Next steps for Barbuda Blue Halo
By Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, PhD
A month ago, the Barbuda Council signed into law a set of new ocean management regulations that zone the coastal waters, strengthen fisheries management, and establish a network of marine sanctuaries. This action has been recognized in the international press and by the scientific community as setting a new gold standard for ocean conservation and sustainable management in the Caribbean. Barbuda is small but this was a big move.
It has been an honour for the Waitt Institute to provide scientific, mapping, communications, and policy support for the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative during the year and a half of community consultations that led to the new laws. But we cannot stop there – laws alone won’t replenish fisheries and restore coral reefs.
This initiative can only be counted as a success once coastal livelihoods improve and the marine ecosystem begins to rebound. Thus, the Waitt Institute will continue to partner with the Barbuda Council and people of Barbuda over the next few years to support implementation of the new regulations. Here are the next steps:
Work with the fishing community to find ways to ease the transition into these new regulations, including reduced cost of initial permit fees.
Ensure Barbuda Fisheries and Lagoon Park staff receive the training and equipment needed to enforce the regulations.
Install buoys to mark the zone boundaries so it is clear where the sanctuary, anchoring, and no-net areas begin and end.
Establish the Coastal Management Advisory Committee to ensure that a diversity of stakeholders are continually consulted on ocean management issues moving forward.
Establish a long-term scientific monitoring program to track changes in fishery catches and ecosystem health, and see whether adjustments can be made to increase the local benefits of the regulations.
Work with the schools to develop an ocean education curriculum and provide materials to educate the next generation of ocean leaders.
Over the next six months, implementation will focus on these six steps. There may not be lots of exciting updates, or a lot of media coverage, but what there will be is a lot of hard work to make sure all the details are in place so that Barbuda’s new regulations can be implemented effectively, fairly, and thoroughly.
Small islands face big ocean problems, but the solutions can be simple. Set some areas aside, protect key species, and prevent habitat damage. This will benefit the economy, help ensure food security, and allow the ocean to be used sustainably, profitably, and enjoyably, for this and future generations.
We envision a world where people use the ocean without using it up – where coral reefs are vibrant, fish populations are robust, fishers are making a great living, nature tourism thrives, and the culture and way of life that depends on the ocean are preserved.
So having strong ocean policies in place is merely the first step, and we hope that more and more islands will take this step alongside Barbuda. In the meantime, we are on to the next steps, the steps that make it more than paper, the steps that will ensure local people see the benefits of this new approach to ocean management.
Coral grows slowly and fish need time to reproduce, so things won’t change overnight. But if we focus on these steps, we can expect to see exciting improvements over the next few years. For now, it’s back to work.
Dr Ayana Elizabeth Johnson is Executive Director of the Waitt Institute. The Waitt Institute is a nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities to restore their ocean.
Additional information, including the full regulations, is available at HYPERLINK “http://bit.ly/BHI-www”barbuda.waittinstitute.org.
For updates on the Barbuda Blue Halo Initiative as implementation commences:
Facebook: HYPERLINK “http://www.facebook.com/BarbudaBlueHalo”http://www.facebook.com/BarbudaBlueHalo.