The French Caribbean Island of Martinique has just been inducted into UNESCO’s Man and the Biosphere Program (MAB-ICC) along with 20 new sites. ** The announcement was made September 15, 2021 by UNESCO’s International Coordinating Council. This is the second major UNESCO recognition after the inclusion in December 2020 of Martinique’s traditional Yole Sailboat to its Intangible Cultural Heritage List.
The recognition is the culmination of the work carried out by the Martinique Biosphere Reserve Association* for 4 years, since its creation in June 2017. The quality of the work and the active participation of the population in the application process were praised by the MAB-ICC jury. It also rewards the island’s longstanding commitment to sustainable economic and social development while preserving their local natural and cultural wealth, which is a key element required by UNESCO.
“We are thrilled and very proud of the Martinique Biosphere Reserve Association and of our people for achieving this success and putting Martinique once again on UNESCO’s radar and, raising our island’s profile as an internationally desirable destination.” said Bénédicte di Géronimo, Martinique Tourism Commissioner.
Also known as the Isle of Flowers, the entire Island of Martinique—its land together with the marine Exclusive Economic Zone is included in the 12,169,368 acre biosphere reserve. As described by the UNESCO announcement: “This is the 12th biosphere reserve along the volcanic arc of the Caribbean, one of the world’s 35 biodiversity hotspots. Its richness is unique, as it includes many endemic species living in rare and endangered habitats.” The UNESCO announcement goes on to describe Martinique’s geology as remarkable, featuring the 4,583-foot Mount Pelée volcano, sleeping ‘mornes’ (meaning small mountains) and a coastline of bays and coves. The rainforest covering the island’s foothills and the mangroves along its coastline demonstrate its vital role as part of an ecological corridor between the Americas.
The biosphere reserve of Martinique is home to some 380,000 people, and its economy is mainly based on agriculture—20% of the island is arable land, agro-food industry and tourism, with one million visitors before the COVID 19 pandemic.
Martinique is also up for the Natural sites list with the candidacy of the volcanoes and forests of Mount Pelée and the Pitons of Northern Martinique. The UNESCO committee is due to visit Martinique this October to deliberate.