THE Government of Jamaica's stated position that it is considering siting the port logistics hub on Goat Islands has put the Portland Bight Protected Area squarely into the limelight.
But what is a protected area and what does it mean told such a designation?
According to the International Union for Conservation of Nature, a protected area is a "clearly defined geographical space, recognised, dedicated and managed, through legal or other effective means, to achieve the long-term conservation of nature with associated ecosystem services and cultural values".
Critical to that is the intention of limiting human occupation of the areas and restricting the exploitation of natural resources therein.
The United Nations Environment Programme adds that they are "highly important, vulnerable, biodiverse or otherwise valuable" to a particular country.
Protected Areas are established by national legislation and further supported by international agreements such as the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands, UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserves, ASEAN Heritage Parks and the United Nations Biological Diversity Convention.
They may be parks, national parks, forest management areas, forest reserves, and fish sanctuaries. The World Database on Protected Areas lists 86 nationally recognised protected areas in Jamaica -- including three Wetlands of International Importance -- that cover some 3,800 km 2. Among them are:
* Alligator Pond/Gut river/Canoe Valley (Manchester)
* Armadale Forest Reserve (St Ann)
* Black River Lower Morass (St Elizabeth)
* Bogue Estate Game Reserve (St James)
* Blue & John Crow Mountain National Park (St Andrew).
* Cockpit Country Reserve (Trelawny)
* Dolphin Head Reserve (Hanover)
* Lovers Leap Forest Reserve (St Elizabeth)
* Mason River Protected Area (Clarendon)
* Negril Great Morass (Westmoreland)
* Palisadoes-Port Royal (Kingston)
* Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays (St Catherine and Clarendon) 1,876 km2