Countries and territories currently participating in the Caribbean Challenge Initiative:
- British Virgin Islands
- Dominican Republic
- Puerto Rico
- St. Kitts & Nevis
- Saint Lucia
- St. Vincent and the Grenadines
- U.S. Virgin Islands
Critical threats to the Caribbean Sea are growing
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, 1,500 fish and marine mammal species, 15,000 plant species 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 that provide water and food security and sustain local economies. Alarmingly, both nature and people in the Caribbean are increasingly threatened by unsustainable development, pollution, overfishing and climate change. Warming oceans and overfishing are damaging coral reef ecosystems that provide vital marine habitat to thousands of species and protect coastlines from severe erosion and flooding. Mangrove forests, which also protect vulnerable coasts as well as provide carbon sequestration, are being destroyed by development at a rapid pace. Devastating climate-related events in recent years, including tropical storms and hurricanes, have made evident the dangers that communities face as their marine and coastal resources are put at risk.
While the 37 nations and overseas territories of the Caribbean are separated by water, it is this shared resource and cultural wellspring—the Caribbean Sea—that unites them. Governments and people throughout the Caribbean must work together to address the growing threats to their marine and coastal environments.
Launched in 2008 with support from The Nature Conservancy, the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI) is an endeavor of unprecedented scale and scope. Eleven participating CCI countries and territories have committed to:
- conserve at least 20% of their nearshore marine and coastal environments by 2020—effectively tripling marine protected area coverage in the region
- ensure that these conserved areas are effectively managed into the future through a reliable, long-term finance structure—including the creation of National Conservation Trust Funds, funded by sustainable revenue sources and dedicated solely to conserved area management and on-the-ground conservation efforts
How it works
To provide CCI governments with the reliable, long-term support needed to achieve their CCI commitments, the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) was established. The CBF, funded by the German Government (BMZ and KfW), The World Bank Group, Global Environment Facility and The Nature Conservancy, is a $42 million regional endowment that channels funds into the National Conservation Trust Funds set up within each CCI country or territory. These funds are then matched by revenue raised by CCI governments via sustainable finance mechanisms, such as tourism or user fees. In recognition of the importance and urgency of this regional initiative, the Conservancy committed to raising $8 million towards the CBF—a goal that has just been achieved through generous private philanthropy funds.
Together, the CCI and CBF will help increase natural and socioeconomic resilience in the Caribbean at a scale that has never been seen in the region. The Initiative will result in 21 million acres of new marine protected areas—roughly the size of South Carolina—and will promote a nature-based approach to building climate resilience that can serve as a model in a world gravely threatened by climate change. It will also support the tourism industry, on which so many Caribbean livelihoods rely, and foster sustainable management of fisheries and other marine resources.
Real progress is underway
Already, significant progress has been made through the Initiative. The Dominican Republic, via an unprecedented Presidential Decree, declared 31 new protected areas totaling just over 3.2 million acres, which will protect coral reefs, sharks and sea turtles. The Bahamas expanded Andros West Side National Park from 882,000 acres to nearly 1.3 million acres, which includes important fish habitat and mangrove forests. St. Kitts and Nevis declared a new protected area that encompasses a 2-mile radius around the entire island nation and includes 60% of its nearshore marine shelf. And Haiti, a country whose resources and communities have suffered greatly due to climate-related disasters in recent years, has joined the CCI at a critical juncture.
This progress is exciting and promising as the first-of-its-kind goal of the CCI gains substantial ground—but time is of the essence. To learn more about the CCI, visit www.caribbeanchallengeinitiative.org or help the Conservancy support the CCI.