Prime Minister Freundel Stuart is pictured at the lectern as he addressed the?? International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) Congressional Gala yesterday. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Barbados has again added its voice to those countries that have been calling for sustained action to, on one hand, protect the marine environment and, on the other, to significantly reduce green-house emissions across the world.

This time, it has done so in the glare of a highly publicised and well-attended international forum, Prime Minister Freundel Stuart joined several well-known environmentalists, conservationists and members of the International Conservation Caucus Foundation (ICCF) last evening in Washington, DC, and made a clarion call to save the oceans and other significant bodies of water.

The occasion was a packed ICCF gala at the imposing Andrew Mellon Auditorium.

Mr. Stuart was specially invited to address the gathering that included a list of the Who’s Who in American society who is in the forefront of environmental matters. Also in attendance were scores of Senators and Congressional members, movie actors and the current President of Mexico, Felipe Calderon, who was conferred with the Teddy Roosevelt Award for exceptional attention to the environment.

During his address, the Barbados Prime Minister observed that in his capacity as a member of the United Nations High Level Panel on Global Sustainability, he has championed the perspective that "it is essential that any new vision for global sustainability must encompass ???the blue economy’ – including the conservation and sustainable management of marine and ocean resources, which would enable developing countries to enjoy a greater share of the benefits derived from those resources."

He made it known that within the Caribbean, "we have recognised that an integrated management approach that involves all relevant stakeholders provides us with the best option for protecting the Caribbean Sea." He noted that Barbados had led the regional effort in the Association of Caribbean States to create the Caribbean Sea Commission, which represented an oceans governance framework to promote cooperation towards the effective management of the Caribbean Sea.

"I hope that the upcoming Rio+20 Conference in June of this year will provide us with an opportunity to share our experiences, and also to mobilise support for this and other similar regional initiatives, which serves as sustainable development, in practice," the Prime Minister said.

Mr. Stuart went on: "Managing oceans on a regional, integrated, long-term and whole-of-ecosystem scale, as we have attempted to do in the Caribbean, provides all users with a stake in sustainable management of marine resources – from the small scale fisherman to the owner of a major hotel, National and regional approaches can only succeed, however, if they are supported by enabling actions and measures at the international level."

In this regard, he called for oceans issues to be placed high on the global agenda, and told his audience that, "given the threat posed to life, as we know it, leaders from all regions must be more engaged on this issue, and we must bring civil society stakeholders, including business and NGOs, into dialogue. The Rio+20 Conference provides us with a valid opportunity to initiate that dialogue."

Mr. Stuart also asked for urgent action to be taken, that would have a significantly, positive impact on the environment. He said there was broad international consensus on a range of short term, high impact actions, such as: carefully reviewing the capacity of global fishing fleets; phasing out harmful fishing subsidies; eliminating illegal, unregistered and unreported fishing; and expanding the global network of marine protected areas to conserve biodiversity.

In addition, the Barbados Prime Minister further maintained that "we must ensure greater predictability in financing for oceans related activities through the establishment of a new and well-resourced international fund for promoting conservation and management of the marine environment.

Mr. Stuart warned that we would have little hope of saving the oceans and the islands if greenhouse emissions continued to rise; noting that time was not on our side. "The global nature, complexity and gravity of the challenges facing the oceans require an immense, comprehensive and urgent global effort," he urged, while affirming that "it is well within our capacity to undertake and succeed in this endeavour."

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