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Antigua and Barbuda Country Profile
Legislative and institutional framework governing the protection of coral reefs

(1) Overview of legislation and institutions
  –  Enforcement of the EPMA
(2) Designation of marine protected areas (MPAs)
(3) Laws providing explicit protections for coral and other marine life
  –  Table of restricted and prohibited activities
  –  Provisions for nongovernmental research and restoration projects
  –  Enforcement of explicit provisions protecting coral reefs
(4) Coastal zone development and environmental impact assessment (EIA)
Enforcement of coastal zone development and EIA requirements
(5) Multilateral Environmental Agreements

1. Overview of legislation and institutions
Antigua and Barbuda modernized the country's system for environmental governance in 2019 with the adoption of the Environmental Protection and Management Act, No. 10 of 2019 (EPMA), a framework environmental law that addresses a full range of considerations related to environmental protection and management of the country's natural resources. The EPMA also established the Department of Environment, a new government agency to carry out the Act's objectives.1 In performing its work, the EPMA mandates that the Department of Environment apply the "polluter pays" principle, which provides that a polluter should bear the costs of preventing pollution (and other environmental harm) and restoring the environment to an acceptable state.2 Nevertheless, responsibility for regulating and enforcing laws relating to coastal wasters (including the protection of coral reefs) is shared with among a number of agencies and departments, including the Fisheries Division, the Barbuda Council, the Defence Force, National Parks Authority, Development Control Authority (DCA), Police, and others.

In addition to establishing a robust integrated system for the sustainable management of the environment, the EPMA provides a financial mechanism (the Sustainable Island Resources Framework Fund) to satisfy the requirements of the Act and provides for the control and mitigation of environmental degradation and pollution. Section VII of the EPMA provides a schedule of water quality standards. Part B (Water Use Classification and Criteria) defines the water use classifications for Coastal Waters that are suitable for coral reef conservation as Class AA waters.3 The EPMA also defines offenses, including the unauthorized harming, killing, or removal of protected species (including corals and other marine life). Finally, the EPMA establishes provisions for monitoring, compliance, and enforcement, as well as defining sanctions for violations of its provisions.

Enforcement of the EPMA
Part XIII of the EPMA covers compliance and enforcement of the Act's provisions, which generally apply to violations by chronic polluters (e.g., persons found to have been negligently discharging pollutants into the surface and groundwaters or have violated the environmental mitigation terms of construction permits (See full discussion in Section 3 below).4 In these cases, the Department of the Environment or Development Control Authority (DCA) issues a notice of violation to the offender, requesting that the person make appropriate modifications to the activity within a specified time, if the violation arises in the case of an otherwise legitimate activity (e.g., an approved construction project or waste treatment facility).

Sanctions for EPMA violations
Schedule X of the EPMA provides a table consisting of five levels of penalties that are paired in Part XIV of the legislation with various offenses. For example, under § 109, a person who discharges or emits any pollutant into a watercourse in violation of the EPMA is liable for a fine of up to twelve thousand (Eastern Caribbean or "EC") dollars or imprisonment for six months, or both.

2. Designation of marine protected areas (MPAs)
In Antigua and Barbuda, four types of MPAs authorized under four pieces of legislation prior to the enactment of the EPMA of 2019:5

  • Marine Restricted Areas (Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act of 1972)
  • Marine Reserves (Fisheries Act, 2006)
  • National Parks (National Parks Act of 1984), and
  • Environmental Protection Areas (Referred to as "Protected Area" under the EPMA) Environmental Protection and Management Act, 2019; The Physical Planning Act, 2003)
The four types of MPA were established to achieve similar and overlapping objectives. In 2019, the EPMA established a new classification system with 5 categories of "protected areas" (listed in EPMA Schedule IX), each of which is managed mainly for a distinct set of objectives:6

