Quantcast
Latest Stories

Caribbean talks conservation on Branson’s island



Buildings line the shore of Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, Friday, May 17, 2013. Richard Branson, the adventuring CEO and founder of the Virgin Group of companies is co-hosting a two-day meeting at Necker Island, his home in the British Virgin Islands, where he has developed an ultra-exclusive eco-resort that showcases renewable energy technology, reintroduced flamingoes, imported lemurs and other creatures. AP Photo

NECKER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands— Surrounded by a turquoise sea and a menagerie of exotic animals on a billionaire’s private island, political and business leaders gathered Friday to back an initiative aimed at expanding protection for the Caribbean’s imperiled coasts and waters.

The “Caribbean Challenge” calls for special protected zones along at least 20 percent of the region’s coasts by 2020 in hopes of protecting its biodiversity and its crucial tourism market. The region’s scattered islands have 10 percent of the world’s coral reefs and some 1,400 species of fish and marine mammals.

Richard Branson, the adventuring CEO and founder of the Virgin Group of companies, is co-hosting the two-day meeting at Necker Island, his home in the British Virgin Islands where he has developed an ultra-exclusive eco-resort that showcases renewable energy technology, reintroduced flamingoes, imported lemurs and other creatures.

“It’s just so important to get every single Caribbean country 100 percent behind protecting the wonderful sea life and the wonderful reefs and mangroves, and therefore the species that occupy our oceans,” Branson said from his 74-acre Caribbean retreat, a haven for entertainment and business A-listers.

British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith and Grenada Prime Minister Keith Mitchell are also co-hosting the gathering of delegations from nine Caribbean countries, chiefs of resort companies and cruise lines, representatives of the World Bank, United Nations and other international bodies, private foundations and environmental groups.

“This is not a situation where we can say: This is a Caribbean thing and it doesn’t include anybody else. This is an international issue,” Mitchell told reporters gathered for a brief press conference held on Necker’s tennis courts, not far from an animated group of lemurs.

On Friday, delegations from the participating governments signed a communique pledging to establish a framework for a regional approach to coastal conservation, including “increasing considerably the number of marine protected areas.” They also said they recognized an urgent need to protect sharks and rays, and vowed a “dramatic acceleration in the transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources over the next five years.”

A statue decorates the pool area of Richard Branson’s property on Necker Island in the British Virgin Islands, Friday, May 17, 2013. AP Photo

One of the key sponsors is the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy, which touts the Caribbean Challenge, begun in 2008, as one of the world’s most ambitious conservation initiatives. The conservation group has been providing technical expertise to the participating islands for years.

“The Caribbean is truly paradise under threat, and today’s focus is a critical step toward a brighter future,” Glenn Prickett, chief external affairs officer with the Nature Conservancy, said in an email.

If the Caribbean, the world’s most tourism dependent region, takes strong steps now to protect its natural resources, conservationists say it will be in a far stronger position to protect its small economies and cope with future threats from climate change and ocean acidification due to greenhouse gases.

The challenges are many in the ecologically stressed Caribbean, which covers some 10,000 square kilometers (3,860 square miles). Once brilliant coral reefs have lost their luster due to warming waters and disease. Live coral cover of regional reefs has plummeted to an average of just 8 percent from 50 percent in the 1970s, the International Union for Conservation of Nature says. Many reefs have been degraded by overfishing, runoff pollution and coastal development.

From left, Richard Branson, British Virgin Islands Premier Dr. Orlando Smith, and Grenada Prime Minsiter Dr. Keith Mitchell listen to Costa Rica’s former President and businessman Jose Maria Figueres speak during a Caribbean Summit of Political Business Leaders? at the home of Richard Branson on Necker Island, in the British Virgin Islands, Friday, May 17, 2013. “It’s just so important to get every single Caribbean country 100 percent behind protecting the wonderful sea life and the wonderful reefs and mangroves, and therefore the species that occupy our oceans,” Branson said from his 74-acre Caribbean retreat, a haven for entertainment and business A-listers. AP photo

Some of the Caribbean Challenge’s participating countries — Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, and the British Virgin Islands — have already taken steps to reach their conservation targets.

The Dominican Republic has actually exceeded its 20 percent goal by creating more than 30 new protected areas in recent years. The Bahamas established the largest marine protected area in the region by expanding a national park in Andros from 185,000 acres to 1.28 million acres. Heavily overfished Jamaica has set up several “no-take” fishing sanctuaries and fishermen say they are seeing improvements.

The initiative is modeled after similar conservation financing efforts in the Pacific and linked to the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, a sustainable finance mechanism that will generate funding. The initial endowment capitalization target of $40 million has been reached, according to the Nature Conservancy.

But there are questions about how deep the political will really is in a region with heavily indebted governments. Political leaders have long spoken about the need for protecting coasts, developing alternative energy sources and diversifying tourism-dependent economies but little has been accomplished. One country, Antigua & Barbuda, recently dropped out of the initiative for reasons that are not clear.

Grenada’s prime minister believes that now is the time for the Caribbean region to come together and tackle shared environmental threats. More countries and territories are being encouraged to join the compact.

