Ocean Life Symposium

Commonwealth of Dominica, 22 to 25 March 2009


During these same 15 years, ECCEA has worked jointly with International Agencies, governments, NGOs and communities in the sub region, on projects that focus on poverty alleviation and sustainable development, beneficial to the region’s coastal populations and their natural environment, and in the case of Dominica the creation of the first Insular Caribbean Natural World Heritage Site.

As global trends evolve, the value of natural resources and traditional ways of life are seen as increasing valuable assets by leaders in third world and developing countries, who are now revisiting past agreements, creating new ones, especially those concerning natural resources and fisheries.

Agreements responsible for biodiversity loss in the region have been closely scrutinized by competent bodies and NGO’s alike, as well as regional and international media such as the BBC, who look at whether aid influences governance, does or doesn’t come with strings attached. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/1444818.stm.

A Meeting in September 2008, organized by PEW, the Lenfest Ocean Program http://www.lenfestocean.org/ in cooperation from the ECCEA, provided fisheries experts and officers from various countries of the Eastern Caribbean sub-region and representatives of the FAO in Barbados, the occasion to exchange data on the interaction of great whales and fisheries in the Caribbean and West Africa, published in the journal Science on 13/02/09. http://www.lenfestocean.org/whales_fisheries.html

At the Ocean Life Symposium scientists pursued these discussions with the University of the West Indies/CERMS, Cornell University, WWF and other experts endorsing the Lenfest study underlining that the fishing industry alone was responsible for the decline of global fish stocks. This should facilitate the revision of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) (http://www.oecs.org/) whaling policies and their alignment with marine mammal conservation protocols throughout the Wider Caribbean.


Dr. Alex Burton James, formerly President of the UNESCO National Commission for Dominica worked closely with 11 Dominican fisheries cooperatives on ECCEA’s Survey of fisheries cooperatives in Dominica www.ecce.org The survey evaluates changes in fishing methods and activities locally; catch sizes, target species, environmental stress or pollution factors affecting fish stocks, economic viability of fishing, as well as interactions between fisheries and marine mammals .

The results of the survey revealed a high level of traditional wisdom and knowledge and similar surveys will be undertaken throughout the sub region.


In addition to the warm hospitality of the people of Dominica, the Symposium benefited from the participation of the country’s highest dignitaries.

The opening dinner on 22 March was presided over by H.E. Dr Nicholas Liverpool, President of Dominica and his wife. The Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister, addressed the Opening Ceremony on Monday 23 March (see annex), which was also attended by the Permanent Secretary for Agriculture and Fisheries, Mrs. Claudia Bellot.

The Symposium was closed on Wednesday, 25 March, by The Hon. Ian Douglas, Minister of Tourism and Legal Affairs, following a presentation by Dave Williams, Head of the Dominica National Parks Service, which illustrated the pristine beauty of Dominica, and called for its preservation www.eccea.org


The “25 Recommendations” an Outcome Document, diligently developed by the participants of the symposium provides sustainable solutions and lays concrete foundations for the enhancement of the “Nature Island’s” economy and that of others throughout the sub region.

The UNEP CEP proposals enfold a series of major regional action plans for the conservation of the marine environment of the Wider Caribbean through its Protocol on Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW) and an Action Plan for the Conservation of Marine Mammals in the Wider Caribbean Region; adopted in September 2008 by the Contracting Parties to the Cartagena Convention for the Protection and Sustainable Use of the Caribbean Marine Environment. http://www.cep.unep.org/cartagena-convention http://www.cep.unep.org/cartagena-convention/spaw-protocol/overview-of-the-spaw-protocol

The French West Indies AGOA marine mammal sanctuary, a project initiated by the ECCEA, is now fully integrated into the French Grenelle for the Environment, the Agency for Marine Protected Areas (AAMP) and the DIREN FWI. At the Symposium proposals were made by France for joint research programmes, training, and cooperation, aerial surveys of marine life; cetaceans, sea turtles, birds, as well as micro pollution flows. www.martinique.ecologie.gouv.fr/AGOA/plaquette/d%E9pliant-Agoa.pdf

Dominica and the region were reminded that funding was available to them through specific proposals made to the SIDS by the European Union in: Strategies to counter climate change and biodiversity loss, agreed to at the Reunion Island Meeting of the EU on the-11 July 2008.

A team of experts will pursue the “Recommendations” in order to ensure that the Symposium will have served its purpose.


The Ocean Life symposium was chaired by Senator Elizabeth Thompson former Environment Minister for Barbados, who had formerly served as Pew Whale Commissioner together with ECCEA’s Vice President and European Parliamentarian, Madeleine de Grandmaison, in Lisbon in February 2009.http://www.pewwhales.org/pewwhalescommission/biographies.html#elizabeththompson


At the opening night dinner, Emmy award winning cinematographer and marine biologist Rick Rosenthal presented his documentary “Superfish” with unique underwater footage on the lives and travels of the endangered blue marlin and bill fish; a co-production of the BBC, PBS, NHK with Wild Logic www.wildlogic.net


Symposium participants were from the Wider Caribbean Region, Europe, the USA, Latin America, and Dominica, leading international and local NGO’s. The panelists and participants represented a divers group of professions and expertise from government and intergovernmental agencies, non-governmental organizations, scientists, anthropologists, fisheries experts, fishers and academics.



The Alliance Française, represented by its Director and Honorary Consul, Mr. Alain Lecoumi and his staff, made a special contribution to this meeting by offering simultaneous interpretation services throughout.


PDF Agenda (English) - 1,616Kb
PDF Congratulatory Statement (English) - 116Kb
PDF Final Recommendations 2009 (English) - 558Kb

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Presentations are listed in alphabetical order according to the primary presenter.

Sixteen years of whale-watching in the Eastern Caribbean: the Dominica experience
Presenter: Dr Fitzroy Armour, CaribWhale, Dominica

Marine mammals, Marine Protected Areas, and management objectives for the conservation of biodiversity in Venezuela: an NGO Perspective
Presenter: Biol. Jaime Bolaños-Jiménez, Researcher, Sea Vida, Venezuela

Presentation of survey of fisheries cooperatives in Dominica
Presenter: Alexander Burton-James, Ph.D

Whale-watching in St Vincent and the Grenadines: From hunting to watching
Presenter: Hallam Daize, whale-watching operator, St Vincent

The French West Indies marine mammal sanctuary: “Agoa”
Presenters: Stephane Defos, Direction de l’Environnement (DIREN), Martinique
Philippe Maraval, Chargé de Mission, “AGOA”, DIREN, Martinique

Marine Conservation in the Western Africa Marine Eco-Region
Presenter: Dr Mamadou Diallo, WWF West African Marine Eco-Region Office (WAMER), Dakar, Sénégal

Revisiting hypotheses regarding interactions between whales and commercial fisheries in the light
of climate change and industrial fishing of other pelagic top predators
Presenter: Dr Mathieu Doray, Fisheries Scientist, Nantes, France.

Ocean Life and Marine Mammals: Atlas of Distribution patterns,  Education and Research Programmes in the French West Indies, Guadeloupe
Presenters: Stéphane Jérémie, President,Société pour l’Etude, la Protection et l’Aménagement de la Nature à la Martinique (SEPANMAR)
Nadège Gandhlion, President BREACH Guadeloupe and Mediterranean

Dominica’s Nature Tourism: The Assets – The Challenges
Presenter: Atherton Martin, Proprietor, Exotica Cottage

Presentation of Lenfest Ocean Program project - global highlights and Caribbean research results
Presenter: Lyne Morissette, Ph.D., Postdoctoral Research Fellow, University of Guelph, Canada

The status of Dominica's coastal marine ecosystems: distribution, threats, outlook
Presenter: Dr Sascha Steiner, Director, Institute for Tropical Marine Ecology, Dominica

The development of non-lethal use of cetaceans: the Latin American experience
Presenter: Jose Truda Palazzo Jr. International Whaling Commissioner for Brazil

Marine mammals in captivity: issues for the Wider Caribbean Region
Presenter: Courtney Vail, Whale and Dolphin Conservation Society, USA.

The Dominican Republic’s Silver Banks Whale Sanctuary and Marine Protected Areas
Presenter: Oswaldo Vasquez, Asesoria y Tecnologia Marina (ATEMAR), Dominican Republic.

Introduction to the UNEP CEP SPAW Protocol and programmes
Presenter: Alessandra Vanzella Khouri, UNEP CEP SPAW Programme Coordinator for the Wider Caribbean

Overview of Dominica’s Protected Areas
Presenter: Dave Williams, Head of Park Service, Dominica