Minister of Agriculture,Trade and the Environment Claude Hogan gave closing remarks at the first International Conference on Sargassum in Pointe Pitre, Guadeloupe this morning.
The conference, which ran from October 23 to 26, brought together nations of the Association of Caribbean States and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) to discuss the issue of sargassum. The minister spoke at the Summit of Heads of Governments of multiple countries in which a final declaration was signed to reflect their commitment to provide concrete and lasting responses to the invasion of sargassum. Also in attendance was the Prime Minister of France Édouard Philippe.
Hogan said in his remarks on behalf of the OECS, “I am from a small island British Overseas Territory myself, your neighbour Montserrat; and might I observe that the entire world would be impressed at the scope and magnitude of the efforts by the French and Guadeloupe, through this conference, in response to real human suffering caused by Sargassum washing our Caribbean seashores where sand, sea and sun as tourism are the life blood of our islands and our people; not to repeat of course that our island territories are also home to over 80% of the biodiversity to be protected and respected by our States.
“From the OECS family we are really quite honoured and impressed at the spending power, science and organisational prowess brought to bear at this solution driven International Conference on Sargassum conference in our Caribbean island of Guadeloupe.
“The unprecedented quantity of pelagic Sargassum in the Caribbean islands since the spring of 2011 continues unabated. Sargassum continues to have very serious consequences for OECS Member States. Impacts from this influx affect quality of life, human health and well-being, and socio-economic activity through coastal tourism, fisheries and navigation.
“We commend the private sector and civil society who have risen up to these unique challenges being faced in the region and are pleased for the demonstration of:
- Practical onshore and offshore solutions for collection and management;
- Proven approaches for operational responses to the management of sargassum influx;
- Harnessing the sargassum resource through innovative and commercial uses of products biofuels, biodegradable utensils etc;
- At this forum we have advanced the conversation surrounding the science on Sargassum with high level of precision.
- We need to come to some conclusion on the origin and the health risks. This may be best achieved through partnership between the various institutions instead of working in silos; and with the support of financing institutions;
- We will all need to access to such information for planning and decision making;
- Develop and implement a Communications Strategy, including guidelines for the long term community management of Sargassum;
- Continue regional collaboration with Developmental Partners, academia etc. on the Management of sargassum;
- Coordinate research and pool procurement of equipment to assist with the clean-up activities;
- Support the exploration of options and present of a business case for use and commercialization;
- Integrate or Create a Caribbean Sargassum monitoring network with academic, scientific, governmental and NGO representatives;
- Continue to support Member States in the development and implementation of measures to manage influxes of Sargassum.
“We in the OECS realize that this conference is demonstrated evidence that regional cooperation is key when dealing with the sargassum issue. A coordinated national response is especially needed going forward, and lessons can be shared.
“We hold strong to the belief that the whole is stronger than the sum of its parts, and together, we can and will find and action solutions: that protects the health of our people; secure our livelihoods and protect the unique biodiversity of our Caribbean islands as a boon to the world.
“Colleagues, Excellencies, Specially invited guests, from the OECS we thank you for the engagement.”
The Association of Caribbean States is the organization for consultation, cooperation and concerted action in trade, transport, sustainable tourism and natural disasters in the Greater Caribbean. Its Member States are Antigua & Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, El Salvador, Grenada, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Jamaica, Nicaragua, Panama, St. Kitts & Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Venezuela. Its Associate Members are Aruba, Curacao, (France on behalf of French Guiana, Saint Barthelemy and Saint Martin ), Guadeloupe, Martinique, Sint Maarten, (The Netherlands on behalf of Bonaire, Saba, and Sint Eustatius ), Turks and Caicos.