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  • The process to have the Black River Morass and the Pedro Cays and surrounding waters declared as protected areas will be advanced this financial year.
  • This is according to Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, who said that the move forms part of the Government’s strategy to safeguard the island’s biodiversity.

The process to have the Black River Morass and the Pedro Cays and surrounding waters declared as protected areas will be advanced this financial year.

This is according to Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Hon. Daryl Vaz, who said that the move forms part of the Government’s strategy to safeguard the island’s biodiversity.

“With this declaration, approximately 18.1 per cent terrestrial and 16 per cent marine areas will be under legal protection,” he said.

Mr. Vaz was speaking at the inaugural National Biodiversity Conference held at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston on Wednesday (October 17), where he outlined work being undertaken to protect the country’s natural resources.

He noted that the Ministry and the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) are working on the finalisation of a Protected Areas Policy for Jamaica; a Cays Management Policy; Beach Access and Management Policy; and Overarching Protected Areas legislation.

“The Ministry and the Forestry Department have also finalised the Forest Policy for Jamaica, and work is ongoing on the amendment to the Forest Act,” he informed.

He further cited the declaration of the boundary of the Cockpit Country and the Cockpit Country Protected Area, in addition to several forest reserves and forest management areas.

Minister Vaz noted that the Goat Islands, home to the Jamaican iguana and other endemic species of flora and fauna, have been designated a nature reserve.

“Through funding from the Global Environment Facility, (we have completed) the National Strategy and Action Plan for Biological Diversity in Jamaica 2016-2021, which will guide Jamaica’s mainstreaming of biodiversity conservation as a critical element of sustainable development,” he said.

In the meantime, Minister Vaz commended community groups, churches, schools, environment and 4-H clubs, on the work being done to preserve the country’s natural resources.

“As I traverse the island, I have seen many of these good works on display. In this regard, I implore you to continue to spread the message – each one teach one. Also, the contribution by our civil society organisations, particularly those which have been delegated authority to manage the island’s protected areas, is invaluable,” he said.

Hosted by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, the conference was held under the theme ‘The importance of Biodiversity to Sustainable Livelihoods and Well-being’.

It provided a platform for the exchange and dissemination of information on priority issues related to the preservation and conservation of Jamaica’s rich biodiversity. The function also culminated the country’s celebration of the 25th anniversary of the entry into force of the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

Jamaica became a party to the CBD in 1995 and since then, successive administrations have undertaken a number of projects and programmes in collaboration with development partners and civil society, to safeguard and sustainably use the island’s biological resources for present and future generations of Jamaicans.

During the conference, an e-publication of Jamaican case studies related to the implementation of the Convention was launched, entitled ‘Preserving Jamaica’s Biodiversity – Success Stories’.

It is expected to be available on the websites of the Ministry, NEPA, and the Forestry Department by October 18.

The conference was funded by the Natural Resources Conservation Authority and NEPA through the Integrated Management of the Yallahs River and Hope River Watersheds Project.