Jamaica follow-up

Alas, no snorkeling photos. But Alejandra Goyenechea’s week in Jamaica was time well spent for marine conservation. Here’s a recap from both meetings in Montego Bay last week to discuss protecting wildlife in the wider Caribbean region.

Alejandra puts on her game face for daylong meetings on marine conservation in the Caribbean last week.

  • New marine sanctuary: “Agoa,” the mythical Amerindian goddess of the sea, is the name of a newly protected area for marine mammals near the French Antilles.  France contributed the sanctuary as part of the Marine Mammal Action Plan in order to bring attention to the importance of protecting dolphins and whales in the Caribbean.
  • Taming the lionfish: Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) countries in the Caribbean will be launching an initiative to curtail the invasive lionfish that has taken over fisheries throughout much of the region. Lionfish populations have been growing steadily up and down the Atlantic Coast, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, where they have no natural predators and feast on other sea creatures. Some countries have offered a bounty for killed lionfish; others are urging gastronomes to eat them all.
  • Raft of ratifications: A critical part of these international meetings is to come up with actionable plans that become legally binding. For that to happen, parties must sign on to various protocols before they can be enforced. There were several important ratifications in Jamaica that will help protect biodiversity and reducepollution:
    • Guyana ratified the Cartagena Convention and all three major protocols (SPAW, LBS and Oil Spill)
    • Bahamas ratified the Cartagena Convention and became the ninth party to ratify the LBS protocol, therefore entering the protocol into force.

      The conference hotel in Montego Bay, Jamaica. Notice the lack of conservation experts out enjoying the sunshine.

  • Making island history: Two islands, formerly a part of Netherlands Antilles, became autonomous countries under the Kingdom of Netherlands. The implications are still unclear and perhaps trivial, as this Time story notes. Nevertheless, welcome Curacao and St. Maarten to (partial) statehood!
  • Seafood faux pas: Alejandra reports disappointedly that her hotel in Jamaica served queen conch–a Caribbean mollusk that is often over-harvested, putting the future population at risk. The species currently has limited protections under Appendix II of CITES, which establishes an export quota for countries like Jamaica. Yet international trade in conch continues at unsustainable levels, highlighting the need for regional collaboration on conservation strategies. Needless to say, Alejandra passed on eating the conch.