In an event that brought together a diverse set of conservation agencies from throughout the Mesoamerican and Caribbean regions, BIOPAMA presented its vision for the Caribbean at the Fourth Mesoamerican Congress on Protected Areas, held in San José, Costa Rica from 18 – 21 March.
The event included an opening speech by Dr. Grethel Aguilar, Regional Director of IUCN’s ORMA (Mesoamerican) office, a presentation on the BIOPAMA program by BIOPAMA Protected Areas Officer for the Caribbean region, Hyacinth Armstrong-Vaughn, and a lively discussion facilitated by Dr. Téa García-Huidobro, Regional Programme Coordinator for IUCN’s ORMA office.
A number of VIPs and principals from the Caribbean region attended, including representatives from BIOPAMA member countries Belize and the Dominican Republic, Mexican conservationist Dr. Ernesto Enkerlin, Head of IUCN’s World Commission on Protected Areas, BIOPAMA Global Programme Manager Nick Cox, and José Courrau, Senior Advisor on Protected Areas at the IUCN-ORMA office.
The discussion focused on gathering the participating countries’ responses to four key questions: which technical capacities are lacking for optimal protected area management; did participants wish they had more information for decision-making on protected areas and what kind of information would be most useful; what can be done to improve access to data and information; and are there tools that managers can use to influence decision-makers in support of PA management?
Executive Director of Grupo Jaragua in the Dominican Republic, Yvonne Arias said, “In the Caribbean, we have to be fighting all the time to save a site. The places that are saved, are saved thanks to the people’s struggle. We have the necessary information about PAs, but there is no follow-up.”
One of the discussion’s key conclusions was that through the creation of the BIOPAMA regional observatories, scientific and technical information and knowledge exchanges within regions would be strengthened. BIOPAMA is currently searching for a host institution and technical officer to open a Caribbean observatory.
The BIOPAMA event at this regionally important forum comes less than eight months from the IUCN World Parks Congress, the once a decade event to be held in Sydney, Australia this November that sets the agenda for the world’s protected areas. BIOPAMA will contribute to the World Parks Congress through its initiatives in the Caribbean and the three other BIOPAMA regions, and by disseminating its knowledge gathered at pre-WPC events such as the Mesoamerican Parks Congress.