CARTAGENA, Colombia -- Last week, host country Colombia saw delegates from the fisheries and environment ministries of 21 states from the Caribbean region and adjacent areas convening in Cartagena de Indias. Meeting participants discussed and agreed on a 10-year programme of strategic actions aimed at securing “enhanced long-term socio-economic benefits”, to be obtained from a more sustainable management of the region’s living marine resources.
The meeting was organized by the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) Project – a multi-million dollar project which covers the almost 4.5 million km2 of marine space constituted by the Caribbean and North Brazil Shelf Large Marine Ecosystems (also called LMEs).
The CLME Project aims at reversing the trends of environmental degradation in the project area, which is well known for its rich natural features, including coastal and pelagic fishery resources, beaches and coral reefs, and associated biological diversity. As with many other marine areas in the world, the region has been suffering from environmental problems such as overfishing, habitat degradation, pollution, invasive species and climate change.
The CLME’s strategic action programme focuses on enhancing region-wide coordination and collaboration among all countries surrounding the Caribbean LME. Many of the economically important marine species -- as well the environmental problems that affect these species -- are trans-boundary in nature, meaning they are shared among the countries. For this reason, over the past decades, the critical need for joint, concerted action to ensure the sustainable use and protection of these natural resources has become increasingly recognized.
Last Wednesday, at the fourth and final steering committee meeting of the CLME Project in Cartagena, Colombia, many years of preparatory work culminated in the technical approval of a 30-page document: the CLME Strategic Action Programme (SAP). This document provides both participating countries and the donor community with a framework and guidelines for concerted action in the fields of fisheries enhancement, fisheries sustainability, biodiversity and ecosystem protection, and alternative livelihoods.
Now that the document has been approved at the technical level by the steering committee, it will be brought to the responsible ministries in all participating countries for their political endorsement, after which new investments can be attracted to the region to help implement the programme.
Together with the participating United Nations agencies and regional organizations, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) – the entity that co-financed the CLME Project -- applauded this remarkable achievement by the participating countries. The representative highlighted the extraordinary nature of the event: “This is the largest number of participating countries ever to agree upon such a regional plan since the initiation of the GEF’s global Large Marine Ecosystem programme back in the nineties.”
The GEF representative at the meeting further provided insights on how the organization – as the world’s largest funder of projects to improve the global environment -- could further assist the CLME countries in implementing the highest-priority actions of this strategic action programme.