The Caribbean Sea covers 2.75 million square kilometres. In 2010, 36 million inhabitants lived in the region which comprises more than 7,000 Islands. The Caribbean Sea contains approximately 10,000 square kilometers of reef, 22,000 square kilometers of mangrove, and as much as 33,000 square kilometers of seagrass beds. Up to 35 percent of species within the major marine taxa found globally are endemic to the Caribbean biodiversity hotspot.
The complete marine area is covered by Exclusive Economic Zones (EEZ) granting the states exclusive rights to determine access to the genetic resources and to negotiate benefit sharing agreements.
The various island states and territories also harbour unique terrestrial ecosystems with a high proportion of endemicity, making the region biologically unique. Of the 11,000 plant species 72 percent are endemic.
Traditional knowledge about local genetic resources can play an important role in the preparation of health-supporting food and medication and has attracted the interest of modern science. The continental nations have developed governance systems with regard to the interests and rights of their indigenous peoples. The most elaborate system was adopted in Guyana in 2010 with its Amerindian Act granting full territorial rights over land and (genetic) resources to its indigenous communities.
Of the 16 independent states in the region, only Antigua & Barbuda, the Dominican Republic and Grenada signed the Nagoya Protocol, and by 2015, only Guyana had become a Party; yet, processes for developing national regulatory ABS frameworks have been initiated in Dominica and the Dominican Republic, too.
The ABS Initiative is collaborating with the Secretariat of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) to support its member states in developing policy and legal frameworks to implement the Nagoya Protocol; this also extends to Cuba and the Dominican Republic.