Tag Archive | jamaican species

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


Jamaica’s Rich Biodiversity Faces Multiple Threats

This article was first printed by IPS on May 11, 2012
Jamaican authorities are going all out to achieve environmental sustainability as one way of minimising the expected impacts of climate change on the local biodiversity.

There is no up-to-date inventory of the island’s flora and fauna, and a shortage of adequate data collection devices, which researchers say are needed to begin climate impact studies and adaptation planning in ecosystems management.

But, by working toward the seventh Millennium Development Goal (MDG) – a series of development and anti-poverty targets agreed by U.N. member states in 2000 – authorities hope to establish the principles of sustainable development across all sectors to reduce environmental degradation, reverse the loss of environmental resources, and significantly reduce the rate of biodiversity loss.

The endangered Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

Ecosystems Manager at the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) Andrea Donaldson told IPS that while the agency’s work on biodiversity is not focused on climate change, they are aware of the likely impacts and continue to implement measures to safeguard the local biological diversity.

The National MDG Report has pointed to the country’s failures in efforts at pollution controls and the protection of critical ecosystems, and it is these factors that worry scientists the most.

In addition, human activities that result in deforestation, destruction of wetlands and coastal ecosystems, urban sprawl as well as disregard for the natural environment have been identified as some of the most serious threats to biodiversity.

In fact, experts are concerned that disregard for the natural environment could exacerbate the impacts of severe weather. Both the 2010 State of the Environment Report (SOE) and the National Report to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) pointed to human activities as significant threats.

“Climate change is likely to further increase the negative impacts” of habitat loss, over-exploitation, poor land use and ignorance about the value of natural resources, the SOE reported.

The Jamaican Tody one of 31 species of endemic birds.

Some experts are already describing changes in coral reefs, forests and coastal wetlands, areas that have been identified as most vulnerable to climate change. It is widely believed that with more than 12 extreme weather events in the last five years, Jamaica is already feeling the effects.

This is the most bio-endemic island in the region. Ranking fifth amongst islands of the world for the number of unique species, Jamaica’s biodiversity losses could be immense. There are more than 8,000 recorded species of plants and animals and more than 3,500 marine species here.

Among the island’s endemic treasures are 10 species of cacti, seven species of palms and 60 of the 240 species of orchids. There are 31 endemic species of birds, nine species of crabs, 505 species of the 514 varieties of land snails, and 33 of the 43 species of reptiles.

At least four of the 24 species of bats here are endemic; 17 of the 19 species of frogs and about 15 of the 115 species of butterflies.

Among the better-known unique species are the Tody, the Jamaican boa, the Jamaican Hutia also called the coney and the Giant Swallowtail Butterfly.

The island ranks among the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) list of places with the highest number of at-risk mammals, due primarily to the threat to its endemic bats and the coney.

Another of the island’s endemic species, the Jamaican iguana, is on the IUCN’s Red List of endangered and threatened species. Roughly 200 of the animals survive in the shrinking limestone forests of Hillshire, several miles outside the capital Kingston.

The Jamaican Rock Iguana is threatened with extinction.

And as the impacts of fewer but more intense rainy days, increased intensity of hurricanes, and periodic drought take their toll, socioeconomic problems are expected to increase the pressure on natural resources.

As the agency charged with safeguarding the island’s biological treasures, NEPA said it has spearheaded a number of policies, programmes and legislation to manage and prevent unauthorised exploitation.

Its managers admit, however, that enforcement has been difficult so like the Forestry Department, NEPA is making the impacted communities its allies. Adaptation funding has enabled both agencies to replant the forests and coastal wetlands. At the same time, they are working with fishers, farmers and others whose livelihoods depend on the natural ecosystems to find other income-generating opportunities.

The multi-sector, multi-donor climate change adaptation and disaster mitigation project is funded by the European Union. It also compliments NEPA’s efforts to assign economic value to the ecosystem and improve data collection to inform climate change planning.

“We are trying to install data loggers to collect information on sea water surface temperature among other things,” Donaldson noted. “While we do regular reef checks, I can’t say as a fact that any changes we see are from climate change.”

Illustration of an endemic Jamaican Orchid. There are 60 endemic orchids in Jamaica.

