Second Annual Meeting Held in Freeport, The Bahamas

FREEPORT, Grand Bahama -- The Caribbean Biodiversity Fund (CBF) a regional endowment fund established in September 2012 with its corporate office in The Bahamas, held its 2nd Annual Meeting of the Fund in Freeport, Grand Bahama, September 24, 2014.

The CBF has the objective to provide a sustainable flows of funds to support activities that contribute substantially to the conservation, protection and maintenance of biodiversity within the national protected areas, systems or any other areas of environmental significance, of its participating countries. The CBF is the first regional endowment that will channel support to multiple National Conservation Trust Funds (NCTFs) established in participating countries.

Photo from left, front row: Yabanex Batista, Chief Executive Officer; Sheldon Cohen, Director of External Affairs, Caribbean Program Worldwide Office; the Hon. Dr. Michael Darville, Minister for Grand Bahama; Dr. Jens Mackensen, Head of Division, Agriculture and Natural Resources, Latin America and the Caribbean; Ronald Smith-Berkeley, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Natural Resources & Labour, Government of the Virgin Islands; Senator the Hon. Simon Stiell, Parliamentary Secretary, Government of Grenada; Brittany Isabelle, Caribbean Biodiversity Fund Assistant; Karen Panton, Bahamas National Trust, Director of Finance Corporation. Representatives were from Grenada, St. Kitts & Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Jamaica, Dominican Republic, and British Virgin Islands. (BIS Photo/Vandyke Hepburn)

Welcome remarks by The Hon. Dr. Michael R. Darville, Minister for Grand Bahama

Board of Directors and Executives of The Caribbean Biodiversity Fund
Advisors, Country Observers and Partners
Officials from the eight visiting Caribbean countries, as well as The team from The Bahamas
Director and executives of The Ministry of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government
Executives from The Bahamas National Trust and The BEST Commission
Organizers of this event
Ladies and gentlemen

Good morning and welcome to Grand Bahama and the beautiful Grand Lucayan Resort.

This morning I bring greetings to you from The Prime Minister of The Commonwealth of The Commonwealth of The Bahamas and Minister of Finance, The right Honourable Perry Gladstone Christie; The Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, The Honourable V. Alfred Gray; The Minister of Environment and Housing, Honourable Ken Dorsett; and all my parliamentary colleagues here on Grand Bahama.

As Minister for Grand Bahama, it is my mandate to promote and provide environmental protection for Grand Bahama and our surrounding cays. Therefore, this morning it is truly an honor and pleasure to welcome you to The 2nd annual Caribbean Biodiversity Fund general meeting.
Partners and advisors, the Ministry for Grand Bahama and indeed, the Government of The Bahamas is pleased to welcome all of the officials from Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, The British Virgin Isles, The Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Puerto Rico, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Your attendance today confirms your country’s commitment to protect its near shore marine and coastal habitats and your commitment to invest in the Biodiversity fund that will provide sustainable financing for these nationally protected areas, or any other areas of environmental significance in your respective countries.

Ladies and gentlemen, Bahamians are proud of the unique geology which underscores the paradise in which we live. We often speak of our 700 islands and cays, and the value of our 5,400 square miles of land, which is sprinkled amidst the most beautiful turquoise waters on earth. Our 700 islands spread across one 100,000 square miles of pristine ocean, which means that about 95% of our country is under water, making us a low lying coastal nation. Therefore, we fully understand that the wealth of our nation lies largely within the natural resources of the sea, and our livelihood lies with the maintenance of this land and these waters, as well as our ability as a people to interface both land and sea for the growth and development of our archipelagic nation.

Ladies and Gentlemen, Grand Bahama, in particular, has many ecological wonders, including one of the world’s longest underwater limestone cave systems, which attract tourists, scientist and professional cave divers from around the world to our shores. In addition, we are also exploring mariculture as a major source of employment for residents of East and West Grand Bahama. Therefore, like many participating countries we recognize the need to protect our natural resources and to develop a sustainable financing mechanism, which will help us to realize our true potential.

For this reason, a few years ago, The Bahamas designed the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Full Size Project (FSP) on Marine Protected Areas throughout the country. This FSP seeks to build a Sustainable National Marine Protected Area Network for The Bahamas while at the same time enabling us to meet our commitments under the Convention on Biological Diversity Programs for Protected Areas, as well as other obligations under this important regional Convention. The FSP is a huge task and that is why the government is pleased that important progress is being made with the implementation of this project and in the protection of marine habitats.

Ladies and Gentleman, as part of the Caribbean Challenge Initiative (CCI), which was launched in 2008 as a country we aim to protect at least 20% of near-shore marine and coastal environments by 2020. I am also pleased to report that Great progress has been made through the Bahamas GEF funded project on Marine Protected Areas, which is an important component in the development of a Sustainable Financing Mechanisms. Although this is still work in progress, having a functioning mechanism to finance environmental conservation in the future will greatly increase our country’s chances of successfully maintaining healthy ecosystems as part of its sustainable development efforts.
Partners and Advisors, as we move towards achieving our goals under the Caribbean Challenge initiative, the need to explore sustainable finance mechanisms grows, bearing in mind that sustainable finance refers to a steady and appropriate flow of financial resources that will ensure that the full costs of a protected area system are met, both now and into our children’s future.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Sustainable Finance Mechanism, also called The Bahamas Protected Area Fund (BPAF) Bill was debated in Parliament in January last year and was unanimously passed in both chambers. Minister Dorsett, in his communication to the Bahamian people articulated that the BPAF’s objective was “to provide a legal framework to ensure sustainable financing into perpetuity for the management of protected areas in The Bahamas.” In that same communication to the house Minister Dorsett also stated that this fund would be a critical long term source of financing to support the national system of protected areas throughout the country.

Partners, The Bahamas Protected Area Fund (BPAF), is closely linked with regional efforts of the Caribbean Biodiversity Fund, a regional endowment worth $42 million dollars which will only strengthen our Country and the Caribbean’s capacity for environmental protection. That is why I am happy to say that the Government of The Bahamas has committed $2 million dollars to this process and since January 2013, further progress has been made with the BPAF and related issues.

The National Implementation Support Partnership (NISP), a body comprising of The BEST Commission, The Nature Conservancy (TNC), The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) and The Department of Marine Resources (DMR) has formulated a ‘white paper’ which was presented to cabinet last year. This white paper addressed the marine protected areas (MPA) expansion goal of identifying new protected areas as well as expanding the boundaries of existing areas, in order to bring the country up to 2 million hectares of marine and coastal areas which have been designated as Protected Areas. Unfortunately due to the share magnitude of our coastal communities, to date, there has been one public consultation for protected areas in East Grand Bahama, and in the next few months, the Government along with our private sector partners will work feverishly to complete all other public consultations for proposed parks for adoption with the intent of gazetting by January 2015.

In closing Ladies and gentlemen, I am convinced that establishing private public partnerships and forming regional alliances, is a successful model for achieving the mandates of any effective government, which are to create financial opportunities for its citizens, while protecting our fragile ecosystems.
Therefore, this morning I would like to congratulate the Caribbean Biodiversity fund (CBF) Board of Directors for their vision and leadership and for choosing The Bahamas for your corporate office and for hosting this second CBF meeting here in the magic city. This is certainly a major milestone for all of us on Grand Bahama as it represents your first face to face interaction as Board members, partners and observers.

Finally, I wish the entire team best wishes, and once again on behalf of the people of Grand Bahama, welcome, and I trust that your short stay will be rejuvenating, and your meetings successful.

Thank you

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