- Ratify and implement international agreements. International agreements are an important tool for setting targets and achieving collective goals. Important international agreements addressing the threats evaluated in this study include the protocols of the Cartagena Convention (addressing land-based sourses of pollution, oil spills, and protected areas and wildlife), the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (on ocean governance), MARPOL (on marine pollution), and the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change. Signing such agreements is a first step, but implementation is essential.
- Promote international cooperation and exchange. Even in the absence of international legal instruments, regional collaboration on issues such as fisheries and watershed management could greatly reduce some threats. Priorities for the region should be coordinated through entities such as the Forum of Ministers of Latin America and the Caribbean and the Caribbean Small Islands Developing States Group. Sub-regional bodies, such as the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) or the Central American Commission on Environment and Development (CCAD), could play a key role in dealing with sub-regional resource management issues. International NGOs, intergovernmental agencies, and funders should actively support cooperation and exchange to promote synergy and foster partnerships to protect Caribbean coral reefs. A good example is the Mesoamerican Barrier Reef Systems (MBRS) Project, funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and the World Bank, which recognizes this reef system as a shared resource requiring a coordinated management approach. National bodies dedicated to the protection of reefs, such as the U.S. Coral Reef Task Force, should receive full support from their governments to engage issues of coral reef protection at regional as well as domestic levels.
The Caribbean presents a unique realm: a large, hyper-diverse marine ecosystem, with coral reefs at its heart. The threats to these reefs are many and complex. Because of the high degree of connectivity among coral reefs, a threat to one reef area can become a threat to many.
Much needs to be done if the serious and growing threats to Caribbean coral reefs are to be turned around, but there is reason for hope. Examples from across the region show that marine conservation not only can be done but can also generate considerable benefits for local communities. The tide can be turned, but it will require commitment and action from all relevant stakeholders