Environment and development
in coastal regions and in small islands
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Coastal region and small island papers 2


The Coastal Areas of Haiti: Jurisdiction and Legal Aspects - The Sea, the Law and the Environment


Discussions revolved around the legal aspects concerning marine and coastal resources including public and private uses of these resources (fishing, navigation, waste disposal, exploitation of the sea bed etc.) as well as legal definitions of territorial seas (out to 12 miles – sovereign rights, right of peaceful navigation),EEZ (out to 200 miles – rights for exclusive exploitation of resources) and the ‘high seas’ (beyond 200 miles). The marine legislation in Haiti needs to be improved, especially with regard to the ratification of and compliance with international conventions. Due to internal problems in the period between 1958 and 1972 there were no conventions signed. There are general laws concerning various aspects (navigation, fishing) but enforcement is almost non-existent in most cases. However, conventions that have been ratified more recently include the Convention on Biological Diversity and the Framework Convention on Climate Change as well as the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). Those which have not yet been ratified include the Cartagena Convention (Convention for the Protection and Development of the Marine Environment of the Wider Caribbean Region), the MARPOL Convention (International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), the Basel Convention on the Control of Transboundary Movements of Hazardous Wastes and their Disposal, and the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES). Haiti seems to have no clear policies concerning conventions, sponsored by the International Maritime Organization, on pollution prevention (SOLAS, COLREG, CLC, OPC Fund and OPRC). The government offices with an interest in coastal area resources management include: Ministries of Environment, Agriculture, Planning, Finance, Commerce and Education, and the Office of the Secretary of State for Tourism. Comments were made concerning the fact that there are many marine parks throughout the Caribbean, but none in Haiti.

Traditional methods –
a way of life for Haitian fishers.

Photo M. Steyaert

The Coastal Regions of Haiti: Cultural and Natural Environment


The coastal resources are probably the country’s most exploited and inadequately managed. Problems caused by overfishing, pollution, poverty, waste (dumping), ignorance of the laws, lack of education, and general overexploitation and neglect were discussed. It was noted that previous interventions were largely unsuccessful. All land-based activities eventually affect the coastal waters, and near high population densities these waters are in serious trouble whereas those further away are still in fair condition, although somewhat affected by pollution from population centres and erosion. Over fishing in nearshore waters is widespread, compounded by the fact that most artisanal fishers do not have the means to fish pelagic species.

Hotels and houses contribute to human waste entering the near-shore environment, but by far the biggest problem is the absence of sewage treatment in large population centres. Engine oil also creates a considerable pollution problem. Deforestation for charcoal production and construction materials as well as inappropriate agricultural practices are the major contributors to the soil erosion process. Coastal marine resources are very overexploited. Yet how is it possible to protect these resources when they are often the only means of support for a family? The need for alternatives, protective and regulatory measures and increased environmental education was emphasized.

Charcoal is a major source of energy
for the population. Extracted from the
dwindling forests, it is stacked by the
road-side and sold in markets.

Photos M. Steyaert

Coastal Ecosystems Management and Bi-national Cooperation


The Dominican Republic and Haiti (forming Hispaniola) are endowed with a unique and valuable marine heritage. Several of the largest and most productive estuaries of the Caribbean Islands are found here. Examples are the mouths of the following rivers: the Barracote and Yuna , in the Bay of Samaná; the Artibonite and l’Estère, in the Gulf of La Gonâve; and the Yaque del Norte, on the Atlantic coast near the northern border between the two countries. The island is at the centre of the Antillean arc, and within the maritime jurisdiction of the two countries is an important passageway for the heavy maritime traffic passing through the region. Hispaniola’s reefs, seagrass beds and mangrove habitats are among the finest in the West Indies. Historically, the social and economic well-being of both countries has been intimately linked to the health of their coastal areas. The coastal lowlands have been the focus of urban and agricultural development. About 70% of Dominican and Haitian settlements (of at least 10,000 inhabitants) and most of the industrial activity are located in the coastal regions. In the Dominican Republic tourism, almost totally concentrated in the coastal area, has become the country’s most important economic activity. Marine fisheries continue to be of major importance for local consumption and exports. Many of these assets have been undervalued thus far, and the potential contribution of coastal and marine areas to the sustainable development of the two countries is only slowly gaining recognition in the official and public sectors.

