International Coral Reef 
Action Network
ICRAN Strategic Plan
Draft of 23 June 2000
[Return to Strategic Plan Contents]

The Wider Caribbean6

About 10 percent of the world's coral reefs are found in the Caribbean region, most of them located along the Central American coast and off the Caribbean islands. The Caribbean overall has lower generic diversity of reef-building corals than most of the tropical Indo-Pacific, however, it has the highest number of regionally endemic genera in the world. The region is particularly rich in mollusks and larger crustaceans, with the second highest number of endemic lobsters. The second largest barrier reef in the world, the Meso-American Barrier Reef, is located in the region, spanning the coasts of Belize, Guatemala, Honduras and Mexico. 

Coastal and marine resources are the basis for the economies for most of the insular Caribbean. Coastal tourism today is probably the major source of revenue for most countries. The insular Caribbean has a population of nearly 35 million people and total stay-over visitors are close to 15 million/year, plus over 10 million/year of cruise-ship visitors. Almost 60 percent of the world's scuba diving tours are in the Caribbean. Fisheries landings have declined steadily since the early 1990s. 

Caribbean reefs are under severe threat from coastal erosion and sedimentation, pollution from sewage and fertilizers, anchor damage and recreational misuse. As a region, the Caribbean's environmental protection is based upon its only legally binding environmental treaty--the Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (known as the Cartagena Convention). The Convention and its protocols constitute a legal commitment by the participating governments to protect, develop and manage their common waters individually and jointly. The Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) follows an ecosystem approach to conservation, and is the first treaty to enlist entire groups of corals as requiring protection and sustainable management. The Secretariat for the Caribbean Environment Programme is managed by the UNEP Regional Coordinating Unit (UNEP CAR/RCU). 

The Caribbean Regional ICRI Workshop (Montego Bay, Jamaica, July 1995) identified several issues that should be addressed for the protection of coral reefs. They are listed below (but not ranked): 

- Integrated Coastal Management (ICM) and related institutional, policy and legal issues
- Co-management of coastal resources through a partnership of public and private sectors, resource users, local communities, NGOs, the scientific community and donor agencies
- Environmental education and awareness
- Marine Protected Areas
- Coral reef fisheries management
- Land-based sources of pollution including nutrients and sedimentation
- Research and monitoring for the management of coral reefs
- Financing for the management of coral reefs. 

Given the range of stresses, combined with the current institutional capacity within the region, the Caribbean was chosen as one of the first RSPs brought into the ICRAN. 

During the Start-up Phase, the Caribbean RCU has: 

- Initiated a regional system of demonstration sites for MPA management in the Caribbean, serving as training centers to ensure widespread effective coral reef management. 

- Conducted "Train-the-trainers" courses in MPA management at two of the demonstration sites, and developed a regional manual. 

- Conducted regional training courses in the Saba Marine Park in both English and Spanish. 

In addition to strengthening MPAs, integrated coastal management practices need to be promoted, particularly those relating to tourism and land-based pollution, such as sewage and sedimentation. Best practices need to be developed with full participation of all relevant stakeholders including government, the private sector, NGOs and local communities. 
Souffrière Marine Management Area Saint Lucia Fishers, dive operators, vendors, hoteliers
Saba Marine Park Saba Dive operators, hoteliers
Parque del Este Dominican Republic Fishers, hoteliers
Holchan Marine Park Belize Fishers, eco-tour operators
Bonaire Marine Park Netherlands Antilles Dive operators, hoteliers
Si'an'kan Protected Area and Biosphere Reserve Mexico Fishers, dive/tour operators, hoteliers

The above-listed sites, along with future candidate sites, will be vetted during workshops held in the Action Phase, so that all stakeholders within the region have been consulted. 

Action Phase Priorities 

During the startup phase, the Caribbean region initiated its network of demonstration sites, and developed a train-the-trainer's course for MPA managers directed at MPA managers. 15 MPA managers from Spanish speaking countries have been trained in all aspects of MPA management. The trained managers have in turn conducted training for local personnel from at least 15 MPAs in the region in specific aspects of MPA management. A training manual in Spanish and English course in Marine Protected Areas Management with regionally adapted material was developed and tested in the start-up phase and is ready for use in the action phase (Please also see section on Progress from ICRAN's Start-up Phase). 

For the Action Phase, the Caribbean's ICRAN priority actions are as follows: 

1. Limited resources are needed in the first year to complete the formal evaluation of the suite of demonstration sites and confirm their selection among stakeholders as part of the Network. This will include completing the needs assessment, evaluation of additional sites and their selection per the criteria developed during the Start-up Phase. 

2. Direct assistance to demonstration (MPA and ICM) sites (both current and expanded) is needed to bring them from high-risk to low-risk status per the Regional Reefs at Risk classification. Strengthening of these sites for improved management through development of management or operational plans, training, education and outreach programs, basic equipment, and enhancement of visitor facilities is required. 

3. Review and monitoring of management practices. Formalization of operational best practices and sharing of lessons learned within and between regions, in particular those related to tourism and fisheries. 

4. Development and enhancement of local sustainable financing mechanisms in and around demonstration sites and other MPAs. Implementation of revenue generation mechanisms, such as user fees, concessions and sales, with an emphasis on alternative livelihoods that eliminate or minimize unsustainable use of coral reef resources. 

5. Sustainable capacity building through regional training of trainers. Expansion of the training-of-trainers program begun during the Start-up Phase through additional courses and local training activities within demonstration sites and surrounding areas. 

6. Support for local training activities by trainees in at least 20 MPAs. Emphasis will be placed on effective evaluation to identify improvements and additional needs at local levels. 

7. Support for the existing Wider Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network (CaMPAM) to assist with problem solving and enhance the sharing of information and expertise. Updating and maintenance of the existing Caribbean MPA database and harmonization with the IUCN global database managed by WCMC, and the MPA database held in ReefBase. Working with WCMC, enhancement of mapping of sites within the database for the benefit of managers. 

8. With assistance from the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network, the Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity Programme (CARICOMP) Network and in coordination with enhanced public awareness (Component 3), support low cost, standardized coral reef monitoring among all demonstration sites, as well as other MPAs. 

9. Assessment of ecological and socioeconomic impacts of coastal and watershed management practices on coral reef ecosystems, through relevant monitoring activities, in close coordination with Components 2 and 3 of the Plan: Recommend changes in current practices or support existing practices Produce updated assessments on coral reef status in the region Promote the socioeconomic value of coral reefs, in particular at the decision- and policy-making levels throughout the region through the media and intergovernmental and national events. 


In combination with the information support from ICRAN partners in the Assessment and Communication Components (see Components 2 &3), the specific outputs anticipated from the Caribbean's priorities are as follows: 

1. An active and functional network of MPA and ICM sites sharing experiences and information and assisting with problem solving through a range of communication mechanisms (e.g. list servers, conference calls, technical exchanges, and internships). 

2. Documented case studies on the positive and negative impacts of coastal and watershed management practices on coral reef ecosystems and recommended actions for improved practices as appropriate. 

3. Regional and sub-regional yearly assessments on the health and status of coral reefs ecosystems, widely disseminated within the region at different levels (national, provincial/state and local). 

4. Documented information on the socio-economic value of coral reefs, widely disseminated within the region at different levels and targeted for public and private decision-makers. 

5. Sub-regional and national coordinated networks of individuals, organizations and institutions (and nodes) conducting monitoring of coral reefs and contributing to the GCRMN and ReefBase. 

These outputs will directly contribute to the information used in several of the Assessment Component Actions, and will be incorporated into the reports that make up the ICRAN Summary Atlas. 


By the end of the Action Phase, this region can expect to have a well established, functioning network of demonstration sites and additional, related MPAs. Each of these areas should realize improved management and communication, sharing of best practices, enhanced stakeholder involvement and new opportunities to enhance revenue without further degrading the health of coral reef resources or reducing their capacity to provide for local communities. 

6 Participating countries: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Jamaica, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Christopher and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, United States of America, Venezuela, the Caribbean Territories of France, Netherlands and the United Kingdom. Due to scale, some of the countries are not visible on the map.

[Return to Strategic Plan Contents]

Return to homepage

UN System-wide Earthwatch Coordination, Geneva