KINGSTON, Jamaica — Over 80 percent of the Caribbean Sea is polluted from land based sources and activities on land such as deforestation, untreated wastewater, oil spills, agricultural runoff, farm waste and litter. This affects livelihoods, people’s health, island economies and ecosystems.
To address these problems, pollution experts from the Caribbean met recently at two meetings. The first meeting was the seventh steering committee meeting for the Regional Activity Centre — Regional Marine Pollution Emergency Information and Training Centre for the Wider Caribbean (RAC-REMPEITC) for the oil spills protocol held in Curacao from May 20-21.The other was the second meeting of the scientific, technical and advisory committee (STAC), to the protocol concerning pollution from land-based sources and activities (LBS STAC 2) hosted by UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP CEP), held in Nicaragua from June 10-14.
At these meetings some of the key recommendations included:
• UNEP CEP and the government of Curacao agreed to the continued hosting of the regional activity centre in Curacao that supports the protocol concerning cooperation in combating oil spills in the wider Caribbean region (oil spills protocol).
• UNEP CEP and partners to promote the integration of oil spill disaster planning into national disaster planning processes by working with regional disaster agencies such as Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)
• UNEP CEP to work with oil spill regional centre to provide technical support to countries affected by oil pollution including dispersants and rehabilitating areas contaminated with oil.
• UNEP CEP to develop stronger partnerships with the GPNM (global partnership on nutrient management) to improve nutrient management within the wider Caribbean region.
• UNEP CEP and partner agencies to develop activities which will enhance the implementation of the LBS Protocol with specific reference to ship generated waste, air pollution and pre-treatment of industrial effluent found in domestic wastewater.
Christopher Corbin, programme officer for the assessment and management of environmental pollution at UNEP CEP, noted that these meetings were critical to evaluate the status of pollution in the region and to identify future priorities.
Nelson Andrade Colmenares, the regional coordinator for UNEP’s Caribbean Environment Programme, stressed that “currently 50 percent of coral reefs are in decline within the region.” However, he added that “with continued stakeholder engagement, cooperation and action this trend can be reversed allowing the region to prosper for generations to come.”
The recommendations from the technical meetings will be presented to the thirteenth meeting of the contracting parties to the convention for the protection and development of the wider Caribbean region which will be held in Cartagena, Colombia.
In this International Year of Small Island Developing States, ocean, seas and biodiversity have been listed as priority areas. Management of pollution can be addressed by education, stakeholder engagement and a commitment to tackling these issues and it is anticipated that these regional and global efforts will result in action.