HRH The Princess Royal presented a Whitley Gold Award, a prestigious international nature conservation prize, to Jean Wiener at a special ceremony at the Royal Geographical Society in honour of his work to conserve Haiti’s coastal ecosystem and help secure the country’s first-ever Marine Protected Areas (MPAs).
Haiti’s most productive coastal and marine environments have been under continued threat of over-exploitation from over-fishing, marine pollution, and salt and charcoal production. With large numbers of the Island’s population engaged in subsistence livelihoods, relying on the coastline and surrounding waters for resources and employment, this exploitation threatens to continue unabated.
Wiener, 49, is the founder and director of the “Fondation pour la Protection de la Biodiversité Marine” (FoProBiM), Haiti’s only NGO engaged in coastal and marine environmental management and protection. Wiener explains “Less than 1% of the world’s oceans are protected and marine conservation presents challenges for both people and the natural world. Many people around the globe depend on the ocean for food and their livelihood, so as conservationists, we need to develop a win-win solution for both man and nature.”
Amongst the successful solutions spear-headed by Wiener at FoProBiM : is the development of new, environmentally-friendly and sustainable alternative income-generating activities. Such projects have involved hundreds of individuals drawn from local communities and include bee-keeping, setting up and running plant nurseries and collecting plastic container refuse that has washed up onto beaches and recycling it into mangrove plant pots for use in reforestation initiatives. Other examples of community involvement in conservation initiatives include: environmental education and technical training; the restoration of 20 hectares of mangroves at four locations; the distribution of 50,000 mangrove and fruit plants to local stakeholders and scientific research.
As a result of Wiener’s tireless efforts and the involvement of communities in addressing local conservation issues, the Haitian government declared the country’s first two MPAs in 2013, covering over 2,100 km2 – approximately 10% of Haiti’s territorial seas. Wiener had an active role in the creation of these MPAs, undertaking the initial ecosystem and biodiversity assessments, reviewing the delimitation of the protected areas, and assisting in the drafting of legislation for the decrees.
As a further result of Jean’s involvement, the government also passed environmental legislation in 2013 protecting all of Haiti’s mangroves, thereby providing blanket coverage to over 20,500 hectares of critical coastal and marine habitat right along 1,700 km of coastline.
Commenting on the significance of the Whitley Gold Award, Wiener says: “I am extremely honoured to be receiving this prestigious award. This is actually my fourth grant from the Whitley Fund for Nature since 2006, and is proof that receiving such recognition is not a one-off event; you actually become part of a dynamic, and growing, conservation family… the Whitley Fund for Nature family.”
Edward Whitley, Founder of The Whitley Fund for Nature, says “We recognise that wildlife and habitat conservation in developing countries cannot be successful without the involvement of people at the grassroots level. Every year, I am delighted to meet the winners of the Whitley Awards. Although they each face remarkable and different challenges in their home countries, these individuals are passionate about the natural world and remain determined to involve local communities in making a long-term difference. The Whitley Awards honour these conservation leaders for their outstanding achievements and celebrate their efforts to secure a better future for both people and wildlife alike.”