World Wetlands Day 2006
The National Environment and Planning Agency of Jamaica is celebrating World Wetlands Day 2006 by designating a rich and varied coastal Wetland of International Importance. Portland Bight Wetlands and Cays (24,542 hectares, 17º49'N 077º04'W) is a protected area located on the south coast of the island, in St Catherine and Clarendon parishes just west of Kingston, and it includes some 8,000 ha of coastal mangroves, among the largest contiguous mangrove stands remaining in Jamaica, as well as a salt marsh, several rivers, offshore cays, coral reefs, seagrass beds, and open water. The site constitutes a critical feeding and breeding location as well as a general habitat for internationally threatened species such as the cave frog (Eleutherodactylus cavernicola), the Jamaican boa (Epicrates subflavus), the endemic hutia or coney (Geocapromys brownii), and the West Indian manatee (Trichechus manatus manatus). An endemic cactus (Opuntia jamaicensis) is also considered endangered under CITES. More than 3,000 fisher families make their livelihoods in the Bight, harvesting mostly finfish but also lobster, shrimp, oysters, and conch, and there are important sugar plantations in the surrounding area. Threats are feared from over-hunting and -fishing, pollution from sugar wastes, mangrove destruction for aquaculture, and invasive species. Ramsar site No. 1597.
-- Adrián Ruiz-Carvajal, Ramsar