AWI Works to Protect Marine Life in the Caribbean

The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment in the Wider Caribbean Region (Cartagena Convention) is the only legally binding environmental treaty in the region focused on the protection of biodiversity. Coordinated by the United Nations Caribbean Environment Programme, the Cartagena Convention is implemented by three separate agreements, or protocols, focusing on the protection and management of marine ecosystems, management of land-based sources of pollution, and response to oil spills. 

The first of those three, the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol), entered into force in June 2000. Long-time AWI consultant Tom Garrett and close AWI ally Milton Kaufman were intimately involved in the development of this protocol, and AWI consultant Kate O’Connell was involved in the protocol’s early promulgation. Of 28 countries in the region, 17 (including the United States) have thus far signed and ratified the agreement.

For the past decade, AWI’s SPAW Protocol work has focused on the development of listing guidelines for species and marine protected areas and implementation of the Marine Mammal Action Plan—a comprehensive framework for the agreement. In early June 2019, AWI attended the biennial Conference of the Parties to the Cartagena Convention, held in Roatán, Honduras. While there, we played a primary role in furthering the development of the Caribbean Wildlife Enforcement Network (CaribWEN) to address the growing illegal trafficking of threatened species in the region. 

We also drew much-needed attention to the ongoing hunts of protected species, such as whales, dolphins, and sea turtles—presenting a briefing paper that resulted in recommendations by the parties to implement stricter domestic measures to prohibit these hunts, collect and share data, and monitor targeted populations. Although hunting of cetaceans and other protected species is banned under the SPAW Protocol, several countries continue to do so, undermining the integrity of the agreement.

Now that the Roatán meeting has concluded, AWI will continue to work intercessionally with the SPAW secretariat and engage with parties to further the aims of the SPAW Protocol.

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