Caribbean Nations Launch Unprecedented Challenge Initiative to Protect Marine and Coastal Resources

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The Nature Conservancy joins Caribbean leaders to launch "Caribbean Challenge" at United Nations COP-9 conference

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They are on the front lines and feeling the heat, but they’re taking proactive measures to protect their resources.

Today, The Nature Conservancy and Caribbean leaders announced the launch of the Caribbean Challenge, an effort by regional governments to build political support and generate long-term funding to protect at least 20 percent of participating countries’ marine and coastal habitats by 2020.

"The Caribbean Challenge will endow more than US$40 million in protected area trust funds to ensure that important marine and coastal habitats are protected in perpetuity," said Stephanie Meeks, acting president and CEO of The Nature Conservancy. "This is a small investment today for the priceless, long-term benefit of protecting the fish stocks and tourism-related livelihoods of the more than 10 million people living within the Challenge’s participating nations."

Over the next four years, the Conservancy will work alongside Caribbean governments in The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines — with several other nations slated to endorse the Challenge in the coming weeks — to set aside nearly 7.4 million acres (3 million hectares) of marine and coastal habitat in protected areas, improve fisheries management and establish sustainable finance mechanisms.

The Caribbean Challenge is the third large-scale regional initiative to be launched in the past three years, adding to a global trend of island leaders standing up and pledging to protect vast percentages of their marine and coastal resources.

The Caribbean Challenge was inspired by the "Micronesia Challenge," launched by Palau President Tommy Remengesau in 2006 to protect 30 percent of marine resources and 20 percent of terrestrial resources in the Northern Pacific by 2020, and the "Coral Triangle Initiative," which was unveiled at the COP-13 climate change conference in Bali in 2007 to bring together Indo-Pacific governments in a multilateral partnership to safeguard the area’s rich marine resources.

Together, these initiatives, which span regions containing 83 percent of the world’s coral biodiversity and 82 percent of the world’s mangrove species, have the potential to protect a significant portion of the world’s marine biodiversity and the livelihoods of over 130 million people living within these areas.

In the Caribbean, destructive fishing methods, pollution and climate change are posing enormous threats to the area’s coral reefs, which nurture marine life, attract tourists and provide local jobs. Marine Protected Areas are considered to be an effective method for combating these threats, by establishing no-take fishing zones and promoting restoration of coral reefs and marine ecosystems. However, only 7 percent of the Caribbean's marine resources have official marine protected area status, and just one in six of these protected areas are considered by scientists to be effectively and sustainably conserved for the long-term. This puts the Caribbean’s marine habitats and coral reef resources at great risk, threatening island economies as well as the region’s unique plants and animals.

"The Caribbean Challenge supports these countries in their efforts to protect their coasts for the long-term," said Rebecca Patton, Chief Conservation Strategies Officer for The Nature Conservancy. "Their leadership is an inspiration, and has the potential to spark similar initiatives in other countries within the Caribbean, and around the globe."

At the invitation of Caribbean nations, The Nature Conservancy is coordinating with participating countries to execute the Caribbean Challenge, which represents the largest coordinated, multi-nation conservation campaign in the region.

Countries that sign-on to the Challenge will gain access to millions of dollars in new funding to meet their conservation goals, leading to more rangers, patrol boats, scientific expertise and education programs that will help to ensure effective protection of marine and coastal resources. So far The Bahamas, the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines have endorsed the Challenge, while Antigua and Barbuda, St. Kitts and Nevis, Dominica and St. Lucia consider the initiative and are reported as likely to sign on.    

The Conservancy has pledged US$20 million to launch and support the Caribbean Challenge, with $8.6 million of this pledge directed toward capitalizing protected area trust funds and leveraging additional dollars. The German government is considering a matching grant of $8.6 million for the trust funds. In addition, these Caribbean countries are working with the Global Environment Facility and its implementing agencies to access additional support for conservation and sustainable livelihoods projects that will advance the goals of the initiative.

The Caribbean Challenge was launched today at a high level event held by the Global Island Partnership (GLISPA), a group of island nations and nations with islands — small and large, developing and developed — to mobilize leadership, increase resources and share skills, knowledge, technologies, and innovations in a cost-effective and sustainable way that will catalyze action for conservation and sustainable livelihoods on islands. In addition to providing funding for the Caribbean Challenge, the Conservancy also committed $500,000 to support GLISPA, recognizing the important role that the partnership plays in supporting and catalyzing island commitments to nature conservation and sustainable livelihoods.

"Globally, the island nations most threatened by climate change are doing the most to protect their coasts," added Patton. "They are on the front lines and feeling the heat, but they’re taking proactive measures to protect their resources."

The Nature Conservancy is a leading conservation organization working around the world to protect ecologically important lands and waters for nature and people. To date, the Conservancy and its more than one million members have been responsible for the protection of more than 18 million acres in the United States and have helped preserve more than 117 million acres in Latin America, the Caribbean, Asia and the Pacific. Visit The Nature Conservancy on the Web at http://www.nature.org.

Contact:

U.S.:
Cristina Mestre
703-841-8779
cmestre @ tnc.org

Germany:
Sonja Mitchell
+49-0-176-153-11454
sonja_mitchell @ tnc.org    

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Cristina Mestre

Sonja Mitchell
The Nature Conservancy
+49-0-176-153-11454
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