[Just one post today, but it's a good one: a guest contribution from Robin Ramdeen, who recently attended the 2nd International Marine Conservation Congress (IMCC) in British Columbia, Canada. Robin's report highlights Caribbean participation in the Congress, as well as some of the challenges and opportunities with which regional marine conservation stakeholders are presented.]
The second International Marine Conservation Congress was held between May 14-18th in Victoria, Vancouver Island on the Pacific coast of Canada. It attracted 1300 registrants and participants from all over the world. This year’s theme “Making science matter” saw a strong focus on the importance of effective communication in increasing awareness about marine conservation issues. The congress comprised a series of symposia, workshops and focus-groups on topics including the human dimension of marine conservation, sustainable fisheries and aquaculture, marine protected area effectiveness, the role of economics in conservation and innovative techniques & technology for marine conservation. The opening day event, entitled “Beyond the Obituaries: Success stories in ocean conservation”, highlighted conservation efforts that are making a difference around the world, like how one project, Shark Truth has set about empowering Asian-Canadian consumers to make a choice to forego shark fin soup at their weddings.
Caribbean conservation efforts featured at the conference included presentations by international NGOs such as The Nature Conservancy as well as national regulatory bodies such as the Institute of Marine Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago; both groups are working to build resilience into reef-management.
It should not come as a surprise that many of marine ecosystems, including those in the Caribbean, are being increasingly stressed by human-induced threats such as overfishing, ocean acidification and increasing temperature. Experts at the UBC Fisheries Centre have reconstructed marine fisheries catches of small island countries in the South Pacific, Indian Ocean and Caribbean since 1950 and found that total catches were over 2.5 times larger than reported landings. Under-reporting can lead to poor fisheries management decisions and over-exploitation of our diminishing fish stocks.
The status of the queen conch and lobster fisheries in the Caribbean region were among the issues addressed during the conference proceedings. The Bahamas is known for its productive spiny lobster fishery and is ranked the 5th largest exporter of lobster tails in the world. To improve management and sustainability of the lobster fishery, the Bahamas Department of Marine Resources, The Bahamas Marine Exporters Association, The Nature Conservancy, Abaco Friends of the Environment, and other NGOs are working with World Wildlife Fund to implement a fishery improvement project (FIP) for the Bahamian lobster fishery. The international conch meat trade is very valuable, the last estimate in the mid 1990s being US$60 million annually. The University of Miami outlined that most Strombus gigas stocks in the Caribbean are not protected as required by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) and that major review of existing conservation measures is necessary.
All is not grim however, and many projects in the Caribbean are making it loud and clear that we must protect the marine ecosystems that sustain us. For instance the Wildlife Conservation Society is using a multi-pronged strategy to change attitudes and promote conservation of sharks in Belize. Their sensational advertising campaign slogan “Don’t eat sharks, it’s bad for you” help spread the word that many species of shark and other top predators of the sea contain levels of methyl mercury too dangerous for human consumption.
The congress program which contains all abstracts is available online (PDF).
[This post was contributed by Robin Ramdeen. Originally from Trinidad and Tobago, Robin now resides in British Columbia, and was a participant and volunteer at the IMCC.]