restoration of Caribbean reefs
Tuesday, January 13, 2004
WASHINGTON, USA: Counterpart International's team of environmental experts
on coral reef restoration are optimistic about the possibilities for restoring
the health of reef areas in Barbados and Jamaica through its award-winning
Coral Gardens initiative, pioneered originally in the Pacific.
The team that visited the region last month
included Counterpart's Fiji-based Program Scientist Dr. Austin Bowden-Kerby,
Vice President Raymond Chavez and Alexandra Cousteau, granddaughter of
the late ocean pioneer, Jacques Cousteau. They ! invited local, regional
and international stakeholders to informal briefings organised by Counterpart
Visits to numerous sites concluded that transferring Coral Gardens successes
from the South Pacific to the Caribbean was highly feasible. They were
impressed with the Caribbean's progress in implementing hotel certification
standards that foster environmental and social responsibility and sustainability
in their operations. The Coral Gardens transfer is being made possible
by European Union assistance.
"Both regions have much to learn from each other. We see great prospects
for sharing Caribbean certification standards with our Pacific counterparts
and transferring Pacific experience to the Caribbean in restoring marine
environment systems while empowering local communities," said Counterpart
International President, Lelei LeLaulu, himself a Pacific islander.
A community-based initiative developed by Counterpart and its partners,
Foundation for the Peoples of the South Pacific International and Partners
in Community Development Fiji (formerly FSP Fiji), Coral Gardens provide
tools for community-based management and governance processes, conservation,
fisheries and reef restoration. A key to its acceptance by communities
is the fact that the Coral Gardens methodology seeks to promote opportunities
for sustainable income generation.
Luxury resorts like the Shangri-La in Fiji are helping to conserve and
highlight their local aquatic wonders by hiring local "reef guides"
trained by the program to share the reef's beauty with thousands of guests
who visit Fiji annually. Small coral mariculture enterprises owned by
women are providing alternative livelihoods and technical training is
helping to develop ecotourism enterprises to boost the Fijian economy.
"Community partnerships are essential to any successful environmental
initiative," said Alexandra, daughter of the late Philippe Cousteau
and herself an internationally respected oceans advocate. "I was
thoroughly impressed with the Caribbean will, both at the political and
community level, to revitalise reef resources and ensure that more fish
is available to meet the demands of both today's and future generations,"
Last week, the Counterpart team was in the Dominican Republic, at the
invitation of local government and the private sector, to assess the condition
of the island's coastal systems in Puerto Plata, Punta Cana and Santo
Domingo. While in the Eastern Caribbean last month, they met with chairman
of the Caribbean Alliance for Sustainable Tourism (CAST), Mr. Royston
Hopkin in Grenada.