Charles Steinback of Ecotrust verifies maps of fishing areas with local fishers. Photo © Shawn W. Margles/TNC

Charles Steinback of Ecotrust verifies maps of fishing areas with local fishers. Photo © Shawn W. Margles/TNC

A Foundation for Marine Zoning

The purpose of this project was to set the stage for marine zoning by collecting data, engaging people, providing decision support tools, and creating a draft zoning design. Short-term outcomes of this project included:

  1. A consensus-based vision for the future of the islands’ marine resources
  2. Detailed, accurate maps of nearshore benthic habitats in St. Kitts and Nevis
  3. An extensive database of ecological and socioeconomic data needed for multi-objective decision-making
  4. A decision support system for marine spatial planning and other types of marine planning and management
  5. A draft marine zoning design based on quantitative, scientific analysis and stakeholder input
  6. A strengthened network of relationships among people with a role in advancing marine resource management in St. Kitts and Nevis
  7. An increased understanding among the people of St. Kitts and Nevis, the project partners, and interested people in other places of the process needed to generate a marine zoning plan

Facilitating Long-term Advances in Management

The need to address a wide range of management objectives under a common framework is apparent in St. Kitts and Nevis, and the marine zoning process initiated with this project holds promise to fill this need. This project focused on producing outcomes that could be accomplished within a relatively short timeframe. Developing and implementing a final marine zoning plan and zoning design were recognized as beyond the project’s scope, but the short-term outcomes have laid important groundwork for these additional steps to happen. Other factors such as political support and available funding will determine whether marine zoning is eventually implemented in St. Kitts and Nevis.

More broadly, the project has contributed to other advances in marine management in St. Kitts and Nevis. Zoning can serve as an integrative process in which “planners must recognize connections, including connections between different elements in an ecosystem, between land and sea, between humans and nature, and between uses of ocean resources or ocean space and the ability of ecosystems to deliver important goods and services” (Agardy 2010). Zoning may also provide “the space for an open debate between different marine sectors, active in a certain area, in order to identify conflicts and means of co-existence between sectors—an objective deemed crucial for ocean management” (Barale et al. 2009, pdf).

This project facilitated such integration and open debate between sectors, and it has increased dialogue and understanding. Prior to this project, decision makers and stakeholders in St. Kitts and Nevis generally did not have an integrated view of marine ecosystems and management, and little capacity existed for marine spatial planning. The decision support tools developed during this project enable stakeholders and decision makers to take an integrated view. Ultimately, these new perspectives and tools could help the people of St. Kitts and Nevis to take a holistic approach to marine management and to make decisions resulting in sustainable use of their ocean waters.

The skilled staff from St. Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard played a key role in seabed mapping. Photo © Steven R. Schill/TNC

The skilled staff from St. Kitts and Nevis Coast Guard played a key role in seabed mapping. Photo © Steven R. Schill/TNC

Moving from Draft Zoning Design to Implementation

Decisions about where and how human activities should occur in the ocean—a marine zoning plan—lie with the people of St. Kitts and Nevis through their government and management agencies. The data and decision support tools developed in this project are building blocks that collectively provide a foundation for a final zoning plan. They could be used to support a continued, in-depth zoning process that achieves balanced objectives for ecological, economic, and social concerns.

As a result of this project, each sector group—tourism, fisheries, conservation, industry, transportation—can develop a greater understanding about the need for solutions to be negotiated and a compromise agreed upon for the benefit of everyone. The decision support products developed during this project have already begun to facilitate such discussions.

The challenge for St. Kitts and Nevis will be to keep the process moving forward and to arrive to a fully integrated marine zoning plan to support sustainable use of the ocean. Many other zoning efforts have ended at the planning stage without reaching the implementation phase.

The project team recommended that the people of St. Kitts and Nevis consider taking the following steps:

  • Finalize the zoning design and specify uses allowed in each zone
  • Officially adopt the marine zoning design
  • Continue public and government engagement
  • Continue to develop the governance framework, including working with Ministries to reaffirm high-level government mandate
  • Complete the drafting of new legislation to support marine zoning
  • Integrate the outputs of this project into other sectors of government, especially coastal zone management, fisheries management, and protected areas planning

The Steering Committee established during this project could play a key role in coordinating these activities. The project team recommended that the Committee’s membership should be re-evaluated to ensure representation of the private sector.

Although this project engaged many types of stakeholders, it did not have the objective of conducting outreach to the broader public, which was appropriate because the project was not intended or equipped to pursue zoning past its initial stages. Support for the zoning plan from the general public will be key to its eventual success. The process of engaging the broader public and developing a national appreciation for the ecosystem services provided by the ocean is more feasible now that the decision support tools and draft zoning design are available. Additional longer-term activities to support implementation of the marine zoning plan will be needed, such as designing a monitoring plan to help evaluate zoning plan efficacy and developing a budget for management operations.