Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Belize and the UK Tackle Marine Plastic Pollution

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Press Release – Belmopan, Belize – 15 April 2024 – The Department of the Environment (DOE), the University of Belize (UB), and several stakeholders have been working with the UK Government’s Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) to continue to support Belize’s work to address marine pollution challenges. Over the last 3 years, the partnership has collaborated to develop preventative measures and actions, invested in new scientific skills and equipment, supported the use of innovative technology, and provided opportunities to secure the healthy and productive future of Belize’s ocean and waterways.

This month sees the Belize and UK governments coming together to discuss progress against goals in the partnership and what the next joint steps will be taken under the OCPP to support healthy marine environments and the people that rely on the ocean. The UK delegation is visiting Belize to see the fantastic work that the programme is delivering in partnership with the Belizean government and stakeholders. The OCPP supports a healthy marine environment for the benefit of Belizean health and their livelihoods.

The team will be visiting a Department of Environment water quality monitoring station to highlight how data monitoring can inform environmental management decisions. The use of technology such as Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPAs) will also be tested with the Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), carrying out a beach monitoring survey using RPAs to monitor marine litter using machine learning and how this innovation can be used to support pollution monitoring. The teams will also be celebrating a regional first, the launch of a Solid Waste Associations through collaboration with partners in the South Pacific.

Belizean scientists have been working with the OCPP UK scientists to review Belize’s water quality laboratories to map out pathways toward meeting international scientific standards. The programme is also supporting the Department of the Environment and the University of Belize to meet those standards by providing new advanced scientific equipment to detect pollutants, training scientists, and providing new career opportunities through awarding scholarships at the University of Belize for research on Belize’s marine environment.

Enhancing Belize’s waste management systems and infrastructure both on land and at sea is a key part of preventing pollutants from leaking into the environment. The OCPP has supported joint knowledge sharing with South Pacific Island States on waste management leading to the launch of the first Recyclers and Waste Management Association in the Caribbean on Friday 19th April in Belize. The programme is also supporting the expansion of the Government of Belize initiative, “Fresh Start”, which focuses on the establishment of sustainable rural waste collection systems. OCPP is also working with the Belize Ports Authority on drafting a new Maritime Transports Policy and a port waste reception facilities review.

All of these activities are contributing to the Ministry for Sustainable Development and Climate Change’s delivery on Belize’s National Environmental Policy and Strategy 2014-2024 and National Environmental Action Plan 2022-2026 and to implement the Belize National Marine Litter Action Plan.

In the coming year, the focus will be on developing Belize’s marine environmental pollutant science, monitoring capabilities and expertise, and supporting science and evidence to inform policy for Belizeans. Together with the DOE and Coastal Zone Management Authority and Institute (CZMAI), the Ocean Country Partnership program is also exploring the innovative application of Artificial Intelligence on environmental monitoring.

The partnership between the UK and Belize through the Ocean Country Partnership Programme aims to strengthen marine science expertise, develop science-based policy and management tools, and create educational resources for coastal communities. The programme tackles the key marine challenges of pollution, biodiversity, and sustainable seafood, and aims to deliver positive impacts on the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on healthy marine ecosystems.

Specialized UK government agencies, the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) work together on the programme on behalf of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

Anthony Mai, Chief Environmental Officer at the Department of the Environment commented, “Through the OCPP, the DOE is realizing its vision which is to be leaders in environmental management both locally and internationally. The programme is strengthening our environmental monitoring activities, use of technology, and building our human resources and laboratory capacity to scientifically assess what is happening in our environment. We are delighted to continue working with our UK partners to support Belize’s actions to protect and enhance the marine environment. This week’s activities allow us to make progress on our plans to ensure healthy and productive oceans and rivers.”

Cefas Chief Executive, Mr. Neil Hornby added, “Cefas is pleased to be working with the Belize government and other organizations to tackle marine pollution for the benefit of Belizeans today and for generations to come. I’m looking forward to visiting Belize later this month and seeing first-hand the work being done under the OCPP to help tackle marine pollution and protect Belize’s unique marine environment.”

The British High Commissioner to Belize, H.E. Nicole Davison remarked, “The on-going work of Cefas and the DOE under the Ocean Country Partnership Programme demonstrates the UK’s continued commitment to collaborate with and build capacity in Belize as partners to address marine pollution and sustainable develop its marine environment and healthy ecosystems that support Belizean livelihoods.”

Wider work in the OCPP project in Belize includes:
• Collaboration between Belize and the UK’s Joint Nature Conservation Council (JNCC) to support Belize’s Marine Protected Areas (MPAs), including partnering with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) to deliver training and guidance for Green Listing Belize MPAs, funding site-level Management Effectiveness Assessments for 14 MPAs and updating MPA Management Plan templates.
• Cefas is also reviewing data collection within MPAs providing recommendations to improve the monitoring and collection of MPA data.
• The UK’s Marine Management Organisation (MMO) is also working with the Government of Belize to review Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated (IUU) fishing in Belize waters and delivering an independent review of the rights-based fishing Managed Access Programme, building a better understanding of fishing activity within and surrounding Belize’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and identifying where new technologies may help monitoring and enforcement.
• Cefas is also collaborating with the Belize Agriculture Health Authority (BAHA) and the Ministry of Agriculture to support safe and sustainable aquaculture, improve biosecurity, and strengthen regulatory frameworks for animal health and trade.
• The OCPP programme is part of the UK government’s commitment to tackling plastic pollution, building on UK scientific expertise. UK ambitions to tackle plastic pollution include UK policies including bans on microbeads in rinse-off personal care products, Plastic Packaging Tax, single-use carrier bag charges, and the forthcoming ban on further plastic items this October.

About OCPP
The Ocean Country Partnership Programme (OCPP) – GOV.UK (www.gov.uk) works with countries to strengthen marine science expertise, develop science-based policy and management tools, and create educational resources for coastal communities.
Through the OCPP, the UK government partners with ODA-eligible countries to deliver tangible and positive impacts on the livelihoods of coastal communities that depend on healthy marine ecosystems.

OCPP partnerships are primarily delivered by a joint UK OCPP Team from 3 UK government organizations: the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture Science (Cefas), the Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC), and the Marine Management Organisation (MMO) work together on the programme on behalf of the UK’s Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra).

The OCPP will support countries to be equipped with the skills and expertise needed to tackle, reduce, and mitigate marine pollution through the development of science-led policy. By improving our understanding of the impacts of pollution, as well as identifying and supporting effective responses, we will make sure that communities are better equipped to prevent and manage marine pollution.

The OCPP will support the development of the skills and expertise needed to adopt sustainable seafood practices. This will reduce risks such as the spread of zoonotic diseases from unsustainable or unsafe activities and will support trade in safe seafood. The programme will also help crack down on illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing by supporting the development of better management, monitoring, and enforcement capabilities.

The OCPP will help countries develop the skills and expertise needed to establish designated, well-managed, and enforced marine protected areas. This work will support healthy ecosystems with thriving biodiversity and fisheries that communities rely on for food and livelihoods.

The programme aims to achieve these objectives by strengthening marine science expertise, developing evidence-based policy and management tools, and creating educational resources for coastal communities.

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