The environment is likely to be one of the major global issues for the twenty-first century. Many environmental issues are of direct relevance to the Caribbean, particularly protecting bio-diversity, ensuring the sustainable exploitation of natural resources such as fish stocks and balancing this with the demands of economic development and tourism. The British Government is already active in working with Caribbean Governments in some of these areas.
The Caribbean region has traditionally relied upon the richness of its marine life. Today, the society, culture and economies of the Caribbean remain closely linked to marine bio-diversity. Tourists come to the Caribbean, attracted by images of beautiful beaches, reefs teeming with fish and clear blue waters. But the activity of tourism can threaten the very resources on which it relies. Over-fishing also damages the bio-diversity of the Caribbean. The reefs become poorer. They are no longer able to attract tourists or to feed local people. Sustainable tourism development is therefore the key. The countries and territories of the Caribbean recognise these opportunities and have begun to act on them.
By the end of May 2000 the first meeting of the new UN Consultative Process on Oceans will have taken place. The creation of the Process is a huge step forward, and represents the first truly integrated approach to seas and oceans. It will have a particular focus on issues of vital importance to the Caribbean, such as illegal fishing and marine pollution.
In 1998, the UK was delighted to work with Jamaica to sponsor the Montego Bay Conference. This was a milestone in supporting regional cooperation among all the island states in this field.
The UK will continue to fund projects which promote the conservation and sustainable use of marine resources in the Caribbean region. Through our Department for International Development, we have supported national projects, such as the Coastal Resources Management Plan in the Turks and Caicos Islands. We also have funding available from the Department of the Environment, Transport and the Regions' Darwin Initiative, and the Foreign Office's Environment Project Fund and Environmental Fund for the Overseas Territories.