“The political divide in our region is very deep but this is one issue where all nations are on the same side,” Mitchell said.


Follow Us


Follow us on Facebook Follow on Twitter Follow on Twitter


Recent Stories:

Complete stories on our Digital Edition newsstand for tablets, netbooks and mobile phones; 14-issue free trial. About to step out? Get breaking alerts on your mobile.phone. Text ON INQ BREAKING to 4467, for Globe, Smart and Sun subscribers in the Philippines.

Tags: British Virgin Islands , Caribbean , Caribbean Conservation Summit , Necker Island , Private Island , Richard Branson , Tourism , Virgin Group of companies , “Caribbean Challenge”



Copyright © 2014, .
To subscribe to the Philippine Daily Inquirer newspaper in the Philippines, call +63 2 896-6000 for Metro Manila and Metro Cebu or email your subscription request here.
Factual errors? Contact the Philippine Daily Inquirer's day desk. Believe this article violates journalistic ethics? Contact the Inquirer's Reader's Advocate. Or write The Readers' Advocate:
c/o Philippine Daily Inquirer Chino Roces Avenue corner Yague and Mascardo Streets, Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines Or fax nos. +63 2 8974793 to 94
Advertisement
  1. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  2. Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  3. ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  4. This is not just a farm
  5. Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  6. Clams and garlic, softshell crab risotto–not your usual seafood fare for Holy Week
  7. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  8. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  9. Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  10. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  1. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  2. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?
  3. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week break?
  4. Sarah Geronimo and Matteo Giudicelli sing ‘All of Me’–and we all swoon
  5. How Vitamin B can be a remedy for ‘manhid’ and neuropathy
  6. Marcos grandson to wed beautiful Rocha scion
  7. Ever heard of HydroBob?
  8. 90 percent of Filipino households don’t practice proper toilet hygiene, sanitation
  9. Are your favorite malls open this Holy Week?
  10. Boots Anson-Roa to wed in Eddie Baddeo
  1. Mary Jean Lastimosa is new Miss Universe Philippines
  2. Did Angara ruin Pia Wurtzbach’s chances at Bb. Pilipinas?
  3. Dominique–Gretchen and Tonyboy Cojuangco’s daughter–now an endorser
  4. Manila in shock over model Helena Belmonte’s death
  5. Vinegar test helpful vs cervical cancer
  6. From Jeannie to mom of suicide victim
  7. San Vicente beaches hidden but not for long
  8. Borgy and Georgina are back; others are off–again
  9. Sen. Angara: I thought Pia Wurtzbach gave a good answer
  10. Why is the lifestyle set now afraid to wear jewelry–before Kim Henares?

News

  • Mixed feelings for Gabriel Garcia Marquez in hometown
  • Korea ferry captain arrested, divers spot bodies
  • Enrile chief aide back in PH ‘to face charges’–report
  • Pakistan library named ‘bin Laden,’ as memory fades
  • US teacher fired over comment on black president
  • Sports

  • Duke’s Rodney Hood joining Jabari Parker in NBA draft
  • Phelps entered in 3 events at comeback meet
  • Boston prepares for huge wave of marathon visitors
  • Motivated LeBron James preps for postseason
  • Nadal ousted by Ferrer in Monte Carlo quarters
  • Lifestyle

  • Levine designs womenswear with help from fiancee
  • Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Nobel laureate, dies at 87
  • Ford Mustang turns 50 atop Empire State Building
  • Pro visual artists, lensmen to judge Pagcor’s photo contest
  • ‘Labahita a la bacalao’
  • Entertainment

  • Myx TV premieres Asian American ‘docu-series’
  • A nutty finale for ‘Scandal,’ TV’s craziest show
  • EXO postpones release of mini album ‘Overdose’
  • ‘X-men’ filmmaker slams ‘fabricated’ sex attack claims
  • Singer Chris Brown’s bodyguard on trial in DC
  • Business

  • US commerce secretary spells out economic facet of ‘pivot to Asia’
  • Italy sells luxury state cars on eBay
  • Asian shares mostly up in quiet trade
  • Dollar up in Asia on US jobs data, Ukraine deal
  • Barbie doll has a problem
  • Technology

  • Nasa’s moon-orbiting robot crashes down
  • Netizens pay respects to Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • Nokia recalls 30,000 chargers for Lumia 2520 tablet
  • Facebook rolls out ‘nearby friends’ feature
  • Netizens seethe over Aquino’s ‘sacrifice’ message
  • Opinion

  • Editorial cartoon, April 17, 2014
  • A humbler Church
  • Deepest darkness
  • ‘Agnihotra’ for Earth’s health
  • It’s the Holy Week, time to think of others
  • Global Nation

  • OFW from UAE tests negative for MERS-Cov–health chief
  • Multicultural flock marks Good Friday in San Francisco
  • Las Vegas ‘Pinoy Pride’ fest hails Filipino heritage
  • Marking Jesus’ journey on Good Friday
  • Filipina accomplice arrested for fake bills in Malaysia
    Marketplace