“If we (Barbados) are to adopt and implement an effective national ocean policy, we must first understand and acknowledge the full consequences of failing to take action!”
This warning has come from Director of the Coastal Zone Management Unit, Dr. Leo Brewster, who noted that human ingenuity and ever improving technology has enabled us to harvest – and significantly alter – the ocean’s naturally replenishing resources, while threatening their long-term sustainability.
“Through inattention, lack of information, and irresponsibility, we have indirectly depleted local reef and commercial fisheries, despoiled recreational areas, degraded water quality, drained wetlands, and on occasion endangered our own health…” he said.
Dr. Brewster’s comments were made during a recent address at a symposium on the Principled Ocean Governance Network (PROGOVNET) Project in the Caribbean at the University of the West Indies, Cave Hill. It was hosted by the Centre for Resource management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) and the Caribbean Law Institute Centre (CLIC).
Indicating that it was the use of engineering skills which had facilitated the redirection of the course of gullies, deflection of wave impacts, and the transformation of empty shorelines into crowded resort communities, the Coastal Zone head stressed that, despite some progress, Barbados’ coastal ecosystems continued to show signs of degradation, thereby compromising ecosystem health, slowly damaging the economy and harming marine life.
In an effort to achieve the vision of responsible ocean governance, he advised that a national ocean policy should be based on, and guided by fundamental principles, including: Sustainability, Stewardship, Ocean-Land-Atmosphere Connections; Eco-system-based Management; Multiple Use management; Preservation of Marine Biodiversity; Participatory Governance; Timeliness; Accountability and International Responsibility.
In terms of current legislation, Dr. Brewster said the Environment Ministry was in the process of pursuing “with all haste” the passage of the long-awaited Environmental Act. He stressed that with the ensuing PROGOVNET Project, consideration would have to be given to the inclusion of an Ocean’s Policy and Ocean’s Act into that piece of legislation.
“We are moving close to a time when, through the ecosystems based management approach, the Caribbean Sea will require a committed level of co-managed ocean governance considerations to be reflected in its jurisdictional decisions,” he underscored.