Cetacean Society International

Whales Alive!

Vol. VIII No. 4 October 1999

SPAW: A Conference We Can Applaud

By William Rossiter, CSI President

Official conferences and meetings to create, implement, and enforce treaties and agreements are the foundation of any effort to manage human activities on an international scale. But they can be confusing, daunting, frustrating events to almost anyone. CSI participates wherever we can because the effect we have can be significant; we have been so fortunate that the people who voluntarily represent us are the very best. From 3-6 August the Fourth Meeting of the Interim Scientific and Technical Advisory Committee (ISTAC) to the Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) in the Wider Caribbean was held in Havana, Cuba. CSI was proud to be represented by Jorge E. Picón, a senior enforcement agent with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and a recognized authority on conservation, trade issues and the Caribbean region. Jorge may also represent CSI at the next CITES meeting in Nairobi next year. Simply put, we cannot express our joy that such a gifted expert would be willing to carry our name. From his perspective, Jorge wanted to put his expertise and concerns to work through a respected advocacy organization. Jorge's full report was to be included in this issue of Whales Alive! but, with regret, we can only summarize it or we would be unable to cover anything else. His full SPAW report certainly is valuable, and available to anyone who asks.

The Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region (the Cartagena Convention) is the only legally binding environmental treaty for the Wider Caribbean. The Convention and its Protocols constitute a legal commitment by the participating governments to protect, develop and manage their common waters individually or jointly. The Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (the SPAW Protocol) has been internationally recognized as the most comprehensive treaty of its kind. Adopted in Kingston, Jamaica by the member governments of the Caribbean Environment Program on 18 January 1990, the SPAW Protocol preceded other international environmental agreements in utilizing an ecosystem approach to conservation. The Protocol acts as a vehicle to assist with regional implementation of the broader and more demanding global Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD).

The objective of the Protocol is to protect rare and fragile ecosystems and habitats, thereby protecting resident endangered and threatened species. The Caribbean Regional Coordinating Unit pursues this objective by assisting with the establishment and proper management of protected areas, by promoting sustainable management (and use) of species to prevent their endangerment and by providing assistance to the governments of the region in conserving their coastal ecosystems.

At the ISTAC meeting in Havana, Cuba, several major gains were made in SPAW's species programs, to be conducted during the 2000-2001 biennial cycle. The group represented by Caribbean Nations and Observers adopted a plan to promote research and management of marine mammals, decided to explore issues regarding the relation between CITES and SPAW, and decided to enhance the species program of the Protocol by completing programs concerning sea turtles and manatees. It also added a program to conserve queen conch and spiny lobster.

The Fourth Meeting of the ISTAC attended by several Caribbean Nations and Observers studied the following objectives:

The meeting was opened by Nelson Andrade, Coordinator of the Caribbean Environment Program (CEP) UNEP and by the Chairman Antonio Perera, Director of the National Center of Protected Areas of the Ministry of Science, Technology and Environment (CITMA) of the Government of Cuba. Representatives of the following countries attended: Anguilla, Bahamas, Cayman Islands, Colombia, Cuba, Dominican Republic, France, Guatemala, Jamaica, Mexico, Netherlands Antilles, St. Vincent and Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Turks and Caicos, United States, and Venezuela. Non-Governmental Observers were: Cetacean Society International, Eastern Caribbean Cetacean Network (ECCN), International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW), IUCN, The World Conservation Union, Monitor International, The Nature Conservancy, Third Millennium Foundation and WIDECAST.

Mr. Picón formally noted that CSI is an organization of volunteers dedicated to raise public awareness on cetacean and conservation programs worldwide. He described ways that CSI has provided financial support to marine scientists in other countries through training, fieldwork, and scientific exchange at the national level. He offered to meet with national representatives at the 4th ISTAC meeting to assist on issues dealing with education, training, public awareness, and to assist the Secretariat and the CEP in its endeavors toward SPAW implementation. Informally Jorge interacted with as many regional NGO representatives as he could, and established relationships that we hope will enable CSI to be even more effective with regional issues. He worked closely with Nancy Daves, a CITES expert with NMFS, IFAW's Dr. Carole Carlson, who had served as CSI's IWC Representative for several years, and ECCN's Nathalie Ward, a most accomplished author, educator and marine mammal expert whose educational projects CSI has been proud to partially fund in the past. These skilled and caring people worked as a team, and the synergy was most productive.

Among Marine Mammal Issues the Chairman invited the Observers from ECCN and IFAW to present their document entitled "Marine Mammals of the Wide Caribbean Region: A Review of Their Conservation Status", which had been commissioned by the Secretariat. The Observers concluded their presentation with a series of recommendations to the Meeting for a Marine Mammal Action Plan for the WCR. For CITES issues, in addition to the country delegations and interested NGOs, the Deputy Secretary-General of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), Dr. Jim Armstrong, also attended. Dr. Armstrong gave a presentation on the work that CITES is doing that would be of interest to governments in the Wider Caribbean region.

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