I take the opportunity to use this space to share a letter shared with Jamaican newspapers from the Caribbean Coastal Area Management (C-CAM) Foundation’s Ingrid Parchment on the Goat Islands and their value — beyond what may be immediately evident, or not so evident, to the naked eye.
It comes even as debate rages over whether the development of a transshipment port should be allowed at the islands which are located inside a protected area — the Portland Bight Protected Area, also a key biodiversity area as identified in the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund’s (CEPF’s) Ecosystem Profile: Caribbean Islands Biodiversity Hotspot.
It has been fascinating to me, the experience of how relentless and vocal civil society actors — influenced by key stakeholders, such as the Jamaica Environment Trust and C-CAM, as well as enablers such as my very own NGO Panos Caribbean through its communication project supported by the CEPF — have been in their objection to the proposed development while making a case for a seat at the table for a final decision on the issue.
Of course, the jury is still out on whether their efforts — including research work now being done by C-CAM with the funding support from the CEPF and the Save the Goat Islands campaign led by JET — will earn them a seat at the table.
I trust that Ingrid Parchment’s reflections on the islands will take us a step closer to a resolution, even as we await the results of the research work and to determine whether, in fact, the Save the Goat Islands campaign would have achieved its goals.
— Petre Williams-Raynor
There is an old adage that says ‘There’s none so blind as those who will not see’. This certainly applies to whoever concluded that there are “only ants on the island” as a result of the trip to Great Goat Island on August 22.
I would like to draw your attention to the things that they did not notice.
1) A landscape essentially unchanged since Columbus visited it in 1493. Coastlines of this type are few and far between in the Caribbean and their value for tourism is increasing rapidly.
2) The complex of dry forests, mangroves, shallow bay, sea grass beds and coral reefs that include and surround the Goat Islands and Galleon Harbour and the free services they provide, such as coastal protection, fish nurseries and support for other natural resources. Each element is important on its own, but it is the juxtaposition of the elements that make them uniquely valuable. Remove or disrupt any part and the value of the whole is jeopardised.
3) The rich diversity of globally threatened biodiversity that the area supports. This includes the endemic cactus that someone observed — but did not recognise, and aquatic and nocturnal species that they could not have expected to see.
4) The rich and diverse cultural heritage on the island, from all periods of Jamaica’s history. None of these things are obvious to the untrained eye on a casual visit, but this does not make them less valuable. Indeed, an economic evaluation of the ecological services provided by Portland Bight Protected Area valued them at more than US$20 million — and that, without any investment at all.
What would the impact of the port be on the rich heritage of the area? As Mr. Kistle noted, it is impossible to say, in the absence of better information about proposed developments.
But as Professor Byron Wilson indicated, the first question is whether the Goat Islands are the best site for this development? Or are there other sites in Jamaica, where the port and logistic hub could be placed with equivalent development costs, the same or better benefits for Jamaica and less severe impacts on the natural environment?
This is the question that Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation has posed to the Conservation Strategy Fund (CSF), an international NGO that has experience working on many large infrastructure projects, including the Panama Canal.
CSF is currently coordinating an international team of experts who are carrying out a cost effectiveness comparison of proposals for the port at the Goat Islands and three other sites. The project is funded by the Critical Ecosystems Partnership Fund, an international consortium, including World Bank, the Inter-American Development Bank, World Wildlife Fund, and Conservation International. The results are due in September 2014.
As part of C-CAM’s continuing commitment to sustainable development in the best interests of the people and environment of Portland Bight and Jamaica as a whole,
I am looking forward to sharing these results with the rest of Jamaica and promoting an informed dialogue on this important project.
(Executive Director, Caribbean Coastal Area Management Foundation)