About 30,000 km², or 13 percent of the land area of this hotspot, is officially protected, but many of these protected areas are far from pristine. Just over half of the protected land area, totaling a little over 16,000 km² is in IUCN categories I to IV, which afford greater protection. In general, there is a great need for much better management, monitoring, and enforcement of protected areas throughout the Caribbean. Cuba has about 15 percent of its land area in conservation units, including the 300-km² Zapata Swamp. Dominica has a little over 20 percent of its territory designated for protection, while the Dominican Republic reports about 15 percent. However, many of these reserves lack formal management plans, and are too small to effectively conserve biodiversity. In other countries, protected areas are effectively non-existent, as is the case in Haiti and Grenada, which both have less than 1.7 percent of their area protected. In general, the Caribbean Islands emerge as top priority for the expansion of the global protected areas network.
A wide variety of local organizations promote conservation efforts in the Caribbean. For example, Grupo Jaragua, a group of citizens and scientists in the Dominican Republic, helps support and manage Jaragua National Park, one of the largest land-and-sea parks in the hotspot. In Haiti, the Foundation for the Protection of Marine Biodiversity works with both fishers and the government to promote sustainable use of the country's living marine resources. A non-governmental organization, the Bahamas National Trust, manages the Bahamian national park system, which is being expanded to cover twenty percent of the country's territorial seas. On Bonaire, the National Parks Foundation actively manages the Bonaire Marine Park, which is widely recognized as one of the most effective marine reserves inside the hotspot. Its counterpart on St. Eustacius, an island with only 2,000 people, provides technical backstopping for programs ranging from sea turtle tagging and monitoring of the island's pristine reefs to the development of nature trails that reach the elfin forest at the island's volcanic summit.
The prospects for biodiversity conservation in the Caribbean Islands have been enhanced by the development of partnerships between major industries, such as tourism, and the governmental and private organizations that are promoting conservation on the ground. The Protocol for Specially Protected Areas and Wildlife (SPAW), which came into force in 2000, was created at the initiative of the Caribbean countries to provide region-wide standards and mechanisms for harmonizing conservation efforts across the region.