Hispaniola’s considerable, heavily indented coastline – 3,059 km long – is nearly comparable to the 3,200 kms circumscribing Cuba (the largest Caribbean island). The concentration of almost all the island’s economic activity near the ocean results in a serious impact on the coastal and marine ecosystems. Similar pressures have been building up in neighbouring states and elsewhere in the region, causing coastal degradation and overfished or depleted stocks. The coastal policy responses of these countries vis-a-vis fisheries are moving from open-access regimes to restricted access management, and to the integration of environmental measures such as land-use planning and zoning as a means of avoiding conflicts and unwanted cumulative effects. Good coastal management offers a philosophy as well as techniques for dealing with such dilemmas. The central idea is that we benefit from an ecosystem-based approach to management, for which a long-term perspective is essential. This view requires a new concept for joint Dominican/Haitian decision-making in the light of their island-wide impacts on future generations. Good ecosystem management requires that people be considered as integral parts of the ecosystems and interlinked with the processes by which the systems function and change. Natural processes know no political borders. Because of the obvious inter-relationship of the ‘Haitian and Dominican ecosystems’, bi-national collaboration in the form of a major, combined undertaking is vital for the preservation of the island’s coastal resources. Some of the challenges and realities faced by both countries, in their efforts to achieve these goals, are further discussed in Annex 2 of this report.

1,535 Km of Coast: an Ocean, a Gulf, a Sea and its Unique Potential


Haiti’s ecosystems, including its resident biodiversity, are among the most diverse in the Caribbean. The varied habitats include cacti, humid forests and corals. With the increase in human population has come the usual problems, especially the degradation of species’ habitats. Poor agricultural soil, steep land, and a narrow continental shelf contribute to the aggravation of these problems. There are few management plans that we know of in Haiti, and an effort should be made to prepare such plans at the Ministries of Agriculture or Environment. The last few decades have seen the addition of industrial wastes to the soil already washed down into the ocean. When managing the resources of Haiti, one must keep in mind the socio-economic concerns and specific character of the country. The habitats must be protected in order to rehabilitate them. A proposal was made to establish a biosphere reserve which would include the island of La Gonâve as well as several other areas of singular flora and fauna. These areas should include zones of multiple uses, including fishing. Haiti is at a crossroads regarding management of its ecosystems. Better and more comprehensive conservation legislation is needed, and local participation is important.

Haiti and its neighbours. (Adapted from the Coastal Atlas).

Project Route 2004: Conservation and Promotion of Historical, Cultural and Natural Resources


The aim of Project HAI/95/010 Route 2004 is to help preserve and give a new lease on life to areas of natural, historical and cultural interest in Haiti, beginning with the northeastern region of Fort-Liberté (due to its bio-diversity and the wealth of its archaeological, historical and cultural sites). The project, sponsored by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), centres on the sustainable use of local resources, especially with regard to the development of cultural tourism.

Giselle Hyvert presented the broad outline of the project and the work done by the international, multidisciplinary team in north-east Haiti (collecting data on the geomorphology, hydrology, flora and fauna, fishing and farming, destruction of mangroves as well as the archaeology, history and cultural and social aspects of the Fort-Liberté region). She then called for a tighter legal framework leading to: 1) the creation of a ‘Conservatoire du littoral’(coastal conservatory) to manage and protect areas of historical, cultural and natural interest, 2) a biosphere reserve and 3) specific laws to preserve the underwater heritage. The cultural heritage cannot be dissociated from its natural environment.