NEPA’s data loggers should provide the Jamaica Clearing House Mechanism (CHM) with information that would be useful in studying the impact of climate change on its vast though outdated databases of plants and animals, biologist Keron Campbell said.

“We are updating the baseline data, the inventories of plant and animal species and this is needed to track any changes,” Campbell told IPS, noting that data-loggers along with ongoing field studies and temperature information from the meteorological service will provide valuable data for adaptation planning.

Jamaica’s Natural History Museum, which houses the CHM, holds 110,000 zoological specimens and a herbarium of 130,000 plant specimens dating back to the 1870s. The CHM is part of an international network and is the result of Jamaica’s commitment under the U.N. Convention on Biological Diversity.

Donaldson also pointed to charcoal burning, farming, solid waste disposal in fresh water sources and coastal areas, and improper fishing methods including the use of chemicals as some of the most prevalent and worrying factors that impact biodiversity.

The SOE reported that scientists are also seeing changes in the Portland Bight, the island’s largest nature reserve. It is also the only known habitat of the Jamaican iguana.

Dr. Byron Wilson, head of the University of the West Indies Iguana programme, noted that the continued survival of the iguana is due primarily to the remoteness of its habitat. Efforts to build a colony on Goat Island just off the coast failed, he said, making the Hellishire Hills one of the world’s most important natural habitats.

But development is now making the area more accessible. It was a pig hunter who rediscovered the iguana that had been thought extinct for more than 30 years.

NEPA’s wildlife specialist Ricardo Miller noted that the most significant changes during the annual game birds survey is the rate of development.

“I have had to change my sampling routes due to developmental changes. Some of the best birding trails are being replaced by houses,” he said.

Housing developments are impacting habitats.

Jamaica’s climate change preparations began in 1997 with Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Global Climate Change (CPACC) under CARICOM (the regional Caribbean Community bloc). The programme initiated among other things the design strategies and databases for climate change adaptation in a number of areas.

If the science is correct, Donaldson said, climate change will result in the inundation of costal areas, loss of habitat and the dying off of some species. Others, she added, may very well adapt.

Priceless Native Plants Vanishing in the Wind

By Zadie Neufville*
KINGSTON, Dec 20, 2010 (IPS/IFEJ) – The recent successes of local medicinal researchers have turned the spotlight on local laws that fail to protect Jamaica’s rich biological diversity.

Two days after Lawrence Williams announced an international patent for an anti-cancer compound from the guinea hen weed, another local scientist Henry Lowe, announced that a compound from the Jamaican ball moss was ready for clinical testing – extracts from just two of the 334 Jamaican plants that have so far been investigated for medicinal properties.

Williams, a zoologist with the government-owned Scientific Research Centre (SRC), discovered a protein complex, dibensyl triulphide, which has the ability to kill a range of cancers including melanoma, lung and breast cancers, he told IPS.

Jamaican biochemist Dr. Lowe and his research partner Dr. Joseph Bryant’s impending clinical trial of a nutraceutical from the Jamaican ball moss or old man’s beard (Tillandsia Recurvata) for treating prostate cancer was greeted with excitement and some scepticism. Before now, the plant had been regarded by most Jamaicans as parasitic, overrunning trees and becoming a nuisance on power lines.

Tree with old man's beard

Jamaican moss ball also known as Old man's beard covering a pine tree at Kingston's Hope Botanical Gardens.

Many believe that such native plants could yield high quality medicinal or nutraceutical extracts much like the high quality of Jamaican coffee, cocoa, ginger and pimento. Now more than ever, Jamaican environmentalists are concerned that without adequate protection, local biodiversity is at risk of exploitation by rich nations or destruction by developers.

“There is nothing to protect plants. We have no Red List data,” biologist Andreas Oberli told IPS, referring to the absence of recent information for the World Conservation Union’s (IUCN) list of threatened species.

Jamaica’s Natural Resource and Conservation Authority and the Wild Life Protection Acts, the pieces of legislation that govern the preservation of the island’s biological resources, are almost silent on plant species. Only plants that were listed in the past by the IUCN are covered, and flora on private lands do not benefit from even the limited protection of the acts.

