It’s easy to think of the Caribbean in images, as a region bounded by sun-struck waters, gleaming beaches, rivers plunging white over black rock waterfalls, and coral so vibrant it makes the ocean sing with color and life. It’s the catalog of Caribbean snapshots favored by cruise brochures and in-flight magazines—the perfect dream of a tropical paradise.
But that dream—as real and as beautiful as it is—only touches the surface of this crescent-shaped archipelago that has drawn people across the water for centuries. The Caribbean is so much more than just an enchanting landscape, so much more than just a beautiful place.
The waters here are the warm heart of the Atlantic Ocean and harbor the true wealth of the Caribbean: nearly 8,000 square miles of coral reefs – one-tenth of all the world’s corals, including two of the longest reefs found anywhere, the Mesoamerican and Andros Barrier Reefs.
Heart of the Atlantic
Each year, 40 million people from around the world are drawn to the Caribbean’s magnificent natural beauty and spectacular marine life. Tourism accounts for nearly 50 percent of the Caribbean nations’ entire income. Caribbean coral reefs provide more than $4 billion a year from fisheries, scuba-diving, tourism and shoreline protection.
Many different Caribbean marine estuaries and tidal creeks provide feeding and calving grounds for 30 species of dolphins and whales at some point in their life cycle. Four of the six species of sea turtles—all of them endangered—return each year to nest on the island beaches where they were born.
Caribbean tidal flats, with their beds of seagrass, harbor bonefish and tarpon and conceal an enduring mystery. Even today, with all the technological tools of 21st century, scientists have yet to discover the waters where these ancient fish spawn. And, unfortunately, as change continues to come to the Caribbean and the waters warm from climate change, the mystery of the bonefish is not the only puzzle scientists, residents and leaders must solve.
The Caribbean Challenge
Fortunately, the Caribbean Challenge provides a fleeting opportunity to change the face of conservation in the Caribbean forever. We can still affect the future. But we must act decisively and we must act now. Help the Conservancy build on its strong foundation as a global conservation leader and its history of success in the Caribbean.
With your help, the Caribbean Challenge can make an immediate and material difference to the future of the plants, animals and people of the Caribbean. It can be a future of abundance, instead of loss, where the reefs and the beaches, the forests and mountains that have fed generations, will be here to nurture and sustain our children and our children’s children now and far into the future.