  • Category Ia. Strict Nature Reserve Managed mainly for science and "possessing some outstanding or representative ecosystems...and/or species, available primarily for scientific research and/or environmental monitoring."
  • Category Ib. Wilderness Area: Managed mainly for wilderness protection and consisting of a "large area of unmodified or slightly modified land, and/or sea, retaining its natural character and influence, without...habitation, which is protected and managed so as to preserve its natural condition."
  • Category II. National Park Managed mainly for "ecosystem protection and recreation"—a "natural area of land and/or sea, designated to (a) protect the ecological integrity of one or more ecosystems, ... (b) exclude exploitation or occupation [adverse to its purposes] and (c) provide a foundation for spiritual, scientific, educational, recreational and visitor opportunities, all of which must be environmentally and culturally compatible."
  • Category III. Natural Monument: Managed mainly for "conservation of specific natural features" and containing "one, or more, specific natural or natural/cultural feature which is of outstanding or unique value because of its inherent rarity, representative or aesthetic qualities or cultural significance."
  • Category V. Protected Landscape/Seascape: Managed mainly for "landscape/seascape conservation and recreation" and consisting of an "area of land, with coast and sea as appropriate, where the interaction of people and nature over time has produced an area of distinct character with significant aesthetic, ecological and/or cultural value, and often with high biological diversity. Safeguarding the integrity of this traditional interaction is vital to the protection, maintenance and evolution of such an area."
  • Category VI. Managed Resource Protected Area: Managed mainly for "the sustainable use of natural ecosystems" and "containing predominantly unmodified natural systems, managed to ensure long term protection and maintenance of biological diversity, while providing ... a sustainable flow of natural products and services to meet community needs."

3. Laws providing explicit protection of coral and other marine life
The objectives of the EPMA and, more specifically, the protection of coral reefs are addressed more specifically in several other pieces of legislation, the Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Act (Act No. 5 of 1972), Fisheries Act (2006) and its regulations (2013), as well as the Barbuda (Coastal Zoning and Management) Regulations ( S.I. No. 34 of 2014).7

With respect to the health and condition of coral reefs, 2013 Fisheries Regulations define requirements and prohibitions related to the permitting and collection of specific species of reef fish, sea turtles, spiny lobsters, conchs, whelks, and sea urchins, but these regulations do not address corals. The Barbuda Coastal Zoning and Management Regulations provide greater detail relative to the specific protection of coral reefs, sea grass beds, and mangroves. They specify the boundaries of marine sanctuaries, specifying anchoring and mooring zones, areas open to fishing, diving and snorkeling, and areas where entry is prohibited, particularly Codrington Lagoon. 8.

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Table of restricted and prohibited activities
Prohibited activities within marine protected areas
(If official authorization has not been obtained)
Laws and Regulations
Entry into a Restricted (closed) Area MAA § 4; BR § 11
Entry into an Environmental Protection Area (EPA):
(Varies by the terms of the ministerial order establishing the EPA)
PPA § 54; EPMA § 54(2) and Schedule IV
Use of a boat, motorized watercraft, water skiing equipment, or diving equipment in a National Park NPR (2012) § 12(1)
Fishing or attempting to fish FA (2006) § 53{2)(a); BR § 10(1)
Taking, harming, or destroying marine life
(Fish, birds, or any flora or fauna)
FA § 53(2)(b); NPA § 5(2)(a); BR § 35(9);
Dredging, extracting sand or gravel, or otherwise disturbing the seabed FA § 53(2)(c); BR § 12(1);
Discharging waste and pollutants into the water (sewage, trash, petroleum products, chemicals, or other waste) FA § 53(2)(c); NPA 5(2)(h);
Use of explosives to hunt / kill fish FA § 58(a); FR Schedule XII
Anchoring or mooring other than at an authorized buoy or dock BR § 10(3)
Damaging coral with an anchor or vessel grounding BR § 10(5) FA § 53(2)(c);
Engaging in research without authorization or in violation of conditions BR § 10(1)(b); FA § 54(3); NPR § 6
Placing of artificial reefs and fish aggregating devices FR § 38
Liability of the captain and crew of a boat for violations by its passengers FA § 67
Prohibited anywhere within the territorial waters of Antigua and Barbuda:
Removal or trade of designated endangered species EPMA, §§ 65–69 and Schedule XIII

Abbreviations used above: EPMA = Environmental Protection and Management Act; MAA = Marine Areas Act; NPA = National Parks Act; PPA = Physical Planning Act; NPR = National Park Regulations; BR = Barbuda Regulations; FA = Fisheries Act; FR = Fisheries Regulations.

