SIXTH INTERNATIONAL CONFERENCE ON ENVIRONMENTAL COMPLIANCE AND ENFORCEMENT
Holland Bay in the parish of Saint Thomas, Jamaica. The ship owners and salvagers sought and obtained permission to drop cargo in order to raise the vessel, which was then anchored in the waters of the Kingston Harbor. Whilst in the Harbor, large quantities of sugar and other noxious sub- stances containing a high concentration of amphetamine was discharged from the vessel. The pollutants caused a massive kill of aquatic animal life and a loud public outcry followed. Jamaica's NRCA exer- cised its statutory power to "investigate the effect of any activity that causes or might cause pollution or that involves or might involve waste management or disposal and take such action as it thinks appropriate." The investigation considered the facts of what had occurred, the quantities and nature of the pollutants that had been dis- charged, their effect upon the marine ecol- ogy and the number of fishers affected. However, the NRCA Statement of Claim merely detailed particulars of expenditure on the investigation and contained the standard incantation of claim for general damages, costs, and "any other relief deemed just by this Honorable Court." There was no attempt at valuation of eco- logical damage to the Saint Thomas coast- line or in the Kingston Harbor. NRCA offi- cials were deterred by the "sheer novelty" of the notion that Government could claim for damage to the marine and coastal ecosystem. They repeated assumed com- mon law notions that fish in the sea were, res nullius until reduced into captivity by Government or fishers and therefore value- less at the time of their contamination .
The Beef Island Valuation
The rapid economic growth of the British Virgin Islands during the 1980s led to concern for the islands’ environmental infrastructure given that proposed develop- mental projects bore major implications for potential terrestrial, coastal and marine
intrusion. There were concerns that the developmental paradigm posed significant threats to the integrity of the fragile ecology of the BVI in general and Beef Island in par- ticular. An additional complication arose from the fact that government policies and initiatives by the European Union and the Ramsar Secretariat were underway to con- sider Beef Islands wetlands for inclusion in the list of "Wetlands of International signifi- cance." The OECS/NRMU, acting in con- junction with the BVI and the EU, commis- sioned a valuation of the total economic value of Beef Islands’ ecological services so that the economic value of environmen- tal costs/benefits could be factored into the development equation. The study would thereby foster "sustainable development". The consultant reported in April 1998 and provided detailed economic ranking of a fixed set of components, functions and attributes of Beef Island wetlands in accor- dance with guidelines in the Ramsar Protocols. Separate Tables ranked these wetland characteristics in relation to Beef Island ponds, lagoons, mangroves, coral reefs, and sea grass. The ranking ranged among low (L), medium (M), high (H). The consultant wisely cautioned the need for adoption of a precautionary approach to consideration of development options since there remained considerable ignorance of the potential costs and benefits of wetland use or conversion, nor of their probabili- ties." Accordingly, adoption was urged of at worst a "Safe Minimum Standard" (SMS) decision when considering conversion of unique wetland resources "as long as the cost of doing so is not intolerably high." On the other hand, the lack of specificity in the rankings in, for example, monetary terms, and the failure to consider indigenous eco- logical characteristics other than those doc- umented in the Ramsar Protocols were lim- itations to practical integration into the BVI planning process.