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Policy responses

Capacity for wastewater treatment is low; 98 per cent of domestic wastewater is discharged into the northeast Pacific and 90 per cent into the wider Caribbean without treatment

Source: UNEP, David Tapia Munoz, Topham Picturepoint

International policy responses to the problems described above have been many and varied. Most of them are based on fisheries conventions, international shipping conventions, or the large number of agreements tied to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. At the same time, institutional and organizational weaknesses in the countries of the region, and the myriad authorities responsible for marine and coastal management, make the implementation of policies a difficult task.

The following are among the most important multilateral agreements and action plans:

  • The Convention on the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean ('The Cartagena Convention') (1983) and its protocols (on oil spills and protected areas and land-based pollution).
  • UNEP's Regional Seas Programme, and the international project for the elimination of barriers to implement ballast water controls and management measures for developing countries, proposed for the period 2000-2002 by the International Maritime Organization (IMO).
  • The International Coral Reefs Action Network (ICRAN), an important effort to halt the degradation of coral reefs, which is supported by the United Nations Foundation (UNF).
  • The Caribbean Planning for the Adaptation of Global Climate Change (CPACC) project which assists the 12 Caribbean CARICOM countries to prepare for the negative impacts of possible global climate change, especially with respect to the rise in sea level, by measuring their vulnerability and planning for the adaptation and development of their capacity to deal with the problem.

Few of the conventions mentioned, however, have been in force long enough, and with adequate established infrastructure, to assess their strengths and weaknesses. It is clear, however, that regional environmental monitoring processes need to be geared to assessing environmental conditions as well as monitoring implementation activities designed to restore sustainability of coastal and marine areas and their resources.