April 16, 2014
Jamaica is now more prepared to handle and manage the protection of its native plants and animals as a result of extensive work of a recently concluded project implemented by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA).
Over the last four and half years, NEPA, through the project- Mitigating the Threat of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in the Insular Caribbean (MTIASIC) developed a number of strategies to lessen the threats being posed to the island’s terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecosystems from Invasive Alien Species (IAS). IAS are plants, animals or microorganisms introduced deliberately or unintentionally into areas where they do not occur naturally.
Nelsa English -Johnson, MTIASIC Project Coordinator at NEPA said these strategies included developing a National Invasive Alien Species Strategy and Action Plan (2014-2020) to guide policies, legislation and regulations in the management of IAS over the next six years.
The Project also developed a Pet Trade Pathway toolkit, which is aimed at addressing the Pet Trade, one of the major pathways through which IAS are introduced into Jamaica. Through regional workshops, the Project helped to develop a Regional IAS Strategy, where Jamaica led on developing the freshwater and marine components of the regional strategy.
Mrs. English-Johnson informed that the Project designed and implemented public awareness initiatives such as the 'Eat It To Beat It Campaign', which was geared to stem the population of the Lionfish.
"The Project was able to increase the country’s capacity to respond, control and manage IAS through targeted work, such as, controlling the invasive alien predators of the endangered endemic Jamaican Iguana and putting in protective measures in the Lower Black River Morass (Ramsar Site) to safeguard against two freshwater plants and other animals which are negatively impacting the wetland of international importance," said Mrs. English-Johnson.
She further noted that the Project came at an opportune time when invasives were becoming more problematic. "The IAS project was able to fill that gap and develop a number of control methodologies to address the threats. Now, persons don’t only think about invasives as pests that affect agriculture, but they see it as threats to the country’s biodiversity, their own economy and livelihood and their way of life," she said.
Funded by the Global Environment Facility, the Project was able to foster linkages with other Caribbean islands such as The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Trinidad and Tobago and St. Lucia, which also implemented IAS projects within their individual states.
"When we started over four years ago, a lot of the information was very new to us. Through partnership with the University of the West Indies - Department of Life Sciences, we were able to carefully research, plan and execute our strategies that have been reaping positive results. Now, the island is leading the region in our IAS strategy and is being looked upon as models to replicate," added English-Johnson.