Countries and territories currently participating in the CCI include; Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, British Virgin Islands, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
The Caribbean contains some of the world’s richest marine biodiversity. In the sea and along island coastlines, the region harbors 10% of the world’s coral reefs, 1,400 species of fish and marine mammals and mile after mile of mangrove forests.
With 70% of the population living along the coast, Caribbean lives and livelihoods directly depend upon healthy marine and coastal resources. Alarmingly, the Caribbean is increasingly threatened by development, pollution, overfishing and climate change.
To the extent that the 37 Caribbean nations and overseas territories are separated by water, they are united by the Caribbean Sea. Governments and people throughout the Caribbean must work together to address growing threats to the sea and its resources. The Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) is the first conservation initiative embraced by governments across the region.
Launched in 2008 with support from The Nature Conservancy, the CCI is an endeavor of unprecedented scale and scope. Ten participating CCI countries and territories have committed to:
- conserving at least 20% of their nearshore marine and coastal environments in national marine protected areas systems by 2020; and
- creating National Conservation Trust Funds, endowed by new sustainable finance mechanisms (such as tourism fees), dedicated to solely to funding park management.
Real changes are happening
While CCI countries are developing their National Conservation Trust Funds, the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF), a $42 million regional endowment, is ramping up to support protected area management through annual disbursements to the national funds. The CBF, funded by the German Development Bank (KfW), Global Environment Facility and The Nature Conservancy will be ready to disburse funds to National Conservation Trust Funds in early 2014. In recognition of the importance and urgency of this regional initiative, the Conservancy is raising $8 million to fund the CBF.
Participating CCI countries have declared 50 new marine/coastal protected areas. The Dominican Republic decreed the Sanctuario Marinos Arrecifes del Este, a 1,942,742-acre park designed to protect coral reefs, basking sharks and sea turtles. The Bahamas expanded Andros West Side National Park from 185,032 acres to 1,288,167 acres to protect creek, mud flats, sand flats and mangrove forests that are important habitats used by elusive bone fish and tarpon during their lifecycles. When the National Conservation Trust Funds and the CBF are up and running, managers at Sanctuario Marinos Arrecifes del Este, Andros West Side National Park, and scores of other marine protected areas in the Caribbean, will have sustainable sources of revenue for basic on-the-ground protection and management activities.
Gathering for an important cause
When it comes to protecting the Caribbean for the future, time is of an essence.
To accelerate conservation action and funding – and actively engage the private sector and general public - this May, Prime Minister Keith Mitchell of Grenada, Premier Orlando Smith of the British Virgin Islands and Richard Branson, founder and CEO of the Virgin Group, are co-hosting a Summit of Caribbean Political and Business Leaders in the British Virgin Islands. The event will launch the next phase of the CCI, bringing together for the first time Caribbean heads of state, international CEOs and key partners to formally endorse bold new commitments to protect the region’s marine and coastal environments and - vital for long-term success of the CCI - to pledge large-scale private and public financial support for the initiative. To integrate consumer action into Caribbean conservation, the Conservancy will launch the Defend Paradise Campaign at the Summit.
This historic gathering of visionary leaders will confirm to the people of the Caribbean – and the world - that conservation is good for people, economies and the environment.