Reducing pollution from land

Activities in coastal lands, such as agriculture, aquaculture, urban living and tourism can discharge pollutants like sewage, nutrients, pesticides, oil and rubbish into adjacent marine environments.

Activities that discharge pollutants include land clearing, tourism development, sewage discharge, industrial waste disposal and agriculture.  Thus far, sixteen Caribbean nations have signed the Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities that came into force in 2010. The Protocol identifies land-based pollutant sources of greatest concern and outlines regional standards and practices for reducing pollution. The Protocol also establishes regional effluent limitations for domestic wastewater (sewage), and requires specific plans to address agricultural (non-point) sources of pollution.

There are copious resources on reducing pollution from land, the types of land-based pollutants that impact marine environments, and the regulatory and other mechanisms available to address land-based pollution. While the majority of these do not focus on the Caribbean, a selection of resources most relevant to Caribbean managers is provided below.


  • The Protocol Concerning Pollution from Land-based Sources and Activities  (LBS Protocol) to the Cartagena Convention entered into force in August 2010 and manages point sources (sewage) and diffuse sources (agriculture) of pollution in the Caribbean: The Protocol lists land-based sources and activities and their associated contaminants of greatest concern to the marine environment of the wider Caribbean. The process for developing regional standards and practices for the prevention, reduction, and control of pollution sources and polluting activities is also described. Specific regional effluent limitations for domestic sewage are also suggested. Lastly, a requirement is described for signatories to develop plans, programs and other measures to prevent, reduce and control agricultural non-point sources of pollution.
  • Useful background information and key pollution issues (wastewater, sewage and sanitation) in the Caribbean are outlined on the Caribbean Environment Program website: This is a comprehensive resource that provides information on effects, case studies, possible actions, relevant regional links and a reference list specific to the Caribbean. The ‘what you can do’ section is fairly basic with only simple local actions rather than strategic regional actions.
  • Relevant media stories and news articles are provided on the UNEP press release site, with a specific article on land-based pollution in the Caribbean from 2005 providing useful background context to the issue in the region: There are also links to more up-to-date articles on the site, although they cover a wide range of environmental issues globally.
  • A useful synopsis of land-based pollution sources globally and their trans-boundary management is provided in a UNEP and Global Environment Fund report. Although global in nature, the report provides a lot of useful scientific background on coastal systems and management, as well as implementation of policy and governance initiatives. This is a long but informative document that will provide managers with a global perspective to the issues and some relevant management approaches.
  • The Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Activities is an international initiative that “aims at preventing the degradation of the marine environment from land-based activities by facilitating the realization of the duty of States to preserve and protect the marine environment”: Although there is a lot of process information on Programme meetings and secretariat, the website also has useful information on current national and regional activities to address land-based pollution. There is also a list of pollution source categories and a large document library that would be of interest to managers.
  • As part of the Global Programme of Action, there is a Global Partnership on Marine Litter: This site has basic background information on the issue and a generic list of activities but does not provide detail on specific national or regional initiatives.

Key Publications

Caribbean octocorals record changing carbon and nitrogen sources from 1862 to 2005 (2010) Baker DM, Webster KL and Kim K. Global Change Biology, Volume 16, Issue 10, 2701–2710.

A review of marine pollution issues in the Caribbean (1997) Siung-Chang A. Environmental Geochemistry and Health, Volume 19, Issue 2, 45-55.