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Legal requirements for nongovernmental research and restoration projects
The Fisheries Act, the National Parks Regulations, and the EPMA each address the topic of research conducted by nongovernmental parties. Under Section 54 of the Fisheries Act, the Minister (currently the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Barbuda Affairs) may grant permission for a person or vessel to engage in research into fisheries within national territorial waters if the applicant submits of a fisheries research plan that has been approved by the Chief Fisheries Officer.9 The Minister may impose any conditions on approved research plans that he or she considers appropriate.10 Entities that commit violations relating to the issuance of research permits or permit conditions are liable for fines of up to $300,000 EC (Eastern Caribbean Dollars).11

Under the National Parks Regulations, the Commissioner of the National Parks Authority may issue a research permit "to any person authorizing the person to take, destroy, damage or injure any flora or natural objects in the Park for purposes of Park management, research or historical preservation."12 Each permit must specify the species and quantity of organisms to be collected and the location from which they will be removed, as well as the conditions applicable to the research permit.13 If fauna or flora are removed without express authorization, every person who participates in the removal of such natural objects must pay restitution to the Authority in the amount twenty five dollars (EC) for each cubic yard of natural materials collected.14

Part IX of the EPMA addresses nongovernmental research primarily from the perspective of access to genetic resources, referring to both in situ and ex situ activities that involve any harvesting and/or culturing of marine life.15 While the scope of activities envisioned under Part IX is much broader than research conducted for the purpose of conserving coral reefs—encompassing a range of commercial activities as well—coral research and rehabilitation projects conducted by international institutions fall within the purview of these EPMA provisions. This may be applicable applicable if a permit applicant seeks specific populations of certain coral species that exhibit greater resilience to the effects of climate change.

Enforcement of explicit provisions protecting coral reefs
Under the Fisheries Act, "authorized officers" are responsible for carrying out enforcement actions within MPAs.16 Authorized officers are defined as fisheries officers, customs officers, members of the Antigua and Barbuda Defence Force, police officers, and other designated persons.17 Authorized enforcement officers who have "reasonable grounds to suspect" that an offense has been committed (e.g., removing or damaging coral) may take a number of actions without a warrant.18 These include stopping, boarding, and searching vessels, seizing vessels and gear that appear to have been used in committing a violation, seizing marine life found on board, and arresting the master, owner, or charterer of the vessel, as well as any other persons suspected of being involved in the violation.19 Similarly, the Marine Restricted Area regulations prescribe the same search and seizure powers as the Fisheries Act, but authorize only the Chief Fisheries Officer and persons he or she has designated to carry out those actions.20 Under the EPMA, the Department of the Environment is responsible for policing violations of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora (CITES).21

Like the EPMA, the Fisheries Regulations and the Barbuda Coastal Zoning and Management Regulations establish specific sanctions for those who harm, remove, or kill coral and other marine life that inhabit coral reefs (under the Regulations, live or dead corals are defined as "marine resources".22 Sanctions include fines of up to $500 and/or jail time for offenses, plus $10 per day for ongoing violations.23 In addition, any vessel used during the commission of a violation is subject to in rem liability and the imposition of a lien on the vessel, pending restoration of the damaged or destroyed coral.24 In addition, violators are liable for the full costs of responding to, restoring or replacing, and monitoring of rehabilitated coral.25

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4. Coastal zone development and environmental impact assessment (EIA)
The Physical Planning Act requires that an environmental impact assessment (EIA) be carried out for any type of development activity listed in the Third Schedule of the PPA (a list of high-impact activities, such as wastewater treatment plants, marinas, and hotel resort complexes).26 Other proposed activities or developments that meet certain criteria also require an EIA, such as those undertaken in a national park or in an MPA.27 If, after a screening process, it is determined that a proposed development would likely have significant effects on the environrnent.28 The screening process is also required if proposed activity or development is planned in a national park or in a protected area.29

The Development Control Authority (DCA) has primary oversight of the EIA process, but works in cooperation with the office of the Town and Country Planner, the Department of Environment, and other government agencies.30 At the conclusion of the EIA process, the DCA may require specific environmental management and mitigation measures as conditions to project approval, such as particular prescribed methods for the disposal of sewage or measures to control runoff during contruction.31 Those requirements are included in a legally-binding agreement, for which a bond may be required from the developer as security that these will be carried out.32

Enforcement of coastal zone development and EIA requirements
The EPMA established a new class of enforcement personnel—inspectors—to carry out a broad range of functions related to policing the Act's terms.33 Particularly, these include the following:

