Haitian environmentalist Jean Wiener was recently selected as a recipient of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize, an honor bestowed on the world’s top grassroots environmental activists.
Since 2012, Mr. Wiener’s organization has received grants from the Critical Ecosystem Partnership Fund (CEPF), a partnership of seven leading global organizations (including CI) dedicated to helping small NGOs protect the world’s most important and vulnerable natural areas. We spoke recently with Mr. Wiener.
Jean Wiener, a recipient of the 2015 Goldman Environmental Prize for his efforts to create Haiti’s first marine protected areas. (© Goldman Environmental Prize)
Q: What led you to start your own organization in Haiti?
A: In 1989, I returned home to Haiti after studying biology at university in the U.S. I noticed there was more pollution than I remembered. Most of the fish were gone. Coral reefs were degrading.
I realized that there was no one taking care of Haiti’s coastal and marine environment. The Ministry of Agriculture had a fisheries department, but their job was to make sure that people could capture enough fish, not to ensure that coastal communities were using marine resources sustainably.
My organization, the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity, was officially recognized by the government in 1995. Twenty years later, we’re still the only institution in Haiti that takes a holistic approach to coastal and marine management.
This approach recognizes the complexity of the threats to ecosystems. Issues like overfishing, mangrove destruction and poverty are all inter-related, and solving them will require that all aspects of the problem be addressed. Continue reading