Sandals Foundation launches Ocho Rios Marine Sanctuary
27 October 2009
This month saw The Sandals Foundation officially launch their Ocho Rios Marine Sanctuary at an official ceremony attended by representatives of various Government Ministries and Sandals executives at Beaches Boscobel Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Jamaica’s Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon Dr Christopher Tufton and Sandals CEO Adam Stewart officially launched the Sandals Foundation Ocho Rios Marine Sanctuary on Friday 9th October at an official ceremony attended by representatives of various Government Ministries and Sandals executives at Beaches Boscobel Resort, Ocho Rios, Jamaica.
Addressing the gathering, Mr. Stewart outlined the Sandals Foundation Marine Plan which included a commitment to the management of the Marine Sanctuaries, marker buoys in designated areas, reef and fish population monitoring and working alongside Government, fishermen and community members to ensure that Jamaicans are properly educated as to the benefits of such a venture.
He said there were plans for additional Marine Sanctuaries in Montego Bay and White House on the island’s South Coast, aimed at developing an example of proper coastal management through the creation of a protected “no fishing ” area which will be patrolled and monitored to the greater benefit of the surrounding community.
The Sandals CEO said benefits to be derived by the nation included: increased resilience of coral reefs; fishermen benefiting as fish population increases and ‘overspill’ into non-protected areas; education of local stakeholders and visitors, as well as the promotion of Dive Tourism in a country which supports environmentally sound practices.
Setting the stage as to why there was an urgent need for creating Marine Protected Areas (MPA), Mr. Stewart pointed out that over the past thirty years there had been devastating effects on Jamaica’s reefs resulting from hurricanes, over fishing, pollution, increased sediment deposits from deforestation and the growing of more algae than coral.
In addressing the problems, Sandals Foundation has been undertaking numerous beach and reef clean ups, investment in the Montego Bay Marine Park and fisheries in White house and Montego Bay, as well as undertaking a number of Environmental Awareness Programmes in schools and communities.
Minister Tufton lauded the efforts of the Sandals Foundation in launching the Marine Protected Areas, pointing out that it will be of tremendous benefit to the local fishing industry. He said his Government was firmly behind the plan and would assist in its policing and the education of local fishermen.
The Agriculture Minister cited the great success of Marine Protected Areas in other countries, including Belize, where the size of fish and increased yield in catches had provided a welcome boost for the local industry.
He said that by its action Sandals had shown its continued commitment to the environment and urged other stakeholders to follow this lead and play a more vibrant role in the local agriculture industry and protecting the environment.
Dr. Owen Day, Director of the Bucco Reef Trust, a non-profit organization registered in the USA and Trinidad, has also endorsed the Sandals Foundation Marine Protected Areas.
Dr. Day described it as “good news for everyone, as MPAS are increasingly recognized by scientists as an important approach for conserving Caribbean marine ecosystems and for generating income and sustainable livelihoods for coastal communities.”
He further noted that “the MPAs being created by the Sandals Foundation are positive steps in the right direction, and will hopefully encourage the creation of other and larger protected areas. In these times of economic crisis and environmental gloom, MPAs offer a rare and exciting opportunity for win-win for both the environment and the local communities.”
To further support the Sandals Foundation initiative, Dr. Day pointed out that “in the 1970s the North Coast of Jamaica was famous for its beautiful coral reefs, where living corals often made up of over 70% of the reef’s surface. Today, the same reefs have less than 10% living coral, the rest of the reef being made of dead coral and algae. These reefs no longer grow upwards towards the sun, but slowly shrink and erode away. Eventually the beaches start to disappear too, as the reefs no longer function as natural breakwaters, dissipating the energy of ocean swells and storms.”
Sandals Foundation Senior Co-ordinatior Heidi Clarke said the launch of the MPAs was a result of a commitment by all stakeholders involved and praised the fishermen, local community leaders and Government for coming together to make the Sanctuary a reality.
She noted that the Sandals Foundation would be vigilant in monitoring activities in the MPAs to ensure the protection of Jamaica’s marine life and from all indications the venture promised to be a successful one.
The Sandals Foundation was launched in March 2009 to continue the philanthropic work that Sandals Resorts International has been dedicated to for almost three decades. Three focus areas of Community, Education and the Environment underpin a singular objective to make a difference in the lives people across the Caribbean.
To learn more visit sandalsfoundation.org for more information.