Loïc Ménanteau explained how data from a wide variety of sources (ranging from archives, descriptions by early voyagers, historical maps and aerial photographs, to satellite imagery – Landsat TM and SPOT) are all crucial in tracing the former coastline and thus locating archaeological sites in the area where the coastline has changed dramatically over the last 500 years. The understanding gained of the development of the landscape by this methodology also serves to determine where various development projects (urban, industrial, tourist etc.) may be allowed and areas which must at all costs be protected. These findings, duly sorted and sifted, are summarized in the Physiographic Map included in the Coastal Atlas published in the framework of the project. Giving equal importance to land and sea, the Physiographic Map enables the authorities and developers alike to ensure responsible sustainable development.

The Luly Region: Population and Economics


The people of the fishing village of Luly are generally better organized than those of other Haitian villages of the same size or larger. Several engineering projects have been undertaken by the local community, such as the paving of the main access road and the piping of drinking water. Approximately fifteen upper-class weekend houses have been built in the immediate area, and there have often been land disputes for various parcels. A reforestation project was undertaken during 1987-88 in the region of Cadine. About 200,000 seedlings were planted, and a survival rate of 87% was noted. On the other hand, there are only sporadic data concerning fishing activities, with no long-term data even though there is a local fishing cooperative and several commercial salesmen. Luly’s largest market is Port-a u-Prince. The local fishermen would like to have freezers and refrigerators in order to preserve their catches longer before sale. The fishing effort has been estimated at approximately 5-10kg/day/man with fishing consumption at 3.6kg/person. While there is some agriculturalactivity, most people do double duty as farmer- fishers, depending on the season and individual capabilities. Immigrants from other areas as far away as Les Cayes have settled in Luly. There is some tourism potential in the area, especially the Arcadins Islands. Crops in the area include watermelons, lemons and bananas, but there is relatively little live stock raised. The sale of corals and shells represents only a very small industry.

Fishing in Haiti, one source of food for the country's
growing population, is limited due to :
(i) depletion of stocks in shallow coastal waters and
(ii) lack of capacity for deep-sea operations.

Left: Luly villagers with traditional fishing gear.
Photo M. Steyaert

Right: Fisherman in Jacmel shows his catch.
Photo J. Ottenwalder

Coastal Management in the Dominican Republic


The coastal area has always been under increasing pressure from fishing and other activities, but now the potential impacts of tourism must also be considered. In the 1990s, Dominican scientists started to publicize environmental problems in the press, thus encouraging a change in the opinions and attitudes of the government and general public. The Dominican navy was assigned a major role in coastal management, contributing toward the creation of the ‘Green Battalion’ with the navy in charge of enforcing marine and other coastal regulations, and the army in charge of purely terrestrial matters. Both of these armed forces, however, needed training in environmental enforcement. As these servicemen are already paid, there are no costs involved in such environmental management. Research was eventually undertaken at universities in order to: (i) establish a network of monitoring sites (in the CARICOMP project CARICOMP; the Cari bbean Coastal Marine Productivity project, is cosponsored by the MacArthur Foundation and other USA sources, as well as by UNESCO); (ii) conduct an inventory of the collection at a site at Montecristi; (iii) help the Ministry of Foreign Affairs regarding the ratification of treaties. The Fundación MAMMA and its partners have promoted conservation of the coastal environment, e.g. through the Parque Nacional del Este and Parque Submarino la Caleta. The Dominican Republic and Haiti have had similar human-induced problems regarding their coastal resources: overexploitation, pollution, and others. There are, however, perhaps more tourism-related impacts in the Dominican Republic.

Coastal management in Jamaica


The South Coast Conservation Foundation is dedicated to integrated coastal management, especially in the area of Portland Bight (west of Kingston). There are numerous important resources in the area as well as many fishers and fishing villages. This area is one of the most over fished in the English-speaking Caribbean. As a consequence, fishers must now travel further and expend greater fishing effort. There are reefs damaged by dynamite, extensive seagrass beds damaged by seines and trawls, and an increase in water turbidity; as well, turtles are hunted considerably. The main resource users (fishers, farmers and foresters) are mostly poor and illiterate; their skills, community cohesion and environmental awareness are not developed. Access to resources in the area is open to all. A joint management approach, i.e. by the government and the people, has been followed. The government, in reality, does not have the wherewithal nor the ability to manage these resources. Groups have been formed to improve community cohesion. Two associations are in existence, one of them 50 years old and with a membership of only old men. The need was there fore felt to start another (with a situation similar to that in Luly ) . The fishers chair meetings, collect dues, and lease beaches from the government. Membership of the local management council counts 15 fishers, t wo sport fishers, an urban development corporation, the port authority, two Jamaican cooperatives, the police, coastguard, and the National Resource Conservation Authority. The local fishers are encouraged to turn in those breaking fishing regulations. Various methods used to help reduce the harmful effect of the overall fishing effort include: (i) reduce destructive fishing methods; (ii) increase net sizes and set minimum mesh sizes; (iii) develop a fish nursery area; (iv) establish limited entry systems, such as the ‘grandfather’ licensing system, issue no new licenses and only one license for every three who abandon the fishery.

Coastal Productivity in the Caribbean


In Haiti, there is a need for a better understanding of the coastal and marine resources, of their present value in productivity and biodiversity, and the effects of past and present human disturbances. Habitats should be mapped, described, their condition assessed, and routine monitoring established in key areas. Membership in CARICOMP is completely open , requiring only a commitment to do the monitoring work and to send data to the Data Management Centre in Jamaica. The institution collecting the data is free to use them as they wish. The project can assist new members in obtaining basic monitoring equipment and, through its network, in communicating with other Caribbean marine research institutions. Shortly, it is expected that CARICOMP will form the basis, in the Caribbean, of the Global Coral Reef Monitoring Network (Co-sponsored by IOC of UNESCO, IUCN and UNEP). This will help to establish country-wide monitoring of reefs and associated systems, at a less intensive, more easily applicable level than that prevalent in the project. Other Caribbean countries share these needs, but few of them have made much progress in meeting them. Haiti has no well-equipped marine research institution and only a few marine scientists; these specialists would welcome more contact and collaboration with colleagues in neighbouring countries. CARICOMP is a regional effort by Caribbean marine institutions to assess the productivity of mangroves, seagrasses and coral reefs, and to determine the role of terrestrial influences on them. Its initial focus has been on less disturbed habitats, in order to understand baseline conditions, and to monitor for global change. The association of Haiti with this project would be of mutual benefit.

Arrows indicate prevailing currents
(after M.J. Shulman and E. Bermingham).

Study and Reduction of Erosion and Sedimentation in the Watersheds and on the Coast


The settlement of sediment on the continental shelf depends on the local bathymetry and prevailing currents. Most of these sediments are deposited near shore, but finer particles are carried further off shore. Some sedimentation is part of a natural process, but not the type that is produced from deforestation. Practically all of Haiti’s coastline suffers from some type of sedimentation. There is a lack of local knowledge concerning the effects of deforestation on marine resources. The interdependence of resources needs to be explained. Rivers in many areas in Haiti have increased in size and sediment load. Information passed down from colonial times suggest a different use of resources. Haiti’s past, as regards agriculture and deforestation, is as follows: 1700 to 1750 – sugar production; 1750 to 1800 – coffee production (systematic destruction of plains and forests); 1800 to 1850 – equilibrium re-established with local farming during early national period; 1850 to 1900 – cutting of tropical hardwoods; 1900 to present – demographic pressure has led to the over-exploitation of trees for fuel and construction material.

Coastal sediments are transported by river and watershed runoff. Agricultural irrigation adds to the sediment load. It is assumed that the main sedimentation originates from soil erosion upstream due to deforestation.

Photos M. Steyaert

Underground Water in Haiti


The amount of underground water is always difficult to assess, and a variety of different techniques can be used including those involving geology, geomorphology, and geophysical data. The first data were gathered in 1924, and there have been only sporadic surveys since then. An inventory of water resources in Haiti was recently conducted, and reports are available for six regions. Coastal plain regions provide more than 50% of the country’s water resources because they are the most easily reached. Some are heavily exploited and are affected by salt intrusion . Most underground resources are under-exploited. No water resource conservation measures have been taken. In 1974, a law was enacted concerning the responsibility of the Ministry of Agriculture for these resources. However, several other agencies also have the same responsibility both for exploitation and conservation, and this has been causing major conflicts. A lot of information regarding water resources is available, but nothing has been published since 1991. The Ministry of Agriculture has a network of rain gauges and computer models which was put in place in 1989; however, at present it is not functioning.

Coast and Beach Stability in the Caribbean


The COSALC project on Coast and Beach Stability in the Smaller Cari bbean Islands is co-sponsored by UNESCO and the Sea Grant College Program at the University of Puerto Rico, Mayagüez.

COSALC aims to extend its programme into the Greater Antilles. The goal of the project is to improve the in-country capability to measure, assess and manage beach resources within an overall framework of integrated coastal management. In 1982 the smaller islands of the region approached UNESCO because of beach erosion and its potential impact on tourism in the area. Assessments and workshops were conducted in order to define country needs and to determine problems. In cooperation with government agencies, NGOs, community groups and schools, monitoring programmes were started in each island to measure the nature and extent of beach changes. Information from the monitoring programmes is being used to take the necessary remedial, planning and educative measures so that coastal erosion problems can be reduced in the future. Erosion is a function of natural processes as well as human intervention. Certain sand beaches have retreated inland more than 20m following hurricane events and while some recovery has been experienced, most beaches have not fully returned to their pre-hurricane levels. Coral reef degradation and die-offs, as well as sea-level rise, may be increasing beach erosion.

Hydrology and Water Dynamics of the Caribbean Sea, with Particular Reference to the Regions of Haiti and to the Bay of Port-au-Prince


There are very few data and information concerning Haiti’s hydrology and water dynamics in the country’s territorial waters. There is a 1-5°C temperature difference in the Gulf of La Gonâve area with very small changes in salinity. The average rainfall in Haiti is approximately 1300mm, with most rain occuring during the month of May. The Trade Winds (blowing at 4-8 m/sec) are usually from the northeast from December to May. Coastal winds affect general circulation patterns, especially in the Windward Passage. The circulation is affected by the following factors: (i) hurricanes, (e.g. those of 1963, 1964, 1966 and 1980), (ii) bathymetry: two shallow-water sills approach either side of La Gonâve Island and restrict circulation; (iii) hydrography: causes of potential upwelling. The tidal circulation around the bay appears to be from north to south at approximately 0.2m/sec., whereas the Caribbean average tends to be closer to 0.5m/sec. Questions were raised concerning the availability of any tide gauge records, or wind data, for anywhere in Haiti. It was also pointed out that the hydrology of the bay is such that water (and pollution) tends to be retained. Land-based sources of pollution must be addressed.

Map # 26AHA26181: Gulf de la Gonâve, 20th Edition (27 May 1995);
Defense Mapping Agency, Hydrographic and Topographic Agency, USA

Larger version of the map (150K)
Note it will take sometime to download.

Omegalpha Outlook


Haiti has certain industrial and tourism-related problems as concerns the coastal environment, with virtually no governmental institutional capacity in place. There is a need for a depository for coastal information. A definition of what is to be considered the coastal region would have to be determined. The aesthetic treatment of the coast was found to be severely lacking in Haiti. Some type of coastal management authority should be established and placed under the control of the Ministry of Environment.

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