Caribbean citizens celebrated in August as the Barbuda Council—part of the twin-island nation of Antigua and Barbuda—signed a sweeping set of new ocean management regulations for Barbuda that zone its coastal waters, strengthen its fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries. These transformative regulations follow 17 months of extensive community consultation, scientific research, and dedication by the Barbudans with support by the Waitt Institute and its partners. The Environmental Law Institute (ELI), which led the legal analysis and drafting for the project—the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative—played a key part in supporting this landmark achievement. According to ELI Ocean Program Co-Director Kathryn Mengerink, “Barbuda is an incredible place with a community dedicated to sustainably managing its important ocean resources. We had the opportunity to help draft the legal language—language that was based on the needs of the community, the function of the ecosystem, and the hard work of the Barbuda Council, the Waitt Institute, and the many partners who contributed to the Initiative’s success.”
As described by the Waitt Institute, the new regulations “establish five marine sanctuaries, collectively protecting 33% (139 km2) of the coastal area, to enable fish populations to rebuild and habitats to recover. To restore the coral reefs, catching parrotfish and sea urchins has been completely prohibited, as those herbivores are critical to keeping algae levels on reefs low so coral can thrive. Barbuda is the first Caribbean island to put either of these bold and important measures in place.”
‘This will definitely benefit the people of Barbuda, and Antigua as well. No part of this is meant to hurt fishers. It's the reverse—ensuring that they have a livelihood that will last in perpetuity,’ said Arthur Nibbs, Chairman of the Barbuda Council and Antigua and Barbuda Minister of Fisheries.”
The new policies on sustainable fisheries propel the island nation to the forefront of Caribbean ocean conservation efforts and serve as a model for all nations. ELI Senior Attorney Read Porter points out, “this is the first step in achieving ocean and economic health. Next the hard work starts—implementing the regulations and achieving compliance with them.” ELI looks forward to supporting Antigua and Barbuda as the nation continues to manage marine resources to create sustainable livelihoods for its citizens.