Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as he addressed the Permanent??Council of the OAS. (C. Pitt/BGIS)

Protecting our oceans should be a priority for all countries, especially small island Caribbean states and sustainable use of their resources will require strategic and sustained collaboration and cooperation.??

This was stated by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he addressed the Protocolary Meeting of the Permanent Council of the Organisation of American States (OAS) yesterday in Washington, DC.

The Prime Minister emphasised that around the world, including the Caribbean, there was widespread evidence of depleted fisheries, degraded ecosystems and threatened biodiversity. He said: "Most fisheries are overexploited, coral reef ecosystems are being stressed to extinction and coastal habitats are being polluted or destroyed by inappropriate development and unmanaged use."

Consequently, Mr. Stuart noted that: "Improved ocean governance is a sine qua non to sustainable use of all seas, and not just the Caribbean Sea.?? For centuries, we have taken for granted the resources in the marine environment.?? It has now become patently clear that these resources are non-renewable".??

Pointing out that the Caribbean Sea embraced the states of the greater Caribbean and?? the Dutch, Spanish, French and English territories, he argued that it was also " the most important and impactful natural resource in the lives and livelihoods of the people of the wider Caribbean".??

He noted that sustainable use of the Caribbean Sea was, therefore, fundamental to the social and economic fabric of Caribbean countries, since "in most islands and countries, more than 60 per cent of the population lives on, or near the coast.?? Many people derive their livelihoods from the sea, in wide-ranging activities that include fishing, marine transport and especially tourism".

The Prime Minister underlined that the countries of the wider Caribbean region -nearly all members of the OAS – had been "vigorously seeking to strengthen regional ocean governance through several avenues".?? He added that the most important of these was the Caribbean Sea Initiative, which was started in 1998 and resulted in the UN General Assembly Resolution Towards the Sustainable Development of the Caribbean Sea for Present and Future Generations.

He continued: "Another outcome of this process was the establishment in 2006, of the Caribbean Sea Commission (CSC) to promote and oversee the sustainable use of the living and non-living resources of the Caribbean Sea.?? The countries of our region are fully committed to making this Commission fully operational, and it is in this context that we have invited the support of the Member States of the OAS.??

"Those states that are not physically connected by the Caribbean Sea are joined to us by bonds of solidarity.?? This support is most readily seen in the resolution AG/RES. 2691, entitled Support for the Work of the Caribbean Sea Commission, which was adopted in San Salvador, El Salvador, at the Forty-First Regular Session of the General Assembly that was held in 2011.

"The resolution adopted in El Salvador is evidence of the scope for collaboration between the OAS and the ACS as the Caribbean Sea Commission seeks to mobilise financial resources, build capacity, enhance technical and technological cooperation and engage in the exchange of experiences."

Mr. Stuart pointed out Barbados had been Chair of the Caribbean Sea Commission since its establishment in 2006. He emphasised that the Caribbean was "a large, complex region with many countries and organisations whose needs and roles must be considered in building an effective architecture for regional, ocean governance.?? We believe that a solid foundation of consensus and cooperation has been laid and this will serve in good stead as we move forward to establish the Secretariat responsible for coordinating regional policy development."????

In conclusion, Mr. Stuart stressed that regional governments were committed to strengthening environmental protection and the sustainable use of natural resources. He maintained that the OAS must continue to consider the Caribbean Sea in its multidimensional context and that it had much work to do in contributing to good governance of the environment.

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