Assessment of the Caribbean Sea (CARSEA)
The Caribbean Sea is the second largest sea in the world covering an area of
approximately 2,515,900 km2. The sea is bounded by Central America, the
northern coast of South America and the islands of the Caribbean archipelago.
It can be categorized as a marine desert surrounded by coastal oases of high
production associated with coral reefs, mangrove swamps, estuaries and coastal
The lead institutions involved in this assessment are the University of the West
Indies (UWI), the Cropper Foundation, Institute of Marine Affairs (IMA), Island
Resources Foundation, University of Florida, Association of Caribbean States
(ACS) Secretariat, CARICOM Secretariat, ECLAC P.O.S. Office, Caribbean
Conservation Association (CCA), UNEP ROLAC, and Caribbean Agricultural Research
and Development Institute.
Department of Life Sciences
University of the West Indies
Trinidad and Tobago
Tel.: 868-645-3232 to 6 ext. 3095 or 2047 (W)
This project seeks to determine the policies and governance structures that will
be most resilient under various economic and environmental scenarios in
protecting the ecosystem functions of the Caribbean Sea so that it can supply
in a sustainable manner services that support human wellbeing.
What will be the consequences to human wellbeing of the collapse of Caribbean
Sea fisheries due to over-fishing?
What are the consequences of the continuous destruction of coral reefs,
mangrove swamps and sea-grass beds? Will ecosystem services such as fisheries
recruitment, water purification and erosion control suddenly collapse?
Will steadily increasing reliance on tourism lead to economic vulnerability
(cf. September 11th) as well as environmental, moral, spiritual and cultural
What are the policy options that will provide a framework for the many actors
who exploit the Caribbean Sea to manage it in a sustainable manner.
Ecosystem services being assessed
Fisheries, Biodiversity regulation of ecosystem services by keystone species,
recreational and aesthetic, atmospheric and climate regulation, nutrient
recycling, sediment trapping, and pollutant detoxification.
Key features of the assessment
The marine environment and well being of the peoples of the Caribbean are
closely interdependent since most countries economies are heavily dependent on
tourism and fisheries, and the majority of the people live in coastal
settlements. Core ecosystem services critical to human wellbeing in the
Caribbean are the attractive seascape/landscape aesthetics and diverse cultural
mix, which give the region a high recreational value. This is especially so
among most of the islands in the region and is reflected in their export
structure where tourism revenue comprises 15-99% of exports of goods and
services. Ecosystem goods from Agriculture and Fisheries are also important
comprising 4-44% of GDP. These ecosystem goods and services provided by the
Caribbean Sea are under threat from many sources such as international marine
shipping (including nuclear waste trans-shipment), wastes from yachts and
cruise liners and large commercial fishing vessels from nations not indigenous
to the sub-region. Over-harvesting of fish and land-based sources of pollution
are a direct threat to sustainable livelihoods. The resources of the coastal
zone are also under threat from several sources such as removal and filling in
of mangrove swamps for hotel and resort construction, beach sand mining,
blasting channels through coral reefs to facilitate marina development.
Deforestation and land clearing also promote soil loss and fertilizer runoff,
which may cause algal blooms and increased turbidity in the coastal zone.
Adequate inter-disciplinary scientific and analytical basis for protection of
the ecosystem function of the Caribbean Sea.
A body of policies, management undertakings and actions to address the basic
threats to ecosystem states and/or services
Capacity development in the region for undertaking integrated ecosystem
Deepened understanding of environment and development linkages by
Increased public awareness of people to the value of the Caribbean Sea
A regional framework for collective policy-making and effective management.
The project will contribute a summary of the assessment to the MA by December
2003. The full assessment is expected to be completed by October 2004. The
tentative 3-year budget is US$187,000.