[Coral-List] Coverage from the Caribbean Challenge Initiative Summit

Georgina Bustamante gbustamante09 at gmail.com
Mon May 20 13:35:17 EDT 2013

WASHINGTON POST: Coverage of Caribbean Challenge Summit: 

Caribbean political, business leaders meet on Branson's private island to
discuss conservation

By Associated Press, Published: May 17 

NECKER ISLAND, British Virgin Islands - Surrounded by a turquoise sea and a
menagerie of exotic animals on a billionaire's private island, political and
business leaders gathered Friday to back an initiative aimed at expanding
protection for the Caribbean's imperiled coasts and waters.

The "Caribbean Challenge" calls for special protected zones along at least
20 percent of the region's coasts by 2020 in hopes of protecting its
biodiversity and its crucial tourism market. The region's scattered islands
have 10 percent of the world's coral reefs and some 1,400 species of fish
and marine mammals.

Richard Branson, the adventuring CEO and founder of the Virgin Group of
companies, is co-hosting the two-day meeting at Necker Island, his home in
the British Virgin Islands where he has developed an ultra-exclusive
eco-resort that showcases renewable energy technology, reintroduced
flamingoes, imported lemurs and other creatures.

"It's just so important to get every single Caribbean country 100 percent
behind protecting the wonderful sea life and the wonderful reefs and
mangroves, and therefore the species that occupy our oceans," Branson said
from his 74-acre Caribbean retreat, a haven for entertainment and business

British Virgin Islands Premier Orlando Smith and Grenada Prime Minister
Keith Mitchell are also co-hosting the gathering of delegations from nine
Caribbean countries, chiefs of resort companies and cruise lines,
representatives of the World Bank, United Nations and other international
bodies, private foundations and environmental groups.

"This is not a situation where we can say: This is a Caribbean thing and it
doesn't include anybody else. This is an international issue," Mitchell told
reporters gathered for a brief press conference held on Necker's tennis
courts, not far from an animated group of lemurs.

On Friday, delegations from the participating governments signed a
communique pledging to establish a framework for a regional approach to
coastal conservation, including "increasing considerably the number of
marine protected areas." They also said they recognized an urgent need to
protect sharks and rays, and vowed a "dramatic acceleration in the
transition from fossil fuels to alternative energy sources over the next
five years."

One of the key sponsors is the Virginia-based Nature Conservancy, which
touts the Caribbean Challenge, begun in 2008, as one of the world's most
ambitious conservation initiatives. The conservation group has been
providing technical expertise to the participating islands for years.

"The Caribbean is truly paradise under threat, and today's focus is a
critical step toward a brighter future," Glenn Prickett, chief external
affairs officer with the Nature Conservancy, said in an email.

If the Caribbean, the world's most tourism dependent region, takes strong
steps now to protect its natural resources, conservationists say it will be
in a far stronger position to protect its small economies and cope with
future threats from climate change and ocean acidification due to greenhouse

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