THE Jamaican government continues to lose billions of dollars in potential revenue from reef fisheries because it has not become a party to the protocol concerning the Special Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW).
The SPAW Protocol, which was brought into force in 2000, seeks to preserve, protect and manage sustainably, areas identified as unique and having special value, and threatened or endangered species of flora and fauna.
The benefits of ratifying the protocol include improved access to funding, strengthened national and regional partnerships, increased technical support, improved coastal management, as well as expanded environmental monitoring programmes.
If Jamaica were a signatory to this protocol, it would stand to earn billions of dollars in revenue provided by coral reef ecosystems and coastal protection ventures; through fisheries and coral reef diving attractions, for example.
Instead, a 2009 World Resources Institute assessment found that Jamaica had lost an estimated US$1.3 billion over the 25 years prior.
At a recent press briefing at the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) head office in Kingston, SPAW Programme Officer Alessandra Khouri said it is important that Jamaica becomes a contracting party to the protocol as there is a lot
"Jamaica will be part of the network of regional
co-operation that we have with so many countries, with so many other marine protected areas. There is quite a wealth of information and knowledge in terms of best practices which they would have," she said, adding that under the protocol, UNEP will assist the Jamaican government to meet its objectives.
Sea turtles, manatees, spiny lobsters, dolphins, and whales, as well as mangroves and seagrass beds are protected under the SPAW Protocol, which has already been ratified by 16 countries.
Meanwhile, Officer in charge of Communications, Education, Training and Awareness at UNEP Christopher Corbin revealed that a Land-Based Sources of Marine Pollution (LBS) protocol is soon to be ratified by the Jamaican government.
The key issues addressed by the LBS Protocol include pollution from point-sources such as domestic sewage, oil refineries, sugar factories and distilleries, food processing, beverage manufacturing, pulp and paper manufacturing, and chemical industries and non-point sources, which include agricultural run-off.
"We have been working very closely with the government ministries, including the Ministry of Environment and NEPA [National Environment and Planning Agency] to actually have them ratify the protocol, and we have done lots of small projects to help support that, and, in fact, very recently we heard that a proposal has been made now for ratification," Corbin said.
He said UNEP is now awaiting an official response as to whether or not that proposal has been approved by the Cabinet.
The protocol, which was developed out of a recognition that there were major issues of pollution of the marine environment, was ratified by 10 countries and brought into force in 2010.
"What had taken the amount of time is that the protocol is an instrument that provides for certain obligations in terms of pollution reduction and prevention and having in place regulations relating to effluent from various industries. Our understanding is that some of those regulations were either not in place or were outdated," Corbin told the Jamaica Observer.
Implementing the LBS Protocol would encourage sustainable development of the marine and coastal resources as well as improved management of natural resources that allow for increased economic development, especially in the areas of tourism and fisheries. It would also allow for strengthened legal and regulatory capacities and effective national development planning.
UNEP believes that the ratification is an opportunity to signal to donors that there is a political will to fight pollution and is a means of mobilising and accessing resources to help with these efforts.
"Immediately, it will send a very strong political message to the UN and donor communities that there is a political commitment and will to deal with pollution, whether it is solid waste or liquid waste," Corbin said.
He said UNEP is in discussion with the World Bank, which has already expressed a strong interest in working with countries who have ratified the protocol to assist them in pollution reduction, prevention and control.
He said it would also demonstrate, from a regional standpoint, a commitment by the country to take part in regional co-operation.
"Pollution is not necessarily just a land-based issue; there is also trans-boundary impact, so pollution coming from one country can affect another, and, by signing the protocol, there is greater opportunity for support," Corbin noted.