  • Monitoring compliance with any environmental program, condition, permit, license or requirement under the EPMA;
  • Obtaining information and samples, and confiscating any article relevant to an offense or violation;
  • Examining and inspecting any premise, facility, equipment, operation, and process "at all reasonable times".34
Specifically, this includes inspections of activities that have been approved through the EIA process, in order to determine if the developers of approved activities have complied with the environmental requirements upon which their approval was conditioned. Inspectors have the power to enter and inspect any premises or vehicle if the owner consents or may obtain a warrant from a magistrate in the absence of consent.35 If force is required, the inspector must be accompanied by a police officer.36

Enforcement response measures
If the DCA, Department of Environment (through an inspector), or other authority determines that a developer has violated any conditions of project approval, such as required pollution or runoff control measures, the DCA must serve an enforcement notice, notifying the developer of the specific nature of the violation, the remedial steps to be taken, and penalties for noncompliance. In addition to monetary sanctions and damages, the DCA may order actions such as:37

  • Work stoppage (temporary or permanent.
  • Restoration of the land to its original state.
  • Compliance with any requirement in the development permit.
  • Whole or partial demolition and removal of a building.
  • Removal or prevention of any damage to the land or features of the area which has been or is likely to be caused by the development.
Sanctions for violation of EIA requirements
In cases where a developer fails to comply with an enforcement notice, the DCA will issue a stop notice to halt any further development on the project site.38. In the event that a developer continues to carry out work after receiving an enforcement or stop notice, penalties may be imposed, as well as the forfeiture of any bond the developer posted as security for performance.39 Penalties are listed in Schedule X of the EPMA and range from (up to) $5,000 EC dollars to a fine of up to $50,000 EC dollars or imprisonment for five years, or both.40

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5. Multilateral Environmental Agreements (MEAs)

Title of Convention Date /
Ratification Status
Cartagena Convention Sept. 11, 1986
Protocol Concerning Oil Spill (Oil Spill Protocol to the Cartagena Convention) Sept. 11, 1986
United Nations Convention on the Law of the Seas (UNCLOS) Feb. 2, 1989
Protocol Concerning Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW Protocol to the Cartagena Convention) Jan. 18, 1990,
Not yet ratified
United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) Jun. 4, 1992
United Nations Convention on the Transboundary Movement of Hazardous waste and their disposal (Basel Convention) May 4, 1993
UN Convention on Biological Diversity Mar. 9, 1993
UN Convention to Combat Desertification In Those Countries Experiencing Serious Droughts and/or Desertification Particularly Africa Jun. 6, 1997
Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) Oct. 6, 1997
Cartagena Protocol on Biosafety to the Convention on Biological Diversity May 24, 2000,
Not yet Ratified
The United Nations Convention on Wetlands (RAMSAR Convention) Oct. 2, 2005
Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) Oct. 1, 2007
Nagoya protocol on access to genetic resources and the sharing of their benefits Not yet Ratified
Protocol Concerning Pollution From Land Based Sources And Activities in the Wider Caribbean Region (LBS Protocol to the Cartagena Convention) Jul. 13, 2010
Source: The Environmental Awareness Group of Antigua & Barbuda - http://www.eagantigua.org/page89.html

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1. Environmental Protection and Management Act, 2019 (No. 10 of 2019) (EPMA) Section 4 of the EPMA established the Department of Environment, prescribing its functions and responsibilities. These include, inter alia, developing and implementing policies, programs and plans for effective environmental management and conservation; coordinating the environmental management functions performed by all governmental and non-governmental entities and authorities; collaborating with those authorities to ensure the effective oversight of designated protected areas; and assuring compliance with and enforcing the provisions of the EPMA.

2. Section 4(4) of the EPMA also mandates that in carrying out its work, the Department of Environment observe the "precautionary" principle, which provides that " where there are threats of serious or irreversible damage, the lack of full scientific certainty shall not be used as a reason for postponing measures to prevent environmental degradation" and the "avoidance" principle, which provides that "it is preferable to avoid environmental damage since it can be impossible or more expensive to repair damage to the environment."

3. Schedule VII, Part B of the EPMA (Water Use Classification and Criteria) defines the water use classifications for Coastal Waters that are suitable for coral reef conservation as Class AA waters. Paragraphs (ii)-(iv) of Part B(1)(a) state that Clas AA waters must "remain as near to their natural state as possible with an absolute minimum of pollution from any source" that the "wilderness character" of these areas be preserved to the extent possible; that no point source discharges of effluents are permitted into Class AA waters, and that the destruction of coral reefs, aquatic habitats, and other resources will not be permitted.

