The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) [1] consists of the insular and coastal states and overseas territories with coastlines on the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico as well as the adjacent waters of the Atlantic Ocean. It is composed of 3 Large Marine Ecosystems with the greatest number of geo-political governance structures, the most maritime boundaries and the largest number of Small Island Developing States. More than 134 million people living on or near the coast benefit from this ocean economy, conservatively valued as worth $ 407 billion annually and projected to nearly double by 2050. Most of the population, infrastructure, and economic activities are concentrated in the coastal zone. In a 2009 General Resolution, the United Nations General Assembly urged the United Nations system to recognize the Caribbean Sea as a “special area within the context of sustainable development”.

The Caribbean Sea is home to invaluable coastal and marine biodiversity. It supports tourism, fisheries, maritime transportation, carbon sequestration, trade, offshore wind energy and recreation. Marine habitats provide critical ecosystems services such as acting as nurseries for fisheries, protecting coasts from storms, preventing beach erosion and flooding, filtering water and trapping sediments, and acting as carbon sinks. Owing to its geographical location, trade in goods in the region occurs primarily by sea. Given the scope and intensity of shipping in the Greater Caribbean, as well as the sensitive nature the Caribbean Sea itself, ship-generated waste and the impacts of maritime activities present a significant threat to regions’ marine ecosystems. 

Degradation compromises ecosystem’s function and services (e.g. energy absorption and protection of shorelines during storms) reducing support to people and economies. The Caribbean Sea continues to be under threat from land- and marine-based activities as well as changes in biological, physical, economic and social indicators related to ocean health, which is why improving ocean governance and transboundary cooperation is critical.

[1] The Wider Caribbean Region (WCR) comprises the insular and coastal States and Territories with coasts on the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, as well as waters of the Atlantic Ocean adjacent to these States and Territories and includes 28 island and continental countries.

Photocredit: Christopher Corbin

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