Dominica Last Week: Top Five Stories You May Have Missed
By Ronda Luke
Dominica creates historic safe space for sperm whales
In a significant move for marine conservation, Dominica's Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries, Blue and Green Economy, Roland Royer, has announced the establishment of the world's first sperm whale reserve. The initiative addresses the documented decline in sperm whale families around the island from 2008 to 2009. The Dominica Sperm Whale Reserve, approximately 788 square kilometres, is dedicated to protecting sperm whales and their vital marine habitat along the west coast.
The reserve, extending from just below Portsmouth to the southern region of Dominica, includes a corridor for large cruise ships and cargo vessels, facilitating port access in Roseau.
Francine Baron, CEO of the Climate Resilience Execution Agency of Dominica (CREAD), noted that draft legislation would establish a dedicated sperm whale reserve office led by a senior whale officer and appoint reserve rangers. The legislation will include a comprehensive management plan specifying navigation protocols within the reserve. While small boats are unaffected, larger vessels, around 60 feet in size, will be restricted to reduce the risk of whale-ship collisions.
The legislation aims to organise whale watching and swimming activities, ensuring minimal disruption to the whales' natural behaviour. Protocols for approaching and departing the mammals will be established, and a dedicated fund for the sperm whale reserve will be created, with contributions from the government, philanthropic sources, permits, and licensing.
The goal is to make the reserve financially self-sufficient, operating independently with minimal state costs. Preliminary discussions about potential fee adjustments for engaging with the whales are also underway.
Bus driver protest halts schools in the East
Schools in the eastern region of Dominica came to a standstill as bus drivers responsible for transporting students to Castle Bruce Secondary School and various primary schools initiated a strike. The primary grievance that prompted this was the prolonged delay in receiving salaries, with some bus drivers reporting needing to be paid for up to three months.
Due to this move, school principals were forced to send students home, disrupting the region's normal rhythm of educational activities.
Before initiating the strike, the bus drivers responsibly contacted the principals of the affected schools to inform them of their impending action. The drivers sought understanding and support from the school administrators, emphasising the severity of their financial plight. Despite the notification, the bus drivers expressed disappointment at the lack of response from the Minister of Education, whom the principals had promised to contact regarding the issue.
In a positive turn of events, the bus drivers' strike ended the following day after reaching a resolution with the Dominican government. With this resolution in place, bus services resumed transporting students to Castle Bruce Secondary School and various primary schools in the East.
Dominica and China sign another MOA
Melissa Skerrit, the Parliamentary Representative for the Roseau Central constituency, has announced the formalisation of an agreement between Roseau, Dominica, and Yiwu, the People's Republic of China. The signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on friendly relations and exchanges marks a significant step forward in fortifying the bonds between these two cities and fostering mutual prosperity and development.
The agreement, born out of a commitment to establish friendly cooperation based on mutual trust and friendship, holds immense promise for the growth and progress of Roseau, the constituency, and Dominica at large, she stated. The accord, which came into effect upon its signing by representatives on November 15, 2023, outlines specific areas of practical and diversified cooperation and exchanges.
Economy and trade, education, culture, tourism, and sports are identified as critical sectors for collaboration under this twinning of cities agreement. Skerrit expressed her enthusiasm for the potential benefits and opportunities this partnership could bring to Roseau, emphasising the positive impact on the local economy, education sector, and cultural heritage.
The increased cooperation in the field of economy and trade is expected to open avenues for new business partnerships and investment opportunities, providing local entrepreneurs with a platform for growth. The exchange of knowledge and expertise in education will enhance students' learning experiences in Roseau. Furthermore, cultural and tourism exchanges are anticipated to showcase Dominica's rich heritage and attractions, attracting more visitors to the constituency and the country.
NBD Wins ECCU Service Award
The National Bank of Dominica (NBD) has received the "ECCU Bank of the Year Award" for Customer Service for the second consecutive year from the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB).
This prestigious accolade recognises NBD's unwavering commitment to excellent customer service. In a press release, the institution notes that its journey to earning this title involved a range of initiatives, including improved customer support accessibility, advancements in ATM and card services, and the modernisation of infrastructure, such as the systematic replacement of legacy ATMs.
Additionally, NBD says that it's implemented technology enhancements, collected valuable customer feedback through quarterly satisfaction surveys, engaged in community outreach via social media and various initiatives, and extended operating hours, including Saturdays, to better serve customer needs.
CARICOM and Saudi Arabia hold summit
In a historic diplomatic initiative, Prime Minister of Dominica, Roosevelt Skerrit, as the current CARICOM Chairman, co-chaired the inaugural CARICOM-Saudi Arabia Summit in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, under the distinguished patronage of His Royal Highness, the Crown Prince, Mohammed bin Salman Al Saud. This significant event was pivotal in fostering stronger ties between CARICOM (Caribbean Community) member states and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The primary objective of the summit was to deepen bilateral relations between CARICOM member states and Saudi Arabia while creating a platform for exploring new partnerships. Recognising the potential for mutually beneficial cooperation, the leaders engaged in substantive discussions to enhance diplomatic, economic, and cultural ties between the Caribbean nations and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
The round-table discussions, co-chaired by the Dominican leader and the Crown Prince, covered various topics critical to the shared interests of the participating nations. Issues such as trade, investment, energy cooperation, and cultural exchange were at the forefront of the deliberations. The leaders exchanged perspectives on regional challenges and opportunities, seeking avenues for collaborative solutions.
During the summit, Skerrit emphasised the importance of fostering strong ties with Saudi Arabia to bolster economic development, create employment opportunities, and enhance the overall well-being of CARICOM member states. The Crown Prince echoed these sentiments, expressing a commitment to nurturing a robust and enduring partnership between the Caribbean nations and Saudi Arabia.
The leaders expressed optimism about the potential for increased cooperation in education, technology, healthcare, and sustainable development.