Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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by Ricardo Pérez
Doctoral candidate in anthropology at the University of Connecticut

CARICOMP (Caribbean Coastal Marine Productivity) is a project of UNESCO's Coastal Regions and Small Islands Unit. This regional scientific effort studies the interactions between land and sea, with a special focus on understanding the structure, functions and productivity of mangroves, sea grasses and coral.

Since 1982, CARICOMP has facilitated a cooperative research network of marine laboratories, parks and reserves, as well as a data management center, designed to provide scientific data relevant to the field of sustainable resources management.

This May, CARICOMP sponsored a workshop titled Environment and Development in Coastal Regions and Small Islands at the University of the West Indies, in Kingston, Jamaica.

The goal of the workshop was to promote and facilitate opportunities for collaboration between natural scientists and social scientists interested in the study of coastal resource use and management. Participants and visitors hailed from Jamaica, Puerto Rico, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela, the United States, and England.

The workshop addressed the following questions:

  1. What can the social sciences contribute to our understanding of the dynamics of coastal resource use in the Caribbean?
  2. What kinds of data should be collected about resource use and resource users?
  3. How should community-based management be facilitated?

One of the first issues broached was the fact that social scientists and natural scientists tend to use disparate definitions and terminologies, which can hinder communication between the two groups of researchers. During the workshop, the need to create a common language was acknowledged, as a step toward broadening the limited approaches and perspectives of conventional coastal resource conservation and management.

The framework and concepts introduced by social scientists were also recognized as a valuable complement to the natural sciences. For instance, with regards to Tourism development or in any other circumstance in which coastal resources are a major element of the development process, social scientists apply methods for assessing the true social costs, benefits and values of development.

Social scientists can also provide techniques to help construct detailed profiles of the different types of resource users, and of the types and frequencies of resource use. Social scientists may also provide knowledge about the dynamics of local communities, including their social, cultural and economic structures.

And when it comes to the creation and implementation of public policies, social scientists are often the best qualified to critically assess the procedures leading to the creation of environmental laws.

Workshop participants discussed collaboration between the natural and social sciences in practical terms, in light of some of the major problems faced in coastal resource use and management. Specifically, themes included the socio-cultural aspects and productivity of fisheries in Puerto Rico, Venezuela and Jamaica; the creation of marine parks and protected areas for fishery enhancement; and the use of coastal resources for recreation. Each case study illustrated the complex nature of creating and implementing appropriate resource management strategies.

Workshop participants concluded their effort hopeful that an understanding of the dynamics of coastal resources and their use may help us to design guidelines for incorporating resource users in the creation and implementation of management plans.

Since coastal areas in the Caribbean are continuously used by a variety of groups with different, and often conflicting interests, many social scientists are working to integrate diverse resource user groups in consensus-based co-management processes. We believe that resource users' unique experiences of interaction with the resources are essential assets to both planning and management processes, and the active participation of a broad spectrum of resource users will help to assure the success of resource management over time.

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Distribution of CARICOMP Monitoring Sites

. Active
o Planning

1.Bermuda     2.Bahamas     3.Cuba      4.Cayman Islands     5.Jamaica      6.Dominican Republic     7.Puerto Rico      8.Saba, Netherlands Antilles     9.St. Lucia       10.Barbados     11.Trinidad & Tobago      12.Venezuela (Margarita Island)     13.Bonaire, Netherlands Antilles     14.Curacao, Netherlands Antilles      15.Venezuela (P.N. Morrocoy)     16.Colombia       17.Panama     18.Costa Rica      19.Nicaragua      20.Honduras      21.Belize (Carrie Bow Cay)     22.Belize (Hol Chan)     23.Mexico (Puerto Morelos)     24.Mexico (Celestun)      25.Mexico (Campeche)

Source: "Sea Grant in the Caribbean". April-June 1998. pp.7-8.

For more information on CARICOMP, please contact Ms. Dulcie Linton, by fax: (809) 977-1033 or by e-mail: dmlinton@uwimona.edu.jm.

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