Rodney Bay, St. Lucia – Teamwork, information exchanges, presentations by experts and games were on the agenda during a three-day scientific forum held in St. Lucia from February 19 – 21 to improve access to information and strengthen protected area management in the region.
The event, called “Developing a Shared Vision for Improving Access to Information for Protected Area Management,” brought together more than forty participants from thirteen Caribbean nations including Jamaica, Bahamas, Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, Trinidad and Tobago, Haiti, Belize, and Guyana and the independent member states of the OECS. Country representatives shared information, challenges in data collection and sharing and their ideas on how to use the best information to make management decisions regarding communities and the environment that supports them.
The forum was hosted by the Biodiversity and Protected Area Management Programme (BIOPAMA) and The Nature Conservancy’s Eastern Caribbean Marine Managed Areas Network (ECMMAN) project. Key speakers included Dr. Stephen Peedell and Dr. Nicolas Hoepffner, Senior Scientific Officers at the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (EC-JRC), Hari Balasubramanian, founder of EcoAdvisors environmental consulting firm and Amy Milam (Ecologic LLC), representing UNEP-World Conservation Monitoring Centre’s Protected Areas Programme.
Representatives from numerous regional organizations including CANARI, the Caribbean Network of Fishers Organizations, the Caribbean Marine Managers Network (CaMPAM), the OECS Secretariat, UWI CERMES, and CARPHA Caribbean Aqua and Terrestrial Solutions (CATS) project shared their initiatives and discussed ways to leverage their funds and resources.
The participants ended the meeting feeling encouraged by the improved synergies of current initiatives in the region and the opportunities for building a regional system for data sharing to improve management. BIOPAMA is a four-year initiative of the ACP (Africa, Caribbean and the Pacific) Secretariat funded by the European Union and implemented jointly by IUCN (the International Union for Conservation of Nature), EC-JRC, and the ABS Initiative managed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH. The ECMMAN is a four million Euro project for the six OECS Independent Member States and is funded by the International Climate Initiative (ICI) via the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation and Nuclear Safety (BMU).
The participants’ input during the forum will be used to build an effective and user-friendly platform or observatory, for collection, analysis and information and data sharing along with tools and capacity building to ensure the system will be used in decision making and management for a long time to come.
“This meeting was of the upmost importance for IUCN because it dealt with topics that are at the roots of BIOPAMA. This program is designed to enhance the capacity of people responsible for managing protected areas. In addition, the program is going to set up an office to aggregate and facilitate information relevant for protected area management in the Caribbean,” said co-organizer José Courrau, Senior Advisor on Protected Areas at IUCN’s regional office for Mesoamerica.
“The observatory, as we call this office, is going to be located in an existing institution in the Caribbean and will initiate its work within the next six months. The participants at this meeting are providing key information for the work of the observatory and will remain engaged in the implementation of this initiative,” added Courrau.
The participants ended the forum by determining key steps towards developing the BIOPAMA Observatory and decision-support tools and using the funds and resources provided via IUCN, TNC and other regional initiatives. In addition, all of the regional organizations repeated their commitments to collaborate in the ongoing effort to ensure the countries’ capacity to access and share data for better decision making leading to improved management of protected areas.