The result, Oberli said, is that “much of the island’s biological treasures are being lost to development, especially in the coastal areas where pristine forests and caves are being destroyed to construct hotels.” In the hinterlands, farmers are destroying the forests, he said.

Jamaica’s rich biological diversity makes it fifth in the world in terms of endemism. But of the more than 3,300 species of flowering plants here, only 200 have been catalogued. According to the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), charged with preserving the island’s biodiversity, about 923 of the known plants are found only in Jamaica.

Under the CITES wildlife treaty, NEPA issues permits only to applicants with a Jamaican specialist on the team. The agency also requires that specimens be deposited at the Institute of Jamaica, which houses the Jamaica Clearing House Mechanism, said zoologist and UWI life sciences lecturer Karl Aiken.

But with the number of species in some families of plants still unknown and new species being discovered every year, local scientists say the value of the island’s biological diversity is still vastly unknown. Many are seeking an economic assessment of in particular areas with high levels of endemism, but to date, only limited project-based assessments have been done.

Oberli is concerned that much of the island’s biological diversity is being lost to development before it can be recorded or discovered. He described the nature reserves declared by government as “paper parks”. One example is the protected Palisadoes peninsula, where a highway is being built in the single known habitat of a rare endemic cactus.

Jamaica’s medicinal research often derives from traditional remedies, such as Cannabis sativia, said to improve the eyesight of fishermen or used by grandmothers to ease asthma in children; Cerasse, a variety of Momordica charantia, long used to treat diabetes and cure bellyaches, among other ailments; breadfruit for hypertension.


The breadfruit (Artocarpus altilis) from which Dr. Lawrence Williams and his research partner isolated a compound for treatment of hypertension.

Plant research in Jamaica dates back 129 years, but natural products research began in 1948 with the founding of the University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona Campus. Since then scientists have tested the acumen of local bush doctors, studying hundreds of plants and testing 193, including 31 endemics for their for bioactivity or chemical compounds that remain stable during testing.

The UWI Group reported that close to a quarter of the endemics tested had bioactive compounds.

In 1987, pharmacology professor Manley West and his partner, the ophthalmologist Dr. Alfred Lockhart, successfully developed Canasol for the treatment of glaucoma, Asmasol for bronchial asthma and Canavert for seasickness. All three were derived from locally grown varieties of the Cannabis sativa, locally known as ganja.

In 2008, the pair was again successful with yet another cannabis-derived medication Centimal – the world’s first combination of an alpha agonist and beta-blocker for the treatment of glaucoma.

With the establishment of other local universities and now the Bio-Tech Research and Development Institute, a collaboration between the three oldest universities – UWI, the University of Technology, the Northern Caribbean University (NCU) – and the SRC, there have been even more successes.

At Central Jamaica’s NCU, scientists have investigated the cancer fighting properties of sorrel (Hibiscus sabdariffa), used to make Jamaica’s traditional Christmas beverage. Grown in three varieties here, sorrel yields a compound that researchers say could spark breakthroughs in the treatment or cure for lung and liver cancers.

The NCU also found that garlic causes lung and liver cancer cells to shrink and eventually die.

Researchers at the UWI are studying the effect of local herbs on lifestyle diseases including hypertension, diabetes and glaucoma. Jamaica’s rates of prostate cancer; hypertension and diabetes are among the highest in the world.

The problem Jamaican researchers now face, Lowe said at the Dec. 2 launch of the island’s newest research entity, “is staying ahead of the competition'”.

With the naming of the plant from which the extract is taken, Lowe and others worry that large companies will produce commercialised versions of the compounds before they do.

For example, periwinkle was traditionally used to treat diabetes for many years until local scientists isolated a compound to treat cancer. Their work was used to develop what are now the world’s leading leukemia drugs (Vinblastine and Vincristine), without acknowledgement of Jamaica’s intellectual property.

But despite the challenges of a cash-strapped government, high-cost patents and inadequate protection of the biological resources, researchers are forging ahead and hope that legislation will, in time, catch up.

*This story is part of a series of features on biodiversity by IPS, CGIAR/Biodiversity International, IFEJ and UNEP/CBD, members of Communicators for Sustainable Development (http://www.complusalliance.org).