30 May 2019: In advance of World Oceans Day, the World Bank released a report that analyzes how marine pollution in the Caribbean impacts the region’s resilience to climate change. The report recommends restoring degraded ecosystems, protecting the Caribbean’s marine resources, and scaling up wastewater management systems to transition towards a blue economy.

The report titled, ‘Marine Pollution in the Caribbean: Not a Minute to Waste,’ identifies the main sources of marine pollution in the Caribbean, including: plastics; wastewater, agricultural runoff and sewage; and industrial pollution such as oil, heavy metals and toxic chemicals. Solid waste and wastewater are the “most pervasive” sources of marine pollution in the region, and are projected to increase as populations and tourism grow. Currently, approximately 85 percent of wastewater in the region enters the ocean untreated. In addition, over 320,000 tons of plastic waste remains uncollected each year in the Caribbean, much of which then ends up in the oceans and seas. Plastic shards make up nearly 80 percent of the total marine litter in Caribbean waters, and plastic bottles, single-use plastic items and foam containers are also common marine litter.

Effective management of plastics, solid waste and wastewater are our top priorities to create a blue legacy for future generations.

According to the report, coral reef degradation is “strongly linked to marine pollution,” and results in approximately USD 350 million to 870 million in annual lost revenue. Marine pollution poses a particular threat to the Caribbean economy’s fisheries and tourism industries. The fisheries industry is especially critical for poor communities in the region, which depend on fishing for food security and income. Tourism accounts for 15 percent of the region’s gross domestic product (GDP). Marine pollution also negatively impacts the human health of Caribbean residents, who are vulnerable to gastrointestinal diseases related to untreated waste and other sources of contamination and disease.

World Bank Country Director for the Caribbean, Tahseen Sayed, called for concerted action to halt and reverse marine degradation in the Caribbean. Sayed said “effective management of plastics, solid waste and wastewater are our top priorities” to create a blue legacy for future generations.

The report proposes a 12-point action plan to reverse the threat of marine pollution in the Caribbean and transition towards a more sustainable blue economy that can preserve ocean resources, build resilience and generate growth. The report recommends strengthening systematic and strategic monitoring of data on key marine pollutants and increasing economic impact assessments to quantify the economic costs of pollution prevention, arguing that improved monitoring systems, economic assessments and metrics can provide incentives for investments and policy reforms. The report further recommends, inter alia: prioritizing and increasing funding within national budgets for marine pollution prevention and waste control; scaling up investments in waste management systems, including by engaging the private sector; and improving awareness and building capacity on the importance of water quality and strategic investments in litter control.

The report emphasizes that Caribbean nations can use the SDG framework as an opportunity to realign and strengthen their national efforts to protect the environment and achieve inclusive economic prosperity. [Publication: Marine Pollution in the Caribbean] [World Bank Press Release]