Jamaica can capitalise on growing ecotourism sector — Charles JrWednesday, December 08, 2021
KINGSTON, Jamaica— Minister of Housing, Urban Renewal, Environment and Climate Change, Pearnel Charles Jr, says Jamaica can capitalise on the growing ecotourism sector through the concerted efforts of all stakeholders in preserving and conserving the country's rich biodiversity.
He noted that there are travellers “who want to go on hikes and who want to go on trails and who just want to travel to spaces where they can see animals and plants that are indigenous”.
“I am certain that we understand how critical our unique features are to our tourism product, and by protecting and preserving our biodiversity we are welcoming persons who are attracted to… [and] who understand the importance of ecotourism [and] the ecological balance,” Charles Jr said, while addressing the virtual opening ceremony for the second National Biodiversity Conference 2021 on Tuesday (December 7).
Pointing out that Small Island Developing States (SIDS) like Jamaica, are recognised as global biodiversity hotspots, Charles Jr cited research from Principal and Pro-Vice Chancellor of the University of the West Indies (UWI) Mona Campus, Professor Dale Webber, who noted that more than 8,000 species of plants and animals had been recorded in the island, and that Jamaica ranked fifth in the world in terms of endemic species.
“[This] means that we have a competitive advantage, and we have to maximise our competitive advantage. So, protecting our plants and animals is not just throwing out a phraseology… By protecting our plants and animals, we are protecting our tourism product, we are protecting livelihoods for people, we are protecting food,” the Minister stressed.
Charles Jr noted that the Government's stance is to utilise the natural resources in a manner “that allows us to regenerate, allows us to be sustainable in our practices”.
“So, we must reduce several threats to our ecosystems and biodiversity, including change in land use, pollution, encroachment on natural habitats, burning, hunting, and harvesting of endemic species such as the black-billed parrot and other exotic pets [and] over-harvesting of our fish,” he pointed out.
As such, he said that rehabilitation and restoration of degraded and vulnerable ecosystems has been identified as a priority.
“Illegal tree cutting is one of the issues that we have targeted as well, as also looking at illegal quarrying and illegal settling, because all of these things impact on our ecosystem,” he pointed out.
In the meantime, Charles Jr said that the two-day conference, which is being held under the theme 'Living in Harmony with Nature: Issues, Challenges and Solutions', will provide a forum for knowledge-sharing with the aim of improving the country's environmental practices and preserving its biodiversity.
“It is important for us to take the opportunity to inform the nation on what biodiversity is; what the ecosystems are. These are not scientific terms that sound like… foreign language. These are terms that are critical to us understanding how best to live on this planet, how best to maximise how we interact, how we protect, how we preserve,” he said.
He noted that the conference is one of the mechanisms the Government is using to implore Jamaicans to “get on board with ensuring that we are protecting what we are being provided with, and to find a way of maximising the potential of using our plants and animals without abusing our plants and animals”.