BRADES, Montserrat (CRFM) — At its recent annual meeting in Montserrat, the Caribbean Fisheries Forum framed a set of recommendations that will be submitted to regional policymakers at the 12th meeting of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), slated for May 18, 2018, in Montserrat.
The Forum’s recommendations include measures for boosting production in the fisheries and aquaculture sector, risk insurance for fisheries, ongoing challenges to fisheries subsidies, gender mainstreaming, and the development of critical fishery management plans.
The Forum noted that the overall trend in total marine fish production of the CRFM member states since 2005 is one of increasing production, with continued improvements over the 2015-2016 period. However, the region is a net importer of fisheries products. Latest data indicate that imports for the year 2016 totaled US$281.5 million, while exports were valued at US$256.2 million.
Concerns were expressed that there are still gaps in the data and the Forum stressed the need for member states to continue improving upon the collection and sharing of fisheries data, including trade data, in order to foster greater understanding and to strengthen management and development of the regions fisheries and aquaculture resources.
The forum meeting discussed a series of fisheries management plans, such as plans for the blackfin tuna and the Caribbean billfish, as well as management plans for the use of fish aggregating devices (FADs). These regional plans are aimed at improving cooperation among countries to ensure effective conservation, management and sustainable use of the fisheries and to protect the marine ecosystems.
Another important regional development relates to the introduction of co-management arrangements for specific fisheries, including FADs and fish pot fisheries in the Eastern Caribbean states that participated in the Japanese-funded Caribbean fisheries co-management (CARIFICO) project. The Forum reviewed the outcome of the project and future steps for continued improvements on co-management and participatory approaches to achieve sustainable and profitable fisheries in the region.
The importance of climate change adaptation and disaster risk management plans to reduce vulnerability and improve resilience in the fisheries sector was prominent on the agenda. Among the key initiatives currently underway are the establishment of an early warning system for fishers using a mobile app, and the development of insurance policies. There are two separate insurance products being developed: one is a sovereign parametric policy which would be available for purchase by governments and the other is a basic livelihood protection policy for purchase by individual small-scale fishers.
The US-sponsored Caribbean Oceans and Aquaculture Sustainability Facility (COAST) is being developed by the Caribbean Catastrophic Risk Insurance Facility Segregated Portfolio Company (CCRIF SPC) in collaboration with the World Bank, CRFM and other partners. The COAST insurance policy is intended to serve as a platform for innovative financing to address food and livelihood security and climate change. Incentives would be given through the risk insurance policy to implement measures that contribute to sustainable and climate resilient fisheries management and disaster risk reduction.
The need for livelihood protection was underscored by the devastation wrought by Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean during the 2017 hurricane season. The Forum expressed its full support for the development of a protocol to incorporate climate change adaptation and disaster risk management into the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Common Fisheries Policy.
The Forum also reviewed and supported the development of a gender policy for the fisheries sector, and a regional protocol on securing sustainable small-scale fisheries for Caribbean Community fisherfolk and societies. This protocol is being developed under the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy.
The recommendations were developed in order to protect the region’s fisheries resources from the threat of overexploitation and emerging threats such as climate change and warming oceans. They also aim to enhance the livelihoods, social welfare and wealth creation from the marine resources.
According to CRFM’s executive director, Milton Haughton, the time has arrived for CARICOM countries to pay more careful attention and make the investments necessary to protect and fully utilize our coastal and ocean resources for sustainable development.
The 16th meeting of the Forum was the first meeting of the CRFM held in Montserrat, one of the 17 member states of the CRFM, due to the destruction of the capital city, Plymouth, by the Soufrière Hills volcano which began erupting in the mid-1990s.