Friday 4 December, 2020

It’s official: North-east Tobago declared UNESCO biosphere reserve

In a historic first, Tobago’s north-east region has been declared a biosphere reserve by the UNESCO Man and the Biosphere (MAB) programme.

Minister of Planning and Development, Camille Robinson-Regis said in a statement today that the decision was communicated by the MAB Secretariat based at UNESCO's Division of Ecological and Earth Sciences, at the UNESCO headquarters in Paris this morning.

Robinson-Regis said this means that Tobago is now home to the largest Man and Biosphere site in the English-speaking Small Caribbean Island States; the only one larger is located in Guadeloupe, which is a French territory. 

The Ministry said the reserve covers over 835 square kilometres and encompasses three protected areas: Tobago Main Ridge, which is the oldest protected tropical forest reserve in the world, the proposed North East Marine Protected Area, as well as 15 communities with rich historical and cultural heritage in north-east Tobago which are home to approximately 10,000 residents. 

The Ministry said the award was also made possible with the tremendous support of the Environmental Research Institute Charlotteville (ERIC), Tobago and the environmental civil society groups in North East Tobago.

Robinson-Regis extended ‘heart-felt congratulations to Trinidad and Tobago, especially the people of Tobago and the leadership of the THA and Civil Society Organisations such as ERIC in making this important designation happen’. 

"We are continuing to punch above our weight in the global arena.  We are blessed with some of the richest historical, cultural and natural heritage in the world, and our pride and sensibility in protecting our gifts will continue to be rewarded." 

(Photo: Man O'War Bay, Charlotteville, Tobago)

Councillor Kwesi Des Vignes, the THA Secretary for Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment also emphasised, "This is yet another milestone for Tobago and the nation on a whole.  Trinidad and Tobago is a small nation with a fierce spirit.  North east Tobago has always been the pearl of our paradise so it is no surprise that the area is worthy enough to attract the attention of the world." 

The THA said the timing of the award if beneficial for the country as it relates to branding it as a premier eco-tourism destination.

Benefits to Trinidad and Tobago of the UNESCO Man and Biosphere Award:

Sustainable green and blue economic activities, including but not limited to tourism, fisheries, agriculture, cultural heritage activities, research and education will be incentivised.

The UNESCO MAB Programme is a perfect tool for economic recovery after the COVID-19 pandemic especially for tourism and attracting international support.

Once well implemented, the UNESCO Site will be Tobago's strategic lead investment to prepare an enabling institutional and organisational environment for future, scaled up investment by multilateral agencies and the private sector in sustainable, ecosystem-based blue and green economy in North East Tobago, with significant beneficial spill-over effects on Tobago as a whole and the entire nation.

Designation as an UNESCO MAB Site does not require the formation of new laws and does not infringe on the rights of any citizen, resident, business person or property owner.

The Environmental Research Institute, Charlotteville (ERIC) commended the country on the achievement.

‘It is official! Northeast Tobago has been declared a UNESCO Man and Biosphere Reserve!’

The group said government, on behalf of the THA, nominated North East Tobago to be designated a UNESCO MAB Reserve since September 2019.

‘ERIC has been the technical team compiling the nomination form and we are extremely proud of this milestone in sustainable development for NE Tobago.’

‘This landmark international designation means that we now have a designated area to design and implement co-managed activities and programmes related to conservation, sustainable blue and green economic development, research, capacity building, education and networking. These activities are envisioned to enhance and protect North East Tobago’s cultural and natural heritage.’

‘Congratulations to the the people of North East Tobago, the Nation, The Division of Infrastructure, Quarries and the Environment, the Ministry of Planning and Development, and the Division of Food Production, Forestry  and Fisheries on this achievement! Thank you UNESCO's Man and Biosphere Programme!’ 

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