandals and several other projects. A marine biologist and head of Seascape Caribbean, he explains that the Negril project lasted one year. It allowed for the study of fast and slow growing coral species and included the construction of a wave attenuation structure to determine how wave action influences sand accumulation. The coral nursery and the structures were populated with soft corals, sponges and a variety of other corals from the area.

In Oracabessa, a fishing village on 16 kilometres east of the tourist town of Ocho Rios, the commitment of the fishermen who initiated the project and their private sector partners have kept the reef and replanted corals clean and healthy, demonstrating how successful the process can be in restoring the local fisheries.

“The fishermen have done a beautiful job of keeping the corals alive and the fish sanctuary successful,” Ross says of the project he started in 2009.

Much of Jamaica’s reefs have reportedly been smothered by silt from eroding hillsides, the algal blooms from eutrophication as a result of agricultural run-offs and the disposal of sewage in the coastal waters.

The reefs are critical to Jamaica’s economy as tourism services account for a quarter of all jobs and more than 50 per cent of foreign exchange earnings.  Fisheries directly employ an estimated 33,000 people. Overall, the Caribbean makes between 5.0 and 11 billion dollars each year from fishing and tourism, an indication of the importance of reefs to the economies of the islands.

tourismat beach

Reefs support tourism services which inturn earm billions for the country and the region.

The Restoration Project provides the CMS with the resources to undertake a series of research activities “to among other things mitigate coral depletion, and identify and cultivate species that are resistant to the ravages of the impact of climate change,” Webber says.

In an email outlining the process, he notes that the project will provide “applicable information and techniques to other countries in the region that are experiencing similar challenges,” during its 18-month lifetime.

Expectations are that at the end of the project, there will be visible changes in coral cover. The successes seen in Oracabessa, where fishermen report improvements in catch rates and fish sizes, and at other sites are an indication that coral gardening is working.

Like Ross, Webber expects that there will be changes in coral cover at replanting sites within a three- to five-year period. 

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 

Caribbean Fights to Protect High-Value, Declining Species

by Zadie Neufville

 The following story was published by IPS on Jul 6, 2015
Threats from climate change, declining reefs, overfishing and possible loss of several commercial species are driving the rollout of new policy measures to keep Caribbean fisheries sustainable.

Regional groups and the U.S.-based NGO Wild Earth Guardians have petitioned for the listing of some of the Caribbean’s most economically valuable marine species as vulnerable, endangered or threatened with extinction.

In addition, regional scientists believe that climate change could alter the ranges of some of the larger species and perhaps wipe out existing ones.

Fisheries ministers of the Caribbean say they are concerned that “extra-national activities and decisions” could impact the social and economic well being of their countries and their access to international markets. They have agreed to work together to protect both the sustainability and trade of several high value marine species.

At a meeting in November 2014, the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM) expressed alarm at the U.S. government’s decision to list the Nassau Grouper, a commercially traded species, under the U.S. Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Even after successfully thwarting the listing of the Queen Conch (Strombus gigas), they fret that other species would go the way of the Nassau Grouper.

The conch and Nassau grouper are two of 19 Caribbean species the Wild Earth Guardians say are in need of protection. The list includes one coral, one ray, five sharks, two sawfish, four groupers and the Queen Conch.

nassau-grouper-629x472

The Nassau Grouper, one of 19 species the Wild Earth Guardians petitioned to have protected.

Regional fisheries officials know that such listings will shut down international trade of the affected species. Alternatively, it could lead to rigorous permits and quota systems that prevent trade by vulnerable populations in countries that are without working management structures.

The Guardians say they are driven by the critical state of many Caribbean species and the seemingly insatiable U.S. demand for them. The 14 marine species named are already listed as protected or threatened by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), endangered species associate Taylor Jones told IPS.

“Specifically in terms of the conch, we note that the U.S. appetite for conch meat is having an impact on stocks in the Caribbean,” she said.

Jones noted that when the Guardians take action the aim is to limit the impact of U.S. consumption patterns – which has already caused the collapse of its own conch fishery – on the rest of the world. The United States is the largest importer of conch meat, consuming 78 per cent of production, estimated at between 2,000 and 2,500 pounds annually.

While the Guardians failed in their bid to have the conch included in the ESA, concern for the struggling populations of Conch continue. Even though the U.S. closed Florida’s Conch fisheries in 1986, the population has still not recovered and the fisheries in its Caribbean territories are also in poor shape.

In the Turks and Caicos Islands (TCI), one of the region’s largest exporter of the mollusk, biologist Kathleen Woods reports that conch stocks are on the brink of collapse.

“TCI’s conch stocks are now in a critical phase,” she said. “Preliminary results of the conch visual survey indicate that TCI does not have sufficient densities of adult conch to sustain breeding and spawning. This means that unless the fishery is closed to allow the stocks to recover, it will probably collapse within the next four years.”

The CRFM Secretariat says it is already looking at management plans for the species most eaten or exploited by its member states. The secretariat says there is evidence that Nassau Grouper populations and spawning aggregations are in decline and is supporting the listing.

The Secretariat has drafted a strategy to implement minimum standards for the management, conservation and protection for the Caribbean Spiny Lobster (Panulirus argus) across all 17 member states. The Secretariat cites concern for falling catches, declining habitats and the absence of adequate management systems in some countries.

In Jamaica, where the lobster and conch fisheries are regulated by the CITES endangered species treaty, authorities are extending protection to other local species that are already stressed from overfishing and climate change, Director of Fisheries Andre Kong told IPS.

“We are looking at bio-degradable traps and will where possible improve the existing management system to include the spotted spiny lobster (Panulirus guttatus) known locally as the chicken lobster,” he said, pointing out that the local species is not governed by the CITES regulations.

Caribbean favorites like the Parrotfish and sea eggs (sea urchins) are in serious decline. Regional groups are seeking to ban those and other species to protect remaining populations and the reef.  Some countries have already restricted the capture of the Parrotfish and the IUCN has recommended its listing as a specially protected species under the Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol).

Turtle release TCI

Officers from the Turks and Caicos Environment and Marine Affairs Department releasing a tagged turtle. TCI one the few places that still allow the capture and consumption of Turtles

CRFM has already implemented a management plan for the Eastern Caribbean Flying fish, which supports a small but lucrative trade in the countries that fish for the species. A coral reef action plan is also in place, a review of the legislation of several member states has been completed, alongside the rollout of public awareness programmes for regional fishers. One drawback: the rules are non-binding and left up to individual governments to implement.

Woods, who until mid-2014 headed the TCI government’s Environment and Marine Department, noted that despite the existence of regulations that exceed those introduced by the CRFM, conch and lobster habitats in that country “continue to be degraded and lost because of poor development practices like dredging, the use of caustic materials like bleach for fishing and other activities.”

Veteran TCI fisherman Oscar Talbot echoes Woods belief that a combination of factors, including a lack of political will, poor enforcement and corruption in the regulatory agencies, are the reasons the Conch stocks are close to collapsing.

“Poacher boats, illegal divers and some politicians with their own (processing) plants have played a role in the improper exploitation of the fish, lobster and conch. We also have a lot of fisherman and poachers taking juvenile conch in and out of season,” he said.

TCI is one of the few countries that continue to allow the capture and consumption of sea turtles and sharks, but Woods believes exploitation of these species by locals is sustainable. Talbot wants fishers to stick to the rules and exploit the resources during the open seasons only.

A fisherman for over 40 years, Talbot said the unregulated catches are impacting all the islands’ local fisheries. He is concerned that undersized conchs of up to 18 to the pound have been taken, a sore point for the grandfather who sits on the fisheries advisory council of the TCI.

But while regional leaders express “outrage” at the actions of the NGOs, regional fishers support Talbot’s view that only external pressure will force governments to act.

For most countries, the lack of personnel, funding and illegal fishing have hampered progress. This is not lost on the Guardians.

lobster 2

Caribbean Spiny Lobster

“In general it appears that the region is struggling with limited resources for conservation, including lack of funding and lack of personnel for enforcement of existing regulations,” Jones said.

And while Talbot and Woods lobby TCI Governor Peter Beckingham to champion immediate changes to the fisheries legislation approved and agreed by local fishers more than a year ago, Jones echoes their aspirations:

“It is our hope that ESA listing would make more U.S. funding and personnel available for use by local conservation programmes,” she said.

Edited by Kitty Stapp

 

As Jamaica’s Prime Forests Decline, Row Erupts Over Protection

By Zadie Neufville

The following article was first publishd by InterPress Service on June 4, 2015
For Jamaica, planting more trees as a way to build resilience is one of the highest priorities of the government’s climate change action plan. So when Cockpit Country residents woke up to bulldozers in the protected area, they rallied to get answers from the authorities.

On May 18, Noranda Bauxite Limited acted on 2004 mining leases and moved its heavy equipment into the outer areas of the Cockpit Country, ignoring unresolved boundary issues. Their actions reignited a simmering row between stakeholders and government over demarcation and protection of the biologically diverse area.

Looking Westward- D-9's

Whilst the company denies that it has begun mining, its officials admit to prospecting. Noranda’s actions however, raised suspicions that government had reneged on a promise made in 2006 when several prospecting leases issued to Alumina Partners were revoked. Back then, authorities had promised residents that the Cockpit Country would be off-limits to bauxite mining.

Junior Minister for Mining and Energy Julian Robinson has reiterated his government’s commitment to preserving the area, but many continue to be wary.

Michael Schwartz, director of the Windsor Research Station, is fearful that government will seek to “placate” the people with “a token boundary” which defines the Cockpit Country to an area “where there is no bauxite to be mined”.

“My concern is that GoJ [the government] seems to be completely ignoring the Public Consultation Report, which they commissioned in 2013, and is going to come up with its own boundary,” he said in an email response to IPS.

Schwartz’s concern seems valid. After all bauxite was, until 2008 the island’s second largest earner of foreign exchange. That year bauxite earned 1.37 billion dollars and accounted for 55 per cent of Jamaica’s total merchandise exports and traditionally contributed around five to six per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Just prior to the economic fallout and closure of mining operations in 2009, the sector was the third largest foreign exchange earner.

Bauxite mining is also said to be the single largest cause of deforestation on the island. Not only are large areas of forests destroyed to extract the ore, the cutting of haul and access roads opens the prime forests to further threats from loggers, yam stick traders and coal burners.

Forest clearing is identified as one of the biggest threats to the island’s biodiversity and the remaining forests. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (2007) also identifies forest clearing as one of the top contributors to climate variation.

Minister of Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill confirms that changes to the forest cover have  “significant implications” for Jamaica, given that is “highly dependent” on its environmental resources.

image

Eroded hillside

At a press conference to announce the findings of the most recent forest assessment surveys on Mar. 10, the minister said:  “The open dry forests that now stand as bare lands have increased the country’s vulnerability to the impacts of climate change and increased our risk of desertification. The loss of our broadleaf forests has reduced the forests’ capacity to provide us with ecosystem services such as water and clean air.”

“Cockpit Country is in relatively good shape today because of its topography, it has conserved itself, so to speak,” Schwartz said, pointing out that whilst farmers have been encroaching on the area for centuries, the difficult terrain had made access difficult thereby limiting the impact of their activities.

Depending on which of the three proposed boundaries is used, the Cockpit Country is estimated to cover between 820 and 1099 square kilometres (between 510 and 683 sq. miles). The core boundary – primarily forest reserves and crown lands – totals just over 56,000 hectares (138,379 acres), a transition boundary of just over 80,000 hectares (197, 684 acres) and the outer boundary of 116,218 hectares (287,181 acres).

The outer boundary proposed during the public consultations that the University of the West Indies conducted will more than double the reserves and is the preferred option. It seems that any other would not go down well with the stakeholders and according to Schwartz: “This would show a willful disregard of the public stakeholders.”

Aside from a rich biological diversity that supports the largest number of globally threatened species in the Caribbean region, Jamaica’s State of the Environment Report 2010 described the Cockpit Country as “the largest remaining primary forest” on the island. The area also supplies fresh water for about 40 per cent of islanders and recharges the aquifers in three major agricultural areas.

In what the Forestry Department describes as its most comprehensive analysis of forest cover change to date, a 2013 survey shows an overall increase in forests and a decline in the amount of high quality forests due to the destruction of wetlands and previously undisturbed areas. More than 4,000 hectares (about 10,000 acres) of mined-out lands have also been restored.

planting seeds.jpg

“We have gained new low-quality forests but lost high-quality closed and disturbed broadleaf forests. We also lost swamp forests and dry forests,” Conservator of Forests Marilyn Headley told IPS in an email.

The loss of the swamp forests, Pickersgill says, “poses serious risks to our tourism industry, as well as the success of our disaster management strategies and destroys the habitat for many of our essential wetland species.”

In addition to improved assessments, the Forestry Department is now updating the National Forest Management and Conservation Plan that aims to build on and outline additional strategies to arrest the loss of quality forests, promote sustainable use and regulate saw mills.

The Department continues to work with Local Forest Management Committees in the Cockpit Country and other areas across the island to replant and reduce the impact of the local communities on their forests. Schwartz is confident that ongoing sensitisation and community actions will help to preserve the areas if bauxite mining is excluded.

However, with an estimated one billion tonnes of bauxite remaining, a sluggish economy and most of the country’s earnings going to debt repayment, stakeholders are demanding a resolution of the boundaries sooner rather than later. Many believe that potential earnings from bauxite could tip the balance between preservation and mining of the prized ecological area.

“If mining were allowed, how would you explain how it’s alright for the big man to destroy large areas of forest, but it’s not okay for little man to cut a tree to improve his life?” the researcher asks.

See Original Article here

Madras _ Caledonia crossing

Caribbean nations move to protect dwindling lobtster

by Zadie Neufville
This article was first published on June 2, 2015 by SciDevNet (Global)

Caribbean countries have agreed a set of common rules to manage and conserve a shared species of lobster, following scientific evidence of its decline. The member states of the Caribbean Community met in Grenada in May to sign a declaration providing minimum standards for the fishing of Panulirus argus, known as the Caribbean spiny lobster. It will be valid in the 17 nations of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM).

lobster 1

Caribbean Spiny Lobster

The Caribbean spiny lobster is a major source of income for local fisheries, and is critical to the socioeconomic wellbeing of many Caribbean communities, the signatories said. The deal follows growing concerns about the long-term economic viability of lobster fishing in the region. According to the CRFM, catches are declining and overexploitation of the species is having knock-on effects on other marine life.

Milton Haughton, head of the CRFM secretariat, says that socioeconomic importance aside, the lobster plays a critical role in maintaining the “ecological integrity and delicate balance” of the coral reef ecosystem. “We therefore need to be very careful in the way we harvest the resources,” he says.

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Workers processing lobster tails for export. (photo from the Beliize Fisheries Dept)

“These are so important to us that we cannot allow the stocks to decline through poor management and irresponsible harvesting.” The non-binding agreement aims to improve and standardise data collection on lobster catches and encourage the use of biodegradable traps to reduce ocean littering and protect other marine species. It also aims to reduce illegal and unsustainable fishing to strengthen conservation, the CRFM said.

Haughton notes that better use of data would improve local conservation research, which would in turn strengthen understanding of the biological, economic and nutritional aspects of lobster fishing.
“All of this requires a scientific approach informed by good governance systems and intimate knowledge,” he says.

In most Caribbean countries, lobster fishing is governed by the Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species, which includes a quota system, periodic scientific surveys and a limited fishing season. In the Caribbean, however, capacity for such monitoring varies between states, and a lack of regulations around lobster fishing puts the resource at risk, the Grenada meeting heard.

chicken lobster

Chicken lobster aka spotted spiny lobster

Caribbean fisheries’ representatives cautiously welcomed the deal and called for rules that distinguish between subsistence fisheries and large commercial fishing operations.

Andre Kong, the director of fisheries in the Jamaican ministry of agriculture, says that, for example, not all the recommendations are applicable to his country. But, he says that the declaration would help Jamaica design better evidence-based strategies to manage its lobster-fishing industry, including the spotted spiny lobster, another local species.

“We are looking, for example, at biodegradable traps and will make adaptations where necessary to improve the existing management systems,” says Kong.