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Eco News

Updated: April 1st, 2024

Increased Protection for Caribbean Wildlife

The Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol), an integral component of the Cartagena Convention, has extended extra protection to six species.

Parrotfish, protected under the Annex III protocol
Parrotfish, protected under the Annex III protocol

The Protocol classifies species into Annexes I, II, and III. Annexes I and II encompass endangered or threatened plant and animal species, mandating the highest level of protection, prohibiting commercial trade and the destruction or killing of these species, as well as the responsibility to adopt measures to ensure the recovery of these species. Annex III includes species requiring protective measures, albeit not as strict as the first two annexes. These species are subject to regulated measures. Four species were added to Annex II: the giant manta ray, the lesser Antillean iguana, the oceanic whitetip shark, and the whaleshark. New on Annex III are the Caribbean reef shark and the parrotfish.

The Cartagena Convention serves as a regional framework aimed at preserving biodiversity in the Wider Caribbean Region. Parties to the Convention, including Aruba, Curaçao, Sint Maarten, the Netherlands (as well as the Caribbean Netherlands islands of Bonaire, Sint Eustatius, and Saba), are committed to upholding the SPAW Protocol, a pivotal regional legal agreement.

Flatworms Invade Bonaire

Stichting Nationale Parken Bonaire (STINAPA) and the Naturalis Biodiversity Center, conducting a major study of invertebrates on Bonaire, have made a disturbing discovery: the invasive New Guinean land flatworm was found in two places. That’s bad news, because it has been listed among the top 100 of the world’s worst invasive alien species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). It is an effective predator that can pose a serious threat to native snails.

The mission, dubbed Team Snail, under the guidance of Sylvia van Leeuwen, snail expert from Naturalis, identified 20 new species — and, as usual in the moist, dark habitats favored by snails, all kinds of other soil fauna.

Flatworms follow the slime trail of snails, slide over the shell and body and enter the snail through the breathing opening where they feast on the internal organs. They can work in packs to eat animals larger than themselves, and even go after snails on tree trunks.

The introduction of the New Guinean land flatworm could pose a serious risk to the conservation of Bonaire’s land snail fauna, including several unique species. And these have also been found on several other Caribbean islands, quite probably brought in with imported potted plants.

Naturalis strongly recommends taking more measures to prevent the introduction of exotic species via potted plants on Bonaire and are working to stamp out the flatworms already present. They warn against touching the flatworms with your bare hands. They can carry a rat lungworm (Angiostrongylus cantonensis) that can cause encephalitis or meningitis in humans.

Information provided by Sytske de Waart & Sylvia van Leeuwen, Naturalis Biodiversity Center.

Online Partnership Highlights Marine Protected Areas

savvy navvy screenshot: Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument
savvy navvy screenshot: Virgin Islands Coral Reef National Monument.

ProtectedSeas, a data-driven and ocean-focused business headquartered in Silicon Valley, California, has partnered with boat navigation app savvy navvy (Compass, Oct-Nov 2023), often called “Google maps for boats,” to provide boaters with access to information about 22,000 marine protected and managed areas in more than 220 countries across the world. This includes speed-limit zones to protect marine mammals, fisheries management areas among other protections.

 To find out more about the sustainable data or to download the app visit http://www.savvy-navvy.com/preservation/protectedseas

Monitoring Birds in the Dutch Caribbean

A new Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) project, Monitoring for Bird Biodiversity Conservation in the Dutch Caribbean, has been launched to teach local nature management organizations ways of monitoring and protecting land bird populations and their environments across the Dutch Caribbean. The project will run through the first quarter of 2028.

Birds play a crucial role in island ecosystems, pollinating flowers and dispersing seeds. Some species are more vulnerable than others because of their restricted range, so real ecosystem management has to take into account protecting areas for vulnerable species. Since changes, or the absence thereof, in bird population sizes may indicate environmental change or stability in a region, monitoring bird population can indicate overall health, helping parks to evaluate conservation success and adapt management actions.

Bird surveys will be conducted twice a year, specifically in March/April (post rainy-season) and in October/November (pre-rainy-season) on all six Dutch Caribbean islands. These surveys will be executed by trained park rangers and other bird experts. All collected data will be accessible through the Dutch Caribbean Biodiversity Database (DCBD), Observation.org, and BirdsCaribbean.

No Waste Caribbean Vibes Recycles Plastic

No Waste Caribbean Vibes, founded and run by Charlotte and Lucky Luke of Bonaire, recycles waste plastic to make gift items. The process involves putting the plastic into a shredder and turning it into granulates that are separated by color for upcoming projects. Once the plastic is in granulates, heat and pressure are used with various machines and molds to produce items, which currently include clipboards, mirrors, decorative bowls, wall clocks, lampshades, magnets, keychains, and coasters.

Products are sold at the Tera Cora market and out of the Luke Bonaire home.

This report by Tanya Deen was originally published in the Bonaire Insider. For more information, check out nowastecaribbeanvibes.com.

Eastern Caribbean Greenpreneurs Announces Grant Recipients  

The Eastern Caribbean Greenpreneurs Incubator Program, an initiative aimed at supporting and promoting sustainable business ventures in the Eastern Caribbean region, has awarded US $10,000 seed grants to 11 businesses who have demonstrated outstanding commitment and innovation in the field of sustainability.

The 11 green businesses to receive the US $10,000 seed grants are: Down To Earth Vermicompost Farm, a recycling facility in Antigua and Barbuda; Eclat Nova Luxuries, Dominica (organic, natural, plant-based handmade skincare and eco-living products); Isle Bee Well in Grenada, a honeybee agro-processing and wellness business; Narrow Way Life in St. Lucia for development of sustainable homesteads

In St. Kitts and Nevis: Organico869 (a holistic approach to circular agricultural production); Poultry Pro, a solar-powered egg farm.

In St. Vincent & the Grenadines: The Plant Doctor, helping farmers with sustainability issues; Grenadines Gold (eco-friendly products from ethically grown sea moss); SUS-Edibles (solar panels for healthy local dried fruits, vegetables and herbs); Arubana Retreat (eco-friendly accommodation and activities); Vermigold (organic and eco-friendly fertilizers).   

For more information on the Eastern Caribbean Greenpreneurs Initiative and the awarded businesses, visit www.caribbeangreenpreneurs.com.

Solutions for Sargassum Influx Studied

A beach covered with sargassum
A beach covered with sargassum

 A study has been commissioned by the the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) on the problem of sargassum algae plaguing beaches in the Caribbean in recent years, impacting sealife, tourism and livelihoods of those who work in the blue economy. The purpose of the study was to identify a baseline for research and technology, and help participants build support for projects aimed at effective management and use of sargassum algae. Participants had the opportunity to see some of the innovations in algae production and studied various methods to process each component of sargassum algae that can be adapted for different uses—pigments, proteins, lipids, minerals, microfibrillated cellulose, biofuels and bioplastics, and residue. They were also able to explore modern methods to collect sargassum algae and discussed possibilities for export for the OECS region.

Nature Based Solutions

A symposium at the University of Aruba organized by the Dutch Caribbean Nature Alliance (DCNA) focused on the “Nature-Based Solution for Ecosystem Restoration.” Nature-Based Solutions (NBS), an innovative approach that leans on sustainable management of both natural and modified ecosystems, is drawing more and more interest as a strategy to mimimize environmental risks from flooding to landslides. The goals of the approach go beyond ecological stability to include economic growth and enhanced public health.

The symposium was co-organized by the Fundacion Parke Nacional Aruba, and included Princess Beatrix of the Netherlands as an honored guest. The director of the DNCA, Arno Verhoeven, said: “Going for Nature-Based Solutions should be the priority when facing the many challenges that threaten our habitat. We believe that by … facilitating knowledge, expertise, and resource exchange, we can take steps to further implement NBS to safeguard our valuable ecosystems.”

Xmas in July Donates $6,000 to Beyond the Reef

5,500 people and 500 vessels came out to support Beyond the Reef.
5,500 people and 500 vessels came out to support Beyond the Reef.

The organizers of an Xmas in July event donated $6,000 to Beyond the Reef, a nonprofit organization in the British Virgin Islands that focuses on marine environmental education and preservation efforts. The donation came from the sale of official reusable tumblers during their event. “This initiative reflects our desire to create awareness on the importance of protecting our beaches and to send the message that our event takes beach and ocean conservation very seriously,” said Wally Castro, event organizer. “With this donation, we support a local organization that reflects our environmental protection beliefs.”

The event, which drew over 5,500 people and 400 vessels to Pond Bay Beach, Virgin Gorda, BVI, in 2023, was organized by Wally Castro Marine, Marcos Rivera and the British Virgin Islands Tourist Board & Film Commission. The donation will help the Road Town-based nonprofit to continue carrying on its marine environmental education and preservation

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