One of the experts who prompted us to focus this year’s Pace University documentary on coral reef conservation in Curaçao is Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, a marine biologist who did her dissertation there and is now executive director of the Waitt Institute, an on ocean conservation group.
A core focus of the Institute is its Blue Halo Initiative, a management plan for coastal waters designed to revive island fisheries while sustaining healthy reefs and waters. The first island to adopt this plan was Barbuda. But an email message from Johnson yesterday alerted us to great news:
I am THRILLED to announce the expansion of the Waitt Institute’s Blue Halo Initiative: comprehensive ocean governance partnerships with the island nations of Montserrat and Curaçao. And excited to be working with your class to support however I can telling the story of Curaçao’s reefs. In the years to come, the Waitt Institute, in collaboration with island governments and communities, will bring together some of the best minds in Caribbean ocean policy to restore the health of coral reefs, improve coastal livelihoods, bolster food security, and preserve ocean cultures.
Here’s an excerpt from the press release:
Ocean management in the Caribbean will leap forward this year thanks to new partnerships between the governments of Montserrat and Curaçao and the Waitt Institute. These collaborations are the first geographic expansion of the institute’s Blue Halo Initiative, which started in Barbuda in 2012.
“We’re thrilled to be building relationships that emphasize science and community priorities,” said Dr. Ayana Elizabeth Johnson, executive director of the Waitt Institute, regarding the memoranda of understanding signed with both governments. “Barbuda was just the beginning of a Caribbean-wide effort to rebuild fisheries and improve coastal livelihoods.”
The Blue Halo Initiative in Barbuda led to groundbreaking, comprehensive new laws for the coastal waters around the island. Repeating those efforts with Blue Halo Curaçao and Blue Halo Montserrat will raise the bar for sustainable ocean policy around the world.
“This Initiative is about creating a new status quo for how we use the ocean,” said Ted Waitt, Founder and Chairman of the Waitt Institute. “It’s challenging. It takes commitment and requires teamwork between government, scientists, fishermen, and the broader community. But if we work together, we can create an elegant solution that will pay benefits for all stakeholders for generations to come. Getting this right is critically important for the Caribbean’s food security and way of life.”
In Barbuda, new policies include zoning of the coastal waters, establishing one-third of those waters as marine sanctuaries, and protecting native sharks and parrotfish…
Dr. Mark Vermeij, Science Director of Curaçao’s Carmabi Foundation said, “The Blue Halo Initiative coming to Curaçao will allow us to design and trial entirely new management approaches to protect Caribbean reefs.”
“The state of most Caribbean reefs and fisheries is dire, but the policy solutions are simple,” said Johnson. “My heart soars when I envision coastal ecosystems, economies, and cultures thriving due to the bold commitments these islands have made to use the ocean without using it up.”
Here’s a video explaining the Blue Halo project that’s up and running in Barbuda: