Protection coming for Pedro Cays, Black River Morass

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

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THERE are plans afoot to have Pedro Bank and Cays and Black River Morass declared protected areas under Government of Jamaica regulations, the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) has announced.

Already, the morass is an intenationally recognised wetland and is a Ramsar site, while the Pedro Cays, which are located off the St Elizabeth coast, are managed by the Fisheries division of the Ministry of Agriculture, but neither enjoys the protection of local legislation.

Protection by law is expected to be achieved under the six-year Strengthening the Operational and Financial Sustainability of the National Protected Area System (NPAS) project, which started in 2010. The new status would govern the way people treat the environment, and in the case of Pedro Bank, would regulate where on the cays people could continue to inhabit, if at all.

Also to be achieved under the project, which is being implemented by NEPA and the Planning Institute of Jamaica, is the writing or updating of management and business plans for seven protected areas — Blue and John Crow Mountains National Park, Discovery Bay Fish Sanctuary, Clydesdale Forest Reserve, Gourie Forest Reserve, Mason River Protected Area, Palisadoes-Port Royal Protected Area and Seville Heritage Park.

"The plans will seek to support the effective management of these areas," NEPA said in a release yesterday.

Public education and community outreach officer Deleen Powell told the Jamaica Observer that the bulk of the work done under the project so far has been research based, which will inform the legislative stage in the next two years.

Strengthening the Operational and Financial Sustainability of the National Protected Area System is supported by the Global Environment Facility, United Nations Development Programme, KFW Bank (based in Germany), The Nature Conservancy and the Government of Jamaica. Other stakeholders include the Forestry Department, Jamaica National Heritage Trust, the Fisheries division of the Agriculture ministry, the Institute of Jamaica and the Jamaica Conservation and Development Trust.

Ngozi Christian, project manager of NPAS, said the business plans are aimed at, among other things, helping the entities responsible for the protected areas to identify projects that can generate revenue for them to become self-sufficient.

In addition, the project will establish a Protected Areas Trust Fund, develop a user fee framework for protected areas, and formulate a legislative framework.

She made the disclosure at the eighth Annual Caribbean Conference on Comprehensive Disaster Management in Montego Bay, recently. The event was hosted by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA). Its executive director Ronald Jackson said he was pleased with the project's involvement in the event, adding that the display emphasised the connection between good development planning and resilience against natural hazards.

"Preservation and maintenance of the natural environment are critical precursors to being resilient against the face of natural hazards. Without investment in development planning and environmental goods and services, we will always be ravaged by natural disasters once they impact us," Jackson added.

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