Vibrant and spectacular coral reefs, teeming with colorful fish, coral, lobsters, conch, turtles and other marine life are considered, along with rainforests, the most biologically diverse habitats on earth. The Mesoamerican Reef system stretches over 625 miles of coastline spanning eastern coasts of Mexico, Belize, Guatemala and Honduras. It is the largest reef in the Western Hemisphere and has been identified as a unique and globally important coral reef ecosystem. Human populations in each of the Mesoamerican Reef’s adjoining countries rely on the diverse habitats and nearby terrestrial environs for much of their livelihood and sustenance. Unfortunately evidence indicates that it is under severe natural and human induced threat.
The International Coral Reef Action Network (ICRAN), established in the year 2000, through generous support from the United Nations Foundation (UNF), is a collaborative effort working to halt and reverse the decline in health of the world’s coral reefs.
ICRAN partners undertaking conservation, reef monitoring and management activities across local, national and global scales. ICRAN is the first partnership to respond to conservation needs at the global scale by recognizing both the traditional and scientific knowledge of coral reefs and the dependency that many people and communities have on reefs for their day-to-day existence in staving off poverty. It seeks to put financial mechanisms in place that support direct on-the-ground action throughout the world’s major coral reef regions.
In support of the ICRAN Mesoamerican Reef Alliance, the UN Foundation has pledged $1.5 million to undertake activities in the three project components of Watershed Management, Sustainable Fisheries, and Sustainable Tourism. Given the strong interest in the Mesoamerican Reef by the United States’ government (as is evident from its multi-year dedicated support through the USAID PROARCA program, the New Opportunity Alliance and The Nature Conservancy’s Mesoamerican Reef Initiative) in March 2002, the UNF and ICRAN requested from USAID an additional $1.5 million to complement this important effort. USAID’s and UNF’s funds will support the Mesoamerican Reef Alliance with UNF/ICRAN. This alliance will allow USAID Guatemala/Central American Programs to bring new partners and international expertise into the region to promote economically and environmentally sound management of the reef, and to strategically engage major components of the private sector.
USAID and UNF/ICRAN have agreed to jointly plan the specific program activities under the Mesoamerican Reef Alliance. A lead organization within ICRAN, the United Nations Environment Programme’s Caribbean Environment Programme, will manage project execution.
The Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Alliance Activity will be complemented by other efforts supported in the region by important donors like the World Bank/Global Environment Facility (GEF), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), and international conservation organizations like The Nature Conservancy (TNC), World Wildlife Fund (WWF), the Wildlife Conservation Society (WCS) and the Summit Foundation. This support is in response to an initiative by the Presidents of Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras and the Prime Minister of Belize to promote conservation and sustainable use of the reef called for in the Tulum Declaration (1997).
A primary objective of ICRAN activities in the Wider Caribbean is to build the capacity on the ground for sustainable management of coral reefs, emphasizing the role of Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), local communities and the tourism sector. To this end a number of regional and local activities are being implemented including promotion of better practices, training, coral reef monitoring and assessments, mapping of MPAs and their habitats, and public awareness-building targeted mostly to decision-makers and developers. In the case of proposed ICRAN activities in the MAR, ICRAN will work in close coordination and collaboration with the GEF/MBRS and USAID PROARCA programs which share common objectives with ICRAN and are key stakeholders in Central America.
This project is a partnership that relies on many individuals and organizations working together to achieve a common goal for the benefit of the livelihoods of people and communities, through improving the chances for the future health of coral reefs. This commitment to the region also relies on working with those companies and industry that are also benefiting from the region and to provide opportunities for reinvesting in action which will ensure the longevity of their businesses.
For more information on the Mesoamerican Reef Alliance or how you can join this effort please contact:
- Oscar Alvarez, Coordinator, ICRAN-MAR Project, telephone + (501) 223-4673/84 or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
- Alessandra Vanzella-Khouri, Programme Officer UNEP-CAR, telephone +1 (876) 922-9267 or email: email@example.com
- Carmen Aida Gonzalez, USAID/G-CAP Regional Environment and Rural Diversification Advisor, telephone +502 3320202, or email: firstname.lastname@example.org
- or visit: http://www.coralreefalliance.org/parks/mar.