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Earth Today | Forestry commits to expedited action to protect coastal forests

Published:Thursday | September 16, 2021 | 12:06 AM

JAMAICA’s Forestry Department has affirmed its commitment to the protection of the island’s mangrove forests amid renewed concern over their conservation.

“As the government agency charged with the sustainable management of Jamaica’s forests, we denounce any infractions against environmental regulations,” said Ainsley Henry, chief executive officer (CEO) for the Forestry Department.

“The National Mangrove Management Plan (NMMP) being developed through a consultative process and scheduled for completion early in 2022, will facilitate collective action for the management and protection of these vital resources,” he noted.

Henry’s statement comes in the wake of the Jamaica Environment Trust registering concern over reports that mangroves within the Palisadoes Port Royal Protected Area had been removed by a state agency, in the absence of the required environmental permit, while mangroves are reportedly being removed to facilitate the expansion of Falmouth in Trelawny.

According to the CEO, the Forestry Department will do all that is required to preserve mangrove forests.

“The agency, with the full support of our parent ministry and the wider government, is committed to using all means available, including partnerships with stakeholders, to ensure immediate implementation of the NMMP once complete,” he said.

“While work on the plan is advanced and ongoing, the agency will continue to exercise its mandate and work with fellow government agencies to mitigate the impacts and incidences of these sorts of infractions on the environment,” Henry added.

The Forestry Department, from as far back as 2019, began the assessment of some 7,000 hectares of mangrove forests islandwide as part of its plan for the management of the resource, which provides a number of economic benefits to communities.

“The goal is to assess 7,000 hectares of mangroves over the next three years. At the end of April [2019], we’ve assessed over 2,500 hectares, so we are on track to meet the target. We are finding patches of healthy mangroves that we didn’t know existed, and we are seeing first-hand how our mangroves are helping to keep our beaches clean and are serving as a habitat for a number of marine life,” Brahim Diop, senior research officer and head of the research branch at the agency said in a May 2, 2019 news release that is available on the agency’s website.

Between 1998 and 2013, Jamaica lost some 2,123 hectares of mangrove and swamp forests.Mangroves – home to diverse species and a source of protection against the onslaught of hurricane events – more often than not have their resources extracted at an unsustainable rate for charcoal production, construction, use as yam sticks, small-scale farming, as well as artisanal fish pots.

Mangroves are also under threat from permitted coastal development projects, including hotels and tourist attractions.