Protecting Barbados’ ocean space and its coastlines remains one of the main lessons emerging out of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
Minister of Maritime Affairs and the Blue Economy, Kirk Humphrey, underscored this point as he addressed a virtual high-level panel event with representatives from across the Commonwealth to mark World Oceans Day, on June 8, under the theme: Ocean: Life and Livelihoods.
Government is presently co-leading with the Republic of Seychelles on Marine Protected Areas, and has committed to protecting 30 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone following the completion of scientific research to ensure that the ecosystems and those whose livelihoods come from the sea are protected.
Minister Humphrey said while Barbados was still deeply impacted by the pandemic, COVID-19 did not displace the island’s focus on sustainable ocean development.
Rather, he stated that it “galvanised” Government’s resolve to make that area a priority through a number of initiatives, including having the correct policy environment and infrastructure and ocean-focused institutions on board to deliver.
“The pandemic showed what was enduring and what was important. We saw people return to or enter fisheries in Barbados for the first time. It was one of those sectors that still worked and fed people directly when food became a challenge for many, many reasons in Barbados,” the Minister pointed out.
He added that the importance of the sea and the need to protect it was one of the “long lasting legacies and lessons” that could be gleaned from the pandemic.
“That is why Barbados is focused on doing a Marine Spatial Plan with the Nature Conservancy even outside of our Debt for Nature Swap.
“That is why we have launched a comprehensive Integrated Coastal Zone Management Plan to protect our coastal zone. That is why we are focusing on a detailed Roofs to Reefs programme, which is driven by sustainable development. That is why we are looking at renewable energy and banned the use of petroleum single-use plastics in Barbados,” Mr. Humphrey told the panel.
He further outlined that the Port of Bridgetown must also offer clean energy to ships, even as Government worked to introduce new fishing techniques and restrict unhealthy practices.
He maintained that Barbados’ commitment to sustainable ocean development was stronger than it ever was, especially coming out of the pandemic. What is needed now from partners, he said, was additional support so the goals could be achieved in a way that made sense.