It’s been an exciting couple of weeks for ELI Ocean Program in the Caribbean. Last week on Curacao, the Ministry of Health and Environment on behalf of Curacao and the Waitt Institute signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) agreeing to work together on Blue Halo Curacao. There is equal cause for celebration in Montserrat where a similar MOU was signed the prior week, launching Blue Halo Montserrat. Both island governments see the importance of ocean health for their long term economic and ecological success and have embarked upon this partnership to develop a new sustainable ocean policy. Across the Caribbean, the island of Barbuda—part of Antigua and Barbuda—in partnership with the Waitt Institute, pioneered this approach with great success to date, and their work is ongoing.
The ELI Ocean Team is excited to be a part of all of these efforts by providing the legal analysis and drafting support that these Initiatives and the project partners need. The Blue Halo Initiatives are based on an approach ELI believes in—led by local stakeholders, communities, and governments, with expert scientific and policy support provided by project partners, including ELI and the Waitt Institute, Our experience to date has shown that this approach can make important progress on conserving marine areas for future generations, while supporting livelihoods today.
Only two years in to the Initiative, the Barbuda Blue Halo already has resulted in legal success stories and a new ocean conservation approach. In September of 2014, the government of Barbuda approved three new regulations:
New fisheries regulations that include a system for fisheries licenses, protects key species like corals and the herbivores that keep them clear of algae, and more
New regulations establishing a National Park Authority on Barbuda to aid in the management of the Codrington Lagoon National Park (a RAMSAR Wetland of International Importance); and
New regulations for coastal zoning that help protect key habitats while allowing fishermen to continue their livelihoods
Now comes the challenging part—implementation. Already implementation is underway on Barbuda, where Waitt Institute experts are working with the Barbuda fisheries staff to conduct scientific monitoring, providing training on new regulations and enforcement and compliance approaches, and supporting additional measures to ensure success. Throughout the implementation phase, the ELI team has remained on hand to answer questions and help address challenges that arise.
These Blue Halo Initiatives are part of a broader wave of a comprehensive ocean management around the globe known by many as marine planning, maritime spatial planning, or marine spatial planning (depending on where you are!). It is exciting to see the islands of the Caribbean lead the way.
On a more personal note, I have had the pleasure of spending time on Curacao learning from local leaders about their system of governance, the challenges they face, and the steps they are already taking to achieve sustainable oceans, and reconnect with partners in Antigua and Barbuda to support the next phase of the Blue Halo Initiative. In addition, I had the opportunity to enjoy seeing the invasive lionfish in the best possible way—on my plate. Yum!