Belize City, Belize – From February 4th to 9th 2014, a learning exchange for junior marine protected area managers from different Caribbean islands took place in Belize. The activity was organized by the Biodiversity and Protected Area Management Programme (BIOPAMA), a four-year program funded by the European Commission and implemented jointly by IUCN, the Joint Research Centre of the European Commission (EC-JRC) and the Access and Benefit Sharing component (ABS) managed by Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ), to promote learning and information-sharing among young marine protected area managers who will implement the skills and knowledge acquired here to strengthen the protection of natural resources in the region.
The participants, whose ages ranged between 24 and 42 years, represented government institutions and NGOs from several Caribbean countries, including Barbados, Belize, Dominican Republic, Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis and St. Lucia.
“The main objective of the exchange was to expose junior MPA managers from the eastern Caribbean to first-hand information and tools to learn how protected areas can be effectively or ineffectively managed,” said Hyacinth Armstrong-Vaughn, Protected Areas Officer for the BIOPAMA programme. “That goal was definitely achieved. Management isn’t just one-dimensional, and this trip allowed participants to see all the facets involved – the technical, economic and social sides of MPA management,” she added.
The young environmentalists visited Belize City, the coastal fishing village of Sarteneja, the popular tourist destination of Ambergris Caye and the Hol Chan Marine Reserve. They gave presentations about their respective organizations and protected areas and participated in workshops delivered by local environmental organizations such as the Sarteneja Alliance for Conservation and Development (SACD), Wildtracks manatee and primate rehabilitation center and the Fisheries Department of the government of Belize.
“What I found most useful was learning how cooperation works and about the use of technology for conservation, as well as getting to know Belize or the first time in my life,” said Carlos Gilkes, 39, a boat operator and park ranger for the National Conservation Commission (NCC) of Barbados. “Currently, I am working on writing proposals for new NCC projects, that is why my supervisors thought it would be good for me to participate in this learning exchange,” said Gilkes.