Trinidad and Tobago Advances Progress to a Sustainable Blue Economy through Partnership with Commonwealth Blue Charter

Trinidad and Tobago is collaborating with the Commonwealth Blue Charter Programme to accelerate the nation’s readiness in transitioning to a Sustainable Blue Economy. Through this partnership, a Blue Economy Rapid Readiness Assessment (RRA), coordinated by the Commonwealth Blue Charter programme with the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP), will be executed to evaluate the preparedness of national systems, structures and stakeholders to advance the blue economy transition.

A ‘Sustainable Blue Economy’ is a crosscutting concept that marries innovation and natural resource stewardship for the sustainable use of marine resources for economic growth, improved livelihoods, and social well-being. This means that citizens can benefit from greater job opportunities in the marine sector and increased avenues to meet Trinidad and Tobago’s growing need for food. In addition, as the global climate summit, COP27 wraps up in Egypt, being part of the Blue Economy can also support our climate change commitments in Trinidad and Tobago.

The RRA process brings together stakeholders from various spheres, including the Institute of Marine Affairs, the Fisheries Division, the Trinidad and Tobago Coast Guard, Aquaculture practitioners and CSOs, among others, to comprehensively examine multiple indicators of blue economy readiness, identify opportunities and challenges, and plot a clear roadmap for national transformation. The RRA commenced in the 3rd quarter of 2022 and the actionable report laying out clear transition next steps will be delivered at the close of November.

Speaking on this partnership at a RRA stakeholder consultation, Planning and Development Minister Pennelope Beckles said, “This process will go a great distance in recognising the challenges faced as Small Island Developing State, with the goal of plotting our next steps in our continuous quest towards becoming a sustainable ‘blue’ economy. This means expanded opportunities to effectively tap into ocean resources and support long-term economic growth, while also protecting Trinidad and Tobago’s marine and coastal ecosystems.”

The Rapid Readiness Assessment, which is also being deployed in Antigua and Barbuda, will make the blue economy transition practical, achievable and most critically, tailored to our national context, by examining sustainable finance, existing policy and regulatory framework, institutional infrastructure and culture, stakeholder engagement, baseline data and monitoring and evaluation systems among other vital indicators.

Project lead, Dr Jeff Ardron from the Commonwealth Secretariat stated, “Commonwealth ocean states are acutely aware of the vast ocean resources that exist within their waters as well as the need to protect the marine environment. We are pleased to be able to support Trinidad & Tobago and Antigua & Barbuda in developing sustainable blue economies, and thank them for their willingness to pilot this new methodology. Both face similar challenges as SIDS, but they also have key economic differences. The rapid readiness assessments should pinpoint gaps and opportunities for each.”

The 5th National Report of Trinidad and Tobago to the Convention on Biological Diversity (CBD), which was approved by Cabinet in 2017, stated that the value of shoreline protection provided by coastal ecosystems for Trinidad and Tobago ranges between US three dollars and US one hundred and thirty three dollars per hectare, per year. Aside from protection services, coastal ecosystems also support recreation and tourism-based activities, valued at up to US three hundred and ninety thousand, four hundred and twenty eight dollars per hectare per year. This demonstrates the economic possibilities of the blue economy, further emphasising the need for initiatives that will catalyse the blue economy transition.

As the UN Global Climate Change Conference, COP27, comes to an end in Egypt, and Trinidad and Tobago prepares to participate in the 15th Meeting of the Parties on Biodiversity, COP15, the Ministry of Planning and Development continues to undertake holistic climate action interventions that acknowledge our unique context as a SIDS. Advancing our progress towards a blue economy through this partnership not only contributes to achieving our multilateral environmental agreements, but will also bolster food security through marine protection, improve livelihoods via sustainable job creation, and support economic diversification through new industry development. Coastal tourism which includes cruise ship tourism, waste management and protection of the marine environment and supporting infrastructure, and shipping which includes transshipment, vessel lay-ups, offshore installations and ship pollution, have been identified as priority sectors.