The Caribbean marine environment faces ever-increasing pressures and a new set of emerging issues. As governments and civil societies across the region work towards sustainable development, the key limiting factor is typically adequate financing to implement effective marine management strategies.
“Marine protected areas (MPAs) in particular are an important tool in marine conservation, supporting fisheries management and tourism in the region. Yet Caribbean MPA managers tell us that raising reliable, long-term financing for their operations is their most pressing management need,” comments Ms. Emma Doyle, Coordinator of the MPAConnect Network.
There are various mechanisms through which marine conservation can be financed. Some mechanisms are well known and relatively easily understood, such as visitor entrance fees for marine parks or immigration fees at airports and ports, philanthropic donations or concessions for on-site businesses. Other financing mechanisms are newer and more innovative, but also more complex to understand and to access, such as trust funds, debt-for-nature swaps and impact investment.
“A meaningful MPA sustainable financing plan requires a mix of several financing mechanisms. One of the mechanisms in this mix, and one that is highly anticipated by MPA managers, is the conservation trust fund,” explains Ms. Doyle.
The formation of conservation trust funds has greatly increased in the Caribbean region and these legally independent institutions are expected to play a growing role in marine conservation financing in the coming years, especially in support of nature-based solutions to climate change and as the blue economy grows.
In the Eastern Caribbean, a series of National Conservation Trust Funds is being established through the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund. German Development Corporation (GIZ) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA) are assisting in marrying the National Conservation Trust Funds with capacity building for MPA management and operations through the Sustainable Marine Finance Project.
“To make the most of the financing that can be applied by trust funds to meet the needs of marine managers, we’re examining with MPAConnect where the conservation trust funds might fit in the sustainable financing plans of MPAs, and how the investments made by conservation trust funds can best be aligned with the needs of marine managers. Therefore, we are developing regional voluntary guidelines to shed light for MPA managers, government, the private sector and other actors on what they should know about improving their operations, so they can effectively access and manage sustainable marine conservation financing opportunities. These improvements will assist in enhancing the capacities of the MPAs, as well as the livelihood opportunities available in the communities within which they operate, and also maximize the effectiveness of marine conservation efforts,” explained Dr. Volker Hamann, Head of Programme for the Sustainable Marine Finance Project at GIZ.
Four OECS Member States, the Commonwealth of Dominica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Grenada will be the principal focus of this work. The perspective of the wider OECS will also be considered within the ongoing work and at a later stage the scope will include other CARICOM states.
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The Sustainable Marine Financing Project (SMF) commenced in January 2021 and supports capacity building for Marine Protected Area Management Area Management and Operations, with a focus on improving the financial positioning of the MPA/MMAs by facilitating the development and implementation of sustainable/long term financial approaches, with emphasis on marrying these instruments and approaches with the opportunities afforded by the respective National Conservation Trust Funds which were established through the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund. The SMF Project is implemented jointly between German International Corporation (GIZ) and the Caribbean Public Health Agency (CARPHA).
It works closely with the management boards of the focus marine protected areas, the national conservation trust funds and other major interest groups including policy-makers at local, national and regional levels, as well as the private sector and civil society organizations who have a stake in MPA/MMA management. The intended outputs of the Project are (I) to ensure that management boards charge reasonable, non-discriminatory access and user fees for marine protected/managed areas (II) management boards of marine protected/managed areas gain better access to finance through the national conservation trust funds (NCTFs) and (III) the implementation of a regional voluntary guidelines to create a better enabling environment in the countries for conservation financing.
MPAConnect is a partnership initiative between the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute and NOAA’s Coral Reef Conservation Programme with a network of 32 Caribbean marine protected areas. MPAConnect implements needs-based capacity building support for effective MPA Management. Through the MPA management capacity assessment process, MPAConnect has a clear and current perspective on the existing capacity and needs of the marine sector within the region. It has built a broad network of peers across the region and internationally and has positively contributed to improved MPA management in the Caribbean region, through various activities and initiatives including peer-to-peer learning exchanges, site specific support and MPA management capacity enhancement.
Authors: Sustainable Marine Financing Project (GIZ-CARPHA) & MPAConnect