4. Legislative provisions address discharges of land-based liquid pollutants (wastewater, sewage, trade chemicals, pesticdes and other hazardous substances) are generally addressed in two contexts: (1) the environmental impact assessment (EIA) process, where measures to avoid or mitigate the discharge of many types of effluents is an integral part of the project approval process, and (2) legal provisions expressly dealing with prohibitions on discharges and the issuance of permits for discharging certain effluents under prescribed conditions. These two contexts are both applicable, not mutually exclusive of one another.

5. Environmental Law Institute (February 2015), Legal Frameworks for MPA Enforcement in the Caribbean: Challenges and Opportunities, Prepared for the for the Gulf and Caribbean Fisheries Institute, 24-27, Available at: http://eli-ocean.org/wp-content/blogs.dir/2/files/Legal-Frameworks-for-MPA-Enforcement-in-the-Caribbean-final.pdf.

6. It is not clear from the text of the EPMA whether the five categories of protected areas defined in Schedule X are intended to preempt and replace the four previous categories across all legislation or whether this categorization scheme is open to future legislation, administrative orders, or regulations to implement.

7.Other legislation related to regulation of the territorial waters of Antigua and Barbuda but not included in the summary above include the Defence Act (2006), Dumping at Sea Act (1975), Oil Pollution of Maritime Areas Act (1995), and Public Parks Act (1965).

8. Codrington Lagoon National Park on the island of Barbuda is a sensitive ecosystem that comprises most of the western part of the island. Fringed by mangroves, it contains a diverse range of flora and fauna, including the world's second largest population of frigate birds after the Galapagos.

9. Fisheries Act § 54(1); Note that fisheries refers to any form of marine life, including corals.

10. Fisheries Act § 54(2).

11. Fisheries Act § 54.

12. National Parks (General) Regulations (NPR), 2012 No. 48, § 6(1).

13. NPR § 6(2).

14. NPR § 6(3).

15. Environmental Protection and Management Act, Part IX.

16. Fisheries Act, No. 22 of 2009, §§ 62, 63.

17. Fisheries Act, No. 22 of 2009, § 2.

18.Fisheries Act, No. 22 of 2009, § 63.

19. Id.

20. Marine Areas (Preservation and Enhancement) Regulations, S.B.O. 25/1973 (Mar. Regs.) § 10.

21. Environmental Protection and Management Act (EPMA), 2019 (No. 10 of 2919) (EPMA), §§ 66, 67; Schedule IX of the EPMA provides a list of protected wildlife species, including corals.

22. Barbuda (Coastal Zoning and Management) Regulations (S.I. No. 34 of 2014) (Barbuda Regs.), §. 2.

23. Barbuda Regs., § 15(1).

24. Barbuda Regs., § 16(2).

25. Barbuda Regs., §§ 16(1) and 4.

26. Physical Planning Act, No. 6 of 2003 (PPA), § 23(j) and Third Schedule.

27. Physical Planning Act § 23(2); In cases where a a proposed project poses the risk of significant environmental impacts but does not appear in the PPA Third Schedule and does not meet the criteria for the Department of Environment (Department) to impose the requirement of an EIA itself, the Chief Town and Country Planner may direct the Department to undertake a screening exercise to determine if an EIA should be required.

28. Part IV of the EPMA prescribes procedures for the EIA process.

29. Other government agencies involved include the Barbuda Council, the St. John's Development Corporation, the Port Authority, and the National Parks Authority.

30. Physical Planning Act, § 27.

31. Physical Planning Act, §§ 27(1)(j), 28(c), 29(1).

32. Environmental Protection and Management Act, §§ 8-12.

33. Environmental Protection and Management Act, § 12(b)-(d).

34. Environmental Protection and Management Act, § 12(2).

35. Physical Planning Act, § 34(8); EPMA, § 104.

36. Environmental Protection and Management Act, § 12(3).

37. Physical Planning Act, § 34(8); EPMA § 27.

38. Physical Planning Act, §§ 37-38; EPMA § 105.

39. Environmental Protection and Management Act, § 16(8).

40. Physical Planning Act, § 80(1)(d); Environmental Protection and Management Act, Schedule X.

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