Supporting compliance and enhancing enforcement activities within Caribbean MPAs

Caribbean MPAs are regulatory organizations tasked with implementing rules and regulations, so law enforcement is a core activity. Yet in the 2011 MPA Management Capacity Assessment 85% of the 27 participating sites acknowledged that they had ‘inconsistent enforcement of rules and regulations’. The development of proactive, effective and efficient enforcement programs throughout the Wider Caribbean Region was identified as the top priority shared capacity building need in order to ensure the long-term sustainable management of the region’s marine and coastal resources.  To start to build capacity, 22 managers and head rangers from MPAs in 10 countries and territories participated in a peer-to-peer workshop on MPA enforcement. The workshop was held from August 28-31, 2012 in Key West, Florida and shared theory on enforcement approaches, case studies from around the region and internationally. Table-top exercises and practical field exercises demonstrated relevant enforcement actions and best approaches that could be implemented by each MPA.

The workshop was facilitated by Ret. Capt. Jayson Horadam from MPA Enforcement International with trainer Sergeant Mark Aguon from Guam’s Department of Agriculture, Division of Aquatic and Wildlife Resources and the Pacific Islands Marine Protected Area Community. Additional support was provided by The Nature Conservancy, the Caribbean Marine Protected Areas Management Network and Forum (CaMPAM) and the United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme (UNEP-CEP).

Responding to the workshop participants’ interest in comparing MPA legislation around the region, GCFI subsequently coordinated an in-depth regional follow-up study about “Legal Frameworks for MPA Enforcement in the Caribbean: Opportunities and Challenges” by the Environmental Law Institute.

The regional peer-to-peer learning activity provided an amazing opportunity for sharing best practices and networking, but building enforcement capacity on the ground also demands practical training tailored to the local MPA context – the powers of enforcement officers, the existing MPA rules and regulations, case success to date and the severity of sanctions. Since the peer-to-peer workshop in Key West, many of our priority MPAs have implemented practical MPA law enforcement training on-island or in-country together with their local enforcement agencies (see the enforcement tab of the StoryMap in the section Follow-up Site-Specific Technical Support). From these joint MPA enforcement training activities we’ve learned that in order to achieve active and consistent enforcement, MPA managers must build effective partnerships with local and national law enforcement agencies. And a single training activity on its own is not enough – regularly repeated practical enforcement training is needed, with refreshers and specialized training on key topics, held in conjunction with local police, military and Coast Guard trainers.

Many excellent field enforcement officers can be found within the MPAConnect network. Marine Manager Shane Young at Belize Audubon Society has earned credibility as MPA enforcement mentor, backed up by Belize Fisheries Department. TIDE Belize is making strides in strategic enforcement planning, the first MPAs in the region to do so.  Scott Johnson at The Bahamas National Trust is an excellent ally and resource in the fight against the illegal trade in wildlife.