BELIZE CITY, BELIZE; Tuesday, June 18, 2013 – The recently appointed chairman of the Ministerial Council of the Caribbean Regional Fisheries Mechanism (CRFM), Barbados Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, has urged fellow Caribbean ministers to place special emphasis on the implementation of policies and recommendations coming out of the 7th Ministerial Council of the CRFM, held at the end of May in Barbados.
“An area where focus is definitely needed is the implementation of policies and recommendations in a much more timely manner. We have seen tardiness to this end in the implementation of policy decisions from the Ministerial Council. One such policy that readily comes to mind is the Castries Declaration in Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated [IUU] fishing and the Caribbean Community Common Fisheries Policy,” said Estwick.
He went on to emphasize that effort must be placed on implementation if sustainable development, and the conservation and management of fisheries resources are to be achieved.
“Implementation will definitely encourage change—even though change may be unsettling to some,” Minister Estwick, the chair of the CRFM Ministerial Council, said.
On Friday, May 31, Estwick assumed the chairmanship of the CRFM Ministerial Council from V. Alfred Gray, Bahamas Minister of Agriculture, Marine Resources and Local Government, who noted that, “The Ministerial Council has a critical role to play in shaping the direction of this organization as a whole, not just in terms of decision-making… but to ensure that our various countries’ directorates are fully aware of the importance of this organization and that we do, as ministers, all that we can to be steadfast advocates, as we seek to strengthen the organization and the processes which would lead to successes of our various countries’ efforts.”
The Ministerial Council charts the policies of the CRFM. It is also responsible for providing leadership to the organization in the areas of research; fisheries management and conservation; approval of strategic plans, and policy positions, work plans and budgets, as well as fisheries cooperative agreements, and donor projects.
The recently concluded meeting approved an unprecedented number of regional policy documents aimed at improving conservation, protection and sustainable use of the region’s fisheries.
The Ministers endorsed the CRFM’s Second Strategic Plan (2013-2012), which was prepared after extensive consultations with stakeholders and member states. The new plan follows a comprehensive review of the CRFM by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) experts, and it is the first such review undertaken since the CRFM’s inception in 2002.
The Ministers have also endorsed a regional strategy and action plan to address climate change and disaster risk management in fisheries and aquaculture.
CRFM’s Executive Director, Milton Haughton, noted that, “The negative effects of climate change and climate variability on marine ecosystems and fisherfolk in coastal communities are already evident, and according to the experts, the situation will probably only get worse in the coming years.”
The experts say that the past decade has been the warmest on record and the cost of damage caused by extreme weather events is rising, Haughton said, cautioning that the region will become more vulnerable in the future.
“Our fishers, our fish farmers and our fishing communities, particularly those in the coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to disasters arising from numerous natural and manmade threats, including the recurrent tropical storms and hurricanes during the hurricane season,” he added.
Haughton said that the CRFM was able to secure technical assistance from the FAO for the development of a regional strategy and action plan, and a project proposal for disaster risk adaptation, which the Ministerial Council also endorsed.
“This,” said Haughton, “will pave the way for climate-proofing and protecting the vulnerable fishing communicates and their livelihoods, and to build ecosystem resilience into our fish and aquaculture management policies at the national and local levels.”
The Ministers also endorsed the CRFM’s new Information and Communications Strategy, which was formulated through funding and technical assistance by the ACP Fish II initiative. Haughton said that not only has the CRFM been able to launch its new website (www.crfm.net), but it has also been able to effect a strategic shift in the use of modern ICT tools to facilitate greater collaboration via the Internet and the greater sharing of data and information, which means major cost savings for CRFM and its partners across the region.
In addition to endorsing these initiatives, the Ministerial Council also put its stamp of approval on the Regional Lionfish Strategy.
“We’ve begun the discussion to ensure that the lionfish, which is said to be an invasive species, becomes a part of our delicacy – our cuisine – and so I am told that those who have eaten it already find it very pleasant on the palate. And I think we’ve got to change the paradigm to ensure that instead of us trying to kill them out, we eat them out. And if we can do that as a region, perhaps it might not be such a bad thing after all.”
Another major development which took place at the recent ministerial meeting is the endorsement of the Caribbean Large Marine Ecosystem (CLME) Project Strategic Action Program, a 4-year project funded by the Global Environmental Facility (GEF).