Fifteen ecologically sensitive areas (ESAs) islandwide have been identified for enhanced protection.
Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who was making his contribution to the 2023-2024 Budget Debate in the House of Representatives on Thursday (March 16), said the geographical areas will have restrictions on the types of activities that may be permitted, to preserve their hydrological or ecological functions and services.
Low-impact developments, such as ecotourism, may be permitted in these areas, subject to restrictive conditions and approval from the relevant regulatory authorities, Holness pointed out.
The 15 ESAs are Industry Cove, Hanover; Bogue and Montpelier in St James; Winns Morass/Oyster Bay, Trelawny; Bengal, Dunn’s River and Fern Gully in St Ann; Holland Bay, St Thomas; Long Mountain, St Andrew; Palisadoes – Port Royal Protected Area Conservation Zones, Kingston; Shooter’s Hill, Hellshire Hills/Goat Islands, St Catherine; Canoe Valley, Manchester/Clarendon; Great Bay, St Elizabeth; and Negril Great Morass, Hanover/Westmoreland.
Holness said the declaration of the ESAs will ensure that Jamaica’s ecological assets are protected for generations to come.
“At the core of these and other initiatives, is the call for protection of 30 per cent of our land and marine areas by 2030. I am pleased to report that the global target has been concretised, with the adoption of the Kunming-Montreal Global Biodiversity Framework in Montreal, last December. These commitments are important, but must be supported with action,” he said.
He also noted that, to date, Jamaica has protected, under law, more than 25 per cent of its land mass and 15 per cent of its Exclusive Economic Zone.
He indicated that the country is on course to complete the 30 per cent target for the protection of the land mass five years early, in 2025.
Holness told the House that, last year, the Government completed work to designate the Cockpit Country Protected Area, which is over 78,000 hectares of land, located in central Jamaica.
Additionally, in this financial year, the Black River Protected Area was declared under the Natural Resources Conservation Authority (NRCA) Act.
“I made a further commitment to make the Pedro Cays and surrounding waters a protected area. This has now been completed. The designation gave due consideration to fishing, and this policy creates the boundaries that will guide the fisherfolk of the Pedro Cays toward the path of sustainability and, ultimately, greater prosperity,” he noted while drawing attention to the Gazette showing the Protection Order which he took to the House.
Holness said that, in the 2023-2024 financial year, the Government will be finalising the Overarching Protected Areas Policy as well as new Protected Areas Regulations, under